The latest chapter in the years-long statewide fight to protect children occurred late last week in Houston at the nation’s largest pediatric hospital—but citizens still want Gov. Greg Abbott to enact a child protection law.

Texas Children’s Hospital has announced it will stop performing “transgender” experiments on children, in light of Attorney General Ken Paxton’s recent legal opinion on the issue. Paxton said such operations—administering sterilizing cross-sex hormones and puberty blocker drugs, and cutting off minors’ healthy body parts—indeed classify as child abuse, and Abbott afterward ordered the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate reports of such cases in the state.

“This step [to halt operations] was taken to safeguard our health care professionals and impacted families from potential criminal legal ramifications,” the hospital wrote in a statement.

The issue in Texas drew an international spotlight several years ago with the child abuse case of Dallas-area 9-year-old James Younger, whose mother told him he was a girl and wanted to force him—against his father’s wishes—to take such sterilizing drugs and eventually be castrated.

James’ case became a statewide rallying cry on the issue, with the Republican Party of Texas making it a legislative priority and more than 2 million GOP primary voters supporting a statewide ban on the operations in 2020. However, at the Capitol in Austin last year, top Republican lawmakers repeatedly killed the effort, and Abbott refused to include the proposed child protection law in the Legislature’s three special sessions.

Texas Scorecard extensively reported on the entire saga, which eventually led to Paxton’s 13-page legal opinion two weeks ago. However, that opinion and Abbott’s order are not state law—and experiment activists are already challenging it in court.

Last week, a Texas district judge blocked a DFPS investigation into a potential abuse case, and the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal jointly sued the state government.

“It does not seem to be legal. As the complaint explains, the governor doesn’t get to declare what child abuse is in Texas—that has to come from the state legislature, who then may delegate a body or individual to write regulations,” said Linda McClain, Robert Kent Professor of Law at Boston University. “Therefore, the complaint says that Abbott’s directive violates the Administrative Procedure Act, because it didn’t go through the proper channels of lawmaking. The complaint uses the phrase ultra vires [to classify Abbott’s actions], which in legal terms means acting outside of one’s scope of authority.”

Amid the latest events in the Texas saga, citizens and pro-family organizations are again exhorting Gov. Abbott to reconvene the state Legislature and finally enact a law to ban the operations in Texas. In the recent March 1 statewide primary election, nearly 2 million GOP voters again overwhelmingly supported putting an end to the experiments.

Meanwhile, Arkansas and Tennessee recently passed similar child protection laws, while Idaho and other states’ legislatures are also considering proposals.

Jacob Asmussen

Jacob Asmussen is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard. He attended the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and in 2017 earned a double major in public relations and piano performance.