Imagine facing ramifications for your actions—a concept conservatives are, by and large, going to do whatever they can to avoid. As Daily Kos has continued to cover, we know Republican Gov. Greg Abbott tried to essentially turn an opinion—a nonbinding analysis of existing law—from fellow Republican Ken Paxton, who currently serves as Attorney General for Texas, into law. Paxton’s opinion argues that safe, age-appropriate gender-affirming health care for trans youth is actually child abuse. Abbott not only agreed but directed state agencies to investigate families, which has already started happening. One major children’s hospital in the state has already paused gender-affirming care out of concern of being penalized as well.
Now, the state is concerned it could lose federal funding over Abbott’s directive. On Wednesday, Paxton announced he is suing the Biden administration. This is actually an amendment to an existing suit in response to a March 2 guidance from the Health and Human Services (HHS) department, in which it makes it explicitly clear that denying someone medical care based on sex assigned at birth or gender identity is a violation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) when it comes to federally funded entities. Families who believe their child has been denied such care were encouraged to contact the Office of Civil Rights office with a complaint. Paxton’s suit is an attempt to void that guidance, as covered by The Texas Tribune.
Here’s how this breaks down specifically. The guidance from HHS specifies in part that the “health care providers are not required to disclose private patient information related to gender-affirming care,” even in spite of Abbott’s directive. Great!
Paxton, however, argues that the guidance incorrectly suggests physicians (and other staff members) at facilities that receive federal funds who have an obligation to report gender-affirming care as child abuse would be violating federal law by doing so, when (in Paxton’s view), they’d actually be reporting procedures that constitute as child abuse. But he’s talking about his own interpretation of the law, which resulted in his opinion, which was the basis for Abbott’s directive.
"It is time for the Biden Administration to quit forcing their political agenda," Paxton said. Frankly, if it’s a “political agenda” to protect the rights of vulnerable children, it’s a political agenda I can get behind.
Basically, Paxton’s doubling down on what he thinks is right, not what’s actually reality.
The reality is this: Families of trans youth are reporting investigations from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) have already begun. One, as covered by Daily Kos, is a family that actually had Paxton and his wife over their home for dinner half a decade ago, when trying to open his eyes to the humanity of their trans child. At the time, trans folks were facing hateful, discriminatory bathroom bills. Now, the same trans youth are facing discriminatory health care measures—and have to worry about being pulled from the safety of their supportive homes.
As of the time of writing, parents of an openly trans child are suing to stop investigations from DFPS related to gender-affirming care. That case will be heard on Friday, March 11, according to local outlet KXAN.
“No court here in Texas has ever found that the kind of essential health care that transgender young people receive to treat gender dysphoria could ever be considered child abuse,” ACLU attorney Brian Klosterboer said in a statement, adding that the prosecutors would have a “very high burden” to convince a court and jury otherwise.
Even still, it’s hard to take deep solace in trusting our judicial systems and constitutional protections when so many people are routinely disenfranchised. In this case, too, we know people who live with multiple layers of marginalization are likely to be most impacted—families of color, for example, low-income families, and rural families may come out of a DFPS investigation very differently than a white, wealthy one.
That’s not to mention the ongoing mental trauma of trans folks—and their allies—in being used as political pawns while their daily lives hang in the balance.