AUSTIN — “I keep asking myself: Why do we have to work this hard to get our elected officials to protect children in this state?”

Jeff Younger, a Dallas-area father who’s been trying to defend his son in a nationally known child abuse case, recently summarized the situation well: State lawmakers—despite a years-long outcry to ban barbaric practices on Texas minors—have done nothing.

Yet despite their past inaction, legislators can still outlaw it.

The Current Fight

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 because of the high-profile case of Jeff Younger’s 9-year-old son, James, whose mother wanted to force him—against Jeff’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 ban the procedures in a Republican primary election).

“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 earlier this month. “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.”

However, state officials have not done anything to stop the disfiguring procedures. In 2019, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office wrote the Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate the James Younger matter, though with no apparent results. Then earlier this year, the Republican-controlled state Legislature rejected several proposed laws that would have outlawed the operations.

Meanwhile, Gov. Greg Abbott remained nearly silent on the issue the whole time.

Why is This So Difficult?

Finally, in early August, Abbott made an “announcement” on the matter by sending a public letter to the 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 and could result in a Class A misdemeanor penalty, they later refused to say that chemically castrating a child—the far more common method—is also abuse. AG Paxton was then asked by a state representative for an official opinion on whether those operations were illegal, but he has not responded in over a month.

On top of that, 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,” a comment that sparked shock and confusion among citizens.

Abbott had the opportunity to include the proposed protections on the state Legislature’s to-do list for the July, August, and now October special sessions, but he has repeatedly declined to do so.

However, he did include dog tethering on his list of priorities for the current October session.

“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,” said Texas GOP committee chairwoman Glover.

“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,” said Don Huffines, former state senator and current Republican candidate for governor. “It is time for the people’s priorities to take precedence once again.”

“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,” Huffines separately added. “He can either demand legislation to protect vulnerable kids from abusers … or he can come out as an ally of the transgender movement.”

What Now?

Despite all of that, state lawmakers have again proposed similar child protection laws in the current 30-day session. Three different bills (House bill 26, Senate Bill 28 and similar companion House Bill 22) all aim to stop the mutilation procedures.

All of the bills, however, are currently untouched and have not moved forward in the legislative process.

As state lawmakers have less than three weeks remaining in their October session, concerned citizens may contact their state representative, senator, and Gov. Abbott.