AUSTIN — After a nationally known child abuse case in Texas, and a years-long fight to protect children, Texans are wondering why state officials continue to allow medical professionals to disfigure minors across the state—and why they’re prioritizing dogs instead.

On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced his agenda for the state Legislature’s upcoming October special session, including items such as a ban on tethering dogs. The Legislature can only consider the governor’s priority items during a special session.

Notably absent from Abbott’s list of items, however, is a priority child protection law.

The Recent Timeline

At issue are gender mutilation procedures. Currently in Texas, medical professionals are allowed to cut off children’s healthy body parts as part of gender surgeries, or chemically castrate them by giving them sterilizing cross-sex hormones and puberty blocker drugs.

The issue surfaced in large part due to the high-profile 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 be castrated.

Since the national coverage of the case two years ago, the issue became a Republican Party of Texas priority (with nearly 2 million Texans also voting to support protections in a Republican primary election). Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office even wrote the Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate the matter (with no apparent results). Earlier this year, the Republican-controlled state Legislature chose to reject proposed laws that would have outlawed the operations, and Gov. Abbott remained nearly silent on the issue the whole time.

Finally, in early August, Abbott made an “announcement” on the matter—by sending a public letter to his Department of Family and Protective Services, asking them to decide if cutting off a child’s healthy body parts in such surgeries classifies as child abuse.

Though DFPS confirmed those operations are indeed abuse, they later refused to say that chemically castrating a child—the far more common method—is also abuse.

Furthermore, Abbott said in a recent interview that the chances of such child protection laws making it through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives were “nil.”

Abbott had the opportunity to include the proposed protections on the legislative to-do list for the July, August, and now October special sessions, but he declined to do so on all three.

Dog tethering, however, made his list.

Citizens’ Reactions

“I keep asking myself: Why do we have to work this hard to get our elected officials to protect children in this state?” said James Younger’s father, Jeff, in a May interview.

“In 2020, banning child gender modification was voted as critical legislation by close to 2 million Republican voters,” Jill Glover, chairwoman of the Texas GOP’s legislative priorities committee, told Texas Scorecard on Wednesday. “Since then, the issue has gained tremendous public support as we know there are now 16 pediatric gender clinics in the state of Texas who give sterilizing chemical treatment to minors or perform surgery to remove healthy body parts in attempts to approximate the appearance of the opposite sex.”

“That Gov. Abbott would place legislation to ban dog tethering on the third special session instead of protecting children from this rapidly growing destructive phenomenon is appalling,” Glover concluded.

“Texans elected Republicans to statewide office and sent strong Republican majorities to the Texas Legislature so they could pass Republican priorities into law,” said Don Huffines, former state senator and current candidate for governor. “Sadly, many important issues for our state remain unaddressed. As Greg Abbott reconvenes the Texas Legislature, he must task them with passing additional conservative priorities.”

In a press release on Wednesday, Huffines laid out the issues he would call if elected governor, including “Protecting Texas Kids from Transgender Activists.”

“Republican activists have been waiting for the Texas Legislature to pass legislation on these important issues for years, only to watch their lawmakers prioritize growing government and listening to lobbyists,” Huffines added. “It is time for the people’s priorities to take precedence once again.”

As Gov. Abbott is able to add items to the upcoming special session agenda any time before or throughout the session, concerned citizens may contact his office or their legislators.

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.