AUSTIN — After years of silence on the issue and Republican lawmakers rejecting proposed child protection laws earlier this year, Gov. Greg Abbott has finally made an announcement about the statewide child mutilation issue—by sending a letter requesting more information.

On Friday afternoon, Abbott sent a public letter to the head of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, asking if cutting off children’s healthy body parts—when part of gender mutilation surgeries—classifies as child abuse.

“Subjecting a child to genital mutilation through reassignment surgery creates a ‘genuine threat of substantial harm from physical injury to the child,’” the letter reads. “This broad definition of ‘abuse’ should cover a surgical procedure that will sterilize the child, such as orchiectomy or hysterectomy, or remove otherwise healthy body parts, such as penectomy or mastectomy. Indeed, Texas already outlaws female genital mutilation of a child, and presumably that also constitutes child abuse.”

Abbott’s letter comes after a years-long saga sparked by the nationally known case of James Younger, a 9-year-old from Dallas whose mother wanted to force him—against his father’s wishes—to take sterilizing drugs and eventually castrate him.

Earlier this year, state lawmakers proposed several bills during the regular legislative session to outlaw certain similar mutilating operations on minors. But despite citizen outcry and the proposed child protection laws becoming one of the Republican Party of Texas’ top priorities, Republican lawmakers in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives killed the effort.

Additionally, Gov. Abbott did not comment publicly on the matter, nor did he include the protections on his legislative to-do list for the Legislature’s July special session.

Last month, after nearly two years of apparent silence on the issue, Abbott finally spoke on the topic and blamed House Republicans for the lack of action, saying “the chances of [those protections] passing during the session in the House of Representatives was nil” and that he “[has] another way of achieving the exact same thing.”

Abbott said he should be announcing his supposed plan “within the next week” and may even announce it “as soon as this week,” and now, nearly three weeks later, he sent the letter.

Notably, Abbott’s letter does not mention sterilizing cross-sex hormones, puberty blocker drugs, or psychological counseling that tries to convince children that they’re the opposite sex.

Meanwhile, at the Capitol, Republican State Rep. Matt Krause (Haslet) has proposed a related child protection law for the summer special session that has enough cosponsor votes to pass the chamber. However, during the regular session, Krause also complained when other state officials admonished his colleagues to approve a similar law—and some of the colleagues now signing on in support were key players in stopping the effort just a few months ago.

While state politicians continue pointing fingers, talking in circles, and playing political games, children like James Younger are still vulnerable to being permanently disfigured.

James’ father, Jeff, told Texas Scorecard, “This isn’t how it’s supposed to work.”

“[Abbott] doesn’t need an agency to make a determination,” Younger said. “The governor should DIRECT—not ask—the agencies to: (1) stop genital mutilation of kids, (2) stop the chemical castration of kids, (3) stop his own psychology appointee, Susan Fletcher, from emotionally abusing my son by teaching him that he’s a girl.”

“I keep asking myself: Why do we have to work this hard to get our elected officials to protect children in this state?” Jeff added in a May interview.

Jill Glover, chairman of the Texas GOP’s legislative priority committee, called Abbott’s letter a “step in the right direction” but said more needed to be done.

“We pray that the response from DFPS will be yes regarding reassignment surgery, but we also urge the definition of child abuse to include puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for the purposes of transition,” Glover told Texas Scorecard. “Planned Parenthood and other providers are prescribing these pharmaceuticals, so this is a growing profit center exploiting disturbed children. We urge, regardless of the response from DFPS, that Governor Abbot will make the obvious moral decision of adding this priority to the special session which begins Aug. 7.”

 

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.

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