Despite a years-long fight to protect children in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott and top Republican state lawmakers have repeatedly refused to enact a state law to ban disfiguring gender operations on minors. However, the latest episode in the troubling saga features local officials now refusing to prosecute those performing the damaging experiments.

On Monday, in lieu of Abbott and the Legislature’s inaction, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton released a 13-page legal opinion stating that “transgender” operations on minors—administering sterilizing cross-sex hormones and puberty blocker drugs, and cutting off their healthy body parts—indeed classifies as child abuse. Then on Tuesday, Abbott ordered the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate reports of such cases in the state.

But now, Democrat district attorneys across Texas are saying they won’t follow.

“This is a complete misrepresentation of the definition of abuse in the family code,” Christian Menefee, the Houston-area Harris County attorney, said in an interview.

“As the lawyers handling these cases, we owe a duty of candor to the courts about what the law really says,” he added. “We’ll continue to follow the laws on the books—not General Paxton’s politically motivated and legally incorrect ‘opinion.’”

Five other district attorneys in some of the state’s most populous areas (Austin’s Travis County DA Jose Garza, Dallas County DA John Creuzot, Bexar County DA Joe Gonzales, Nueces County DA Mark Gonzalez, and Fort Bend County DA Brian Middleton) also released a joint statement opposing Paxton, saying the effort to end such experiments on children is “part of an onslaught on personal freedoms.”

The White House even chimed in, calling the practice “health care decisions.”

“Conservative officials in Texas and other states across the country should stop inserting themselves into health care decisions that create needless tension between pediatricians and their patients,” said White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre.

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 sterilizing puberty blocker and cross-sex hormone drugs and eventually be castrated.

Texas Scorecard extensively reported on the saga that unfolded since then.

“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, at a press conference last year.

Despite AG Paxton’s opinion and Abbott’s letter this week, the results are yet to be seen, particularly at controversial clinics such as Children’s Medical Center in Dallas. 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.

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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