AUSTIN — Amid a nationally known child abuse case in Texas, and a years-long saga where state politicians continue to allow medical professionals to disfigure children across the state, one elected official is pushing for long overdue action to end what he calls a “barbaric practice.”

On Thursday, State Rep. Bryan Slaton (R–Royse City) sent a public letter to Jaime Masters, the commissioner for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, clarifying whether the agency classifies certain child mutilation operations as child abuse.

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 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.

Gov. Greg Abbott remained nearly silent on the Republican-priority issue for years.

Last week, after a legislative saga where the Republican-controlled state Legislature recently chose to reject proposed laws that would have outlawed the operations, and years of apparent silence from Gov. Abbott on the Republican-priority issue, Abbott finally 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.

On Wednesday, the agency replied that such operations are indeed child abuse, and if professionals have cause to believe a child has been or may endure that abuse but fail to report it to the state agency, that’s 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.

Now, Rep. Slaton wants to know if that definition of abuse includes administering 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.

“The clarifications I seek is whether or not, in your opinion, the following also constitute child abuse: Mastectomies for the purposes of affirmation of a gender different than their biological gender; chemical transition procedures through puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones; and the mental preparations by psychologists and the instruction often given to minors for the purpose of psychological transitioning and the ultimate goal of genital mutilation of minors in Texas.”

“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.”

“Treating these procedures as abuse would save James Younger and actually be stronger than some of the leading bills under consideration,” tweeted Matt Rinaldi, the Republican Party of Texas chairman. “Procedures can be done out of state. Treating them as abuse protects Texas children wherever they may be taken.”

As the situation with DFPS continues to unfold, many questions still remain for Abbott. Citizens are still urging him to include the proposed child protection laws on the state Legislature’s to-do list in the current August special session.

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.