AUSTIN — Amid 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.

As of Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott, the Republican-controlled state Legislature, and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services have still not responded nor acted to prevent operations that mutilate and potentially sterilize minors.

At issue are gender mutilation procedures. Currently, medical professionals in Texas 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 castrate him.

Since the national coverage of the case two years ago, the issue became a Republican Party of Texas priority, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office wrote the Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate the matter (though with no apparent results), the Republican-controlled state Legislature earlier this year 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 DFPS, asking them to decide if cutting off a child’s healthy body parts in such surgeries classifies as child abuse.

The agency replied that such operations are indeed child abuse, and afterward, State Rep. Bryan Slaton (R–Royse City) sent them a follow-up letter asking if that abuse definition includes puberty blocker drugs and psychological counseling that teaches children they’re the opposite sex.

“While reassignment surgery through altering genitalia is a key part in early transitioning of children, it is not the only method utilized,” Slaton wrote.

“If these methods do constitute child abuse, will they be held to a standard equal to those life-altering and abusive surgeries?” Slaton concluded. “I think most Texans would be concerned if DFPS decided that only ‘some’ genital mutilation was wrong, while condoning other mutilation.”

However, two weeks later, DFPS has still not responded.

On Thursday, Texas Scorecard reached out to the department asking for comment and was told the agency still does not have a reply at this time.

Additionally, earlier this week, State Rep. Matt Krause (R–Haslet) sent a request to Paxton asking if “certain medical procedures performed on children without medical necessity constitute child abuse.” Paxton has not yet announced an opinion.

Meanwhile, as state officials have still not responded nor outlawed the operations, children such as James Younger remain vulnerable. Citizens are still urging Gov. Abbott to include the proposed child protection laws on the state Legislature’s to-do list for the current August special session. Shockingly, though, Abbott recently said that “the chances of [those protections] passing … in the House of Representatives was nil.”

“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.

With less than two weeks 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.


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