AUSTIN — After a nationally known child abuse case in Texas and a years-long saga to protect children with no results, Texans are now left wondering: Why won’t Gov. Greg Abbott call for state legislators to outlaw the gender mutilation of minors?

The Issue

Currently in Texas, medical professionals are allowed to disfigure children, whether by cutting off their healthy body parts as part of gender mutilation surgeries or chemically castrating them by giving them sterilizing cross-sex hormones and puberty blocker drugs.

The issue in Texas surfaced in large part from 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 castrate him.

Texas Scorecard has also extensively reported on the subsequent legislative saga, when Republican state lawmakers proposed laws earlier this year to prohibit the disfiguring procedures, but then chose to kill the effort.

Gov. Abbott’s Silence and Eventual Response

Last week, after Gov. Greg Abbott remained nearly silent on the Republican Party priority issue for nearly two years and chose not to include the protections on his priority to-do list for the Legislature’s July and August special sessions, he finally made a long-awaited “announcement” on the matter—by sending a letter to a state agency, asking them to decide if cutting off a child’s healthy body parts in such surgeries classifies as child abuse.

On Wednesday, the agency—the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services—replied that such operations are indeed child abuse.

“Such mutilation may cause a ‘genuine threat of substantial harm from physical injury to the child.’ … As you have described, this surgical procedure physically alters a child’s genitalia for non-medical purposes potentially inflicting irreversible harm to children’s bodies,” read the response to Abbott.

DFPS concluded that professionals who have cause to believe a child has been or may be subject to that abuse must report it to the state agency, and failure to do so is a “Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $4,000, or both.” If a professional intentionally conceals the abuse, it is a state jail felony.

What Now?

Even after the DFPS statement, many questions remain for Abbott.

“This ruling is helpful, but not enough. Puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones are not addressed in this ruling and are far more common than expensive surgeries,” Matt Rinaldi, the Republican Party of Texas chairman, told Texas Scorecard. “Governor Abbott still needs to add a complete gender modification ban to the special session call.”

Texas Scorecard reached out to Abbott, asking if he planned any further action on the issue. As of publication time, his office has not replied.

“How does DFPS view prescription drugs such as puberty blocking and cross-sex hormones that are currently being prescribed to children for transitioning purposes? Does this not make children vulnerable as well? And what about the physical and psychological injury from these drugs?” said Cindy Asmussen, Ethics and Religious Liberty advisor for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

“[DFPS’s] determination of policy also begs several other questions, such as: Is this new policy or has this been standing policy? If it is standing policy, then how is it that Texas now has a supposed 17 pediatric gender clinics serving children as young as 4 years old, and cases such as the James Younger case have been allowed to continue without intervention?” Asmussen continued, adding that Texas is in need of a state law like Arkansas’ Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act.

“Greg Abbott has a record of saying one thing and doing another when it comes to transgender issues in Texas,” Don Huffines, former state senator and current candidate for governor said in a statement on Wednesday.

“It’s past time for Greg Abbott to put an end to the games and be honest with voters about where he stands on these issues. He can either demand legislation to protect vulnerable kids from abusers, protect girls’ and women’s sports at the K-12 and collegiate level, and protect women in public restrooms, or he can come out as an ally of the transgender movement,” he added.

With less than a month remaining in the Legislature’s current special session, concerned citizens may contact their state representatives, their state senators, and Gov. Abbott.

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.