White House condemns Texas anti-trans directive that calls gender-affirming care 'child abuse'

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered investigations into gender-affirming care.

February 23, 2022, 6:41 PM

The White House is condemning Texas Gov. Greg Abbott after he directed the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate instances of gender-affirming care among youths in the state.

In a Feb. 22 letter, Abbott called gender-transitioning or affirming procedures "child abuse," following an official declaration from state Attorney General Ken Paxton that said the same.

Gender affirmation is when transgender people make changes to their lives in accordance with their gender identity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That can be done through a change of clothing, hairstyles, mannerisms, names and pronouns.

Gender affirmation can also come in the form of hormone therapy or surgeries to alter one's physical characteristics.

"Because the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) is responsible for protecting children from abuse, I hereby direct your agency to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation of any reported instances of these abusive procedures in the State of Texas," Abbott said in the letter.

PHOTO: In this May 4, 2021, file photo, Dr. Aliza Norwood, Medical Director of Vivent Health Austin, speaks out against legislation that would ban gender-affirming medical care, at a rally at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas.
In this May 4, 2021, file photo, Dr. Aliza Norwood, Medical Director of Vivent Health Austin, speaks out against legislation that would ban gender-affirming medical care, at a rally at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas.
Erich Schlegel/AP Images for Human Rights Campaign, FILE

The White House slammed Abbott's decisions on Tuesday in a statement to ABC News.

"The Texas Attorney General’s attack on loving parents who seek medical care for their transgender children is dangerous to the health of kids in Texas and part of much larger trend of conservative officials cynically attacking LGBTQI+ youth to score political points," a White House spokesperson told ABC News.

"Families should have the right to seek health care that will enable young people to live healthy and fulfilled lives," the statement continued. "Conservative officials in Texas and other states across the country should stop inserting themselves into health care decisions that create needless tension between pediatricians and their patients. And no parent should face the agony of a politician standing in the way of accessing life-saving care for their child."

PHOTO: In this April 14, 2021, file photo, parents of transgender children and other supporters of transgender rights gather to speak about transgender legislation being considered in the Texas House and Texas Senate, in Austin, Texas.
In this April 14, 2021, file photo, parents of transgender children and other supporters of transgender rights gather to speak about transgender legislation being considered in the Texas House and Texas Senate, in Austin, Texas.
Eric Gay/AP, FILE

"Our research found that gender-affirming hormone therapy has been linked to lower rates of depression and suicide risk among trans youth who wanted it," Amit Paley, CEO and executive director of LGBTQ advocacy group The Trevor Project, said in a statement to ABC News. "The government should not be involved in personal decisions that force doctors and families to act against the medical community's standards of care for transgender young people.”

The CDC cites estimates that about 60% to 70% of transgender people take hormones and about 20% to 40% have had at least one gender-affirming surgery.

Paxton says the announcement "comes at a critical time" when "Texans are seeing the horrors that flow from the merging of medicine and misguided ideology."

In his announcement, he attacked gender-affirming care for LGBTQ youth.

“There is no doubt that these procedures are ‘abuse’ under Texas law, and thus must be halted,” said Paxton in a press release. “The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) has a responsibility to act accordingly. I’ll do everything I can to protect against those who take advantage of and harm young Texans.”

Several other states, at least 17 so far in 2022, have introduced bills that prohibit or criminalize gender-affirming care for trans youth, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

PHOTO: Attorney General of Texas Ken Paxton speaks during former President Donald Trump's rally, in Conroe, Texas, on Jan. 29, 2022.
Attorney General of Texas Ken Paxton speaks during former President Donald Trump's rally, in Conroe, Texas, on Jan. 29, 2022.
Go Nakamura/Reuters, FILE

When Arkansas passed an anti-gender-affirming care bill into law, Gov. Asa Hutchinson criticized the decision. He had vetoed the bill and the state legislature overrode his decision.

"This is a government overreach," he said at an April 2021 news conference when vetoing the bill. "You are starting to let lawmakers interfere with health care and set a standard for legislation overriding health care. The state should not presume to jump into every ethical health decision."

PHOTO: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at the Copper Rose in downtown Odessa, Texas, on Feb. 14, 2022.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at the Copper Rose in downtown Odessa, Texas, on Feb. 14, 2022.
Jacob Ford/Odessa American via AP

Research has found that the majority of transgender people report experiencing various forms of harassment, victimization, and discrimination regularly -- and are more likely than general populations to experience poor mental health and suicide because of this.

"If it is allowed to go into effect, the law will undermine the mental, emotional, and physical health of transgender and non-binary people across the state," the ACLU wrote against that bill, warning against similar efforts and their impact on trans youth.

ABC News' Tony Morrison contributed to this report.

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