The Texas Department of Family Protective Services said sex transitioning surgeries on minors constituted child abuse in a letter to the governor on August 11,
In response to an inquiry from Governor Greg Abbott, Commissioner Jaime Masters wrote “Genital mutilation of a child through reassignment surgery is child abuse, subject to all rules and procedures pertaining to child abuse.”
Masters noted, “this surgical procedure physically alters a child’s genitalia for non-medical purposes potentially inflicting irreversible harm to children’s bodies.”
Under Texas law, there are times when this type of surgery does not constitute abuse because it is considered medically necessary. Exceptional circumstances include “a child whose body parts have been affected by illness or trauma; who is born with a medically verifiable genetic disorder of sex development, such as the presence of both ovarian and testicular tissue; or who does not have the normal sex chromosome structure for male or female as determined through genetic testing.”
Governor Abbot called for “a determination of whether genital mutilation of a child for purposes of gender transitioning through reassignment surgery constitutes child abuse” in a letter to the department on August 6th. Under Texas law, female genital mutilation is already illegal. He asked the department to clarify the reporting requirements “for all licensed professionals who have direct contact with children who may be subject to that abuse.”
Sex reassignment surgeries, sometimes called gender confirmation surgeries, have been a hotly debated topic in the Texas legislature. The state Senate passed Bill 1646, which could impact what gender-affirming care was permitted and hold parents and doctors accountable if they violate child abuse policies, but it was blocked in the house.
Andrea Segovia, Transgender Education Network of Texas’ field and policy coordinator, criticized Abbott’s call for clarification as a move that bullied marginalized children.
“It’s literally the harshest language possible, because he wants a reaction from his side,” she said in a statement to the Texas Tribune. “And they can gain supporters in that of like, ‘Oh, that sounds awful. Yeah, we shouldn’t be doing that to our minors.’”
In his reply to the governor, Masters wrote, “Generally, children in the care and custody of a parent lack the legal capacity to consent to surgical treatments, making them more vulnerable.”
“Failure to report is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $4,000, or both,” he said. “If it is shown that the professional intentionally concealed the abuse, then the offense is a state jail felony.”