AUSTIN — After a years-long fight to protect children in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott and other top elected officials still won’t act.

The Issue

At issue are gender mutilation operations. Currently in Texas, medical professionals are allowed to cut off children’s healthy body parts as part of gender surgeries or chemically castrate them through sterilizing cross-sex hormones and puberty blocker drugs.

The issue drew an international spotlight several years ago with the child abuse case of James Younger, a 9-year-old Dallas-area boy whose mother told him he was a girl and wanted to force him—against his father’s wishes—to take sterilizing drugs and eventually be castrated.

Since then, the immediate goal of many citizens has been simple: outlaw those medical practices in Texas.

Why Is This So Difficult?

Throughout the year, Gov. Greg Abbott and the Republican-controlled state Legislature—led by Speaker of the House Dade Phelan—have continuously rejected efforts to outlaw the operations. Texas Scorecard extensively reported on this saga, detailing Abbott’s and lawmakers’ inaction despite the outcry of parents across the state and the vote of nearly 2 million Republican primary voters to ban the barbaric practices.

Texas Scorecard also documented the officials’ subsequent blame game and political circus with the Department of Family and Protective Services, which involved Abbott sending the department a letter in August, asking them to decide if physically cutting off a child’s healthy body parts is indeed child abuse. (They replied that it is.) The issue then got passed around in a months-long game of hot potato among the department, two state representatives, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to see if anyone would simply state that chemically disfiguring a child’s body (the far more common method) is also classified as abuse.

Abbott could have prevented the whole saga by simply tasking the Legislature to outlaw all of the practices, but he has so far refused and repeatedly declined to answer why. He separately claimed the effort had a “nil” chance of passing Speaker Phelan’s House of Representatives, though House Republicans say they have enough votes.

”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 earlier this year.

What Now?

“The Legislature could have addressed this. They failed to even, I think, get a bill out of committee, and I’m not sure why,” AG Ken Paxton told radio host Mark Davis in early December. “To me, that seems like one of those issues that the Legislature should have taken seriously and, for some reason, it went nowhere in the Legislature.”

Meanwhile, Arkansas recently passed a law to prohibit such operations on kids, called the Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act.

As more Texans and state lawmakers are currently admonishing Abbott to reconvene the state Legislature for a fourth session in January—and include the child protection law on his list of priorities—concerned citizens may contact their state representative or the governor.

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.