Personal care treatments

Judge temporarily blocks CPS investigation into treatment of transgender child

A Travis County district judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked the state’s child welfare agency from investigating possible child abuse charges against the parents of a 16-year-old who has undergone gender affirming health care.

But the court has refrained from blocking such investigations across the state — at least for now.

The judge’s decision came in response to a complaint filed by two national civil rights groups against Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services on behalf of the family, which faced scrutiny for supporting their daughter’s care for gender dysphoria.

State prosecutors, who did not respond to a request for comment, have already appealed the decision.

The investigation was prompted by a directive from Abbott last week, backed by a non-binding legal opinion from Attorney General Ken Paxton that equates surgical and drug treatments with child abuse.

Most major professional medical organizations support evidence-based care for the treatment of gender dysphoria, which is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as psychological distress and anxiety due to a mismatch between the senses a person a of its gender and sex assigned at birth.

The 16-year-old girl’s mother, who is not named in the lawsuit, is a child protection agency employee and was placed on administrative leave from work last week. Earlier in the day, she asked her supervisors for clarification on the impact of Abbott’s new order, according to the suit, which does not contain details about who reported the alleged abuse.

“This should never have happened and is unfathomably cruel,” said Brian Klosterboer, an ACLU of Texas attorney representing the plaintiffs. “Families shouldn’t have to worry about being separated because they are providing the best possible health care for their children.”

The decision came as the Biden administration’s Department of Health and Human Services rolled out new guidelines calling on Texans to file a federal lawsuit if they experience discrimination based on gender identity or disability while seeking gender-affirming care.

“This is the worst of government excesses,” Biden said in a statement Wednesday. “Like so many anti-transgender attacks proliferating in states across the country, the governor’s actions are ruthlessly threatening to harm children and their families just to score political points. These actions terrify many families in Texas and beyond. . And they have to stop.”

In granting a temporary restraining order on Wednesday, District Judge Amy Clark Meachum, a Democrat, said the employee would otherwise risk losing her job, and she and her husband “face imminent and continuing deprivation of their constitutional rights, the potential loss of necessary medical care, and the stigma of being unfoundedly investigated for child abuse.

The court will hold a hearing on March 11 to determine whether Meachum should issue a broader, more lasting injunction.

Order targets use of ‘puberty blockers’ and hormone therapy

Paul Castillo of Lambda Legal, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, said in court Wednesday that at least two other families were also being investigated by the state’s child protective agency. and that some medical providers had stopped prescribing gender-affirming drugs to transgender youth in Texas.

Abbott’s order applies to the use of puberty blockers, which delay the onset of puberty in children diagnosed with gender dysphoria, and hormone treatments for older children, as well as the surgery, although this is not common in minors.

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Paxton, in his legal opinion, argued that courts were likely to find that removing a child’s constitutional right to procreate, especially when too young to legally consent – and even the use of drugs claiming gender – could lead to physical and mental harm. harm that amounts to abuse.

He also compared transgender health care to the opioid crisis that has proliferated in part because of doctors downplaying the risk of drug addiction.

“There is always the potential for new medical determinations to promote purported cures that may not improve patient outcomes and may even lead to tragic harm,” Paxton wrote. “The same potential for harm exists for minors who have engaged in the type of procedures or treatments above.”

However, a growing body of evidence shows that this care does the opposite, including a Feb. 25 study by researchers at the University of Washington that found gender-affirming care was associated with a lower risk of depression. and suicide.

Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, said at a press conference outside the Travis County Courthouse on Wednesday that politically active parents who have spoken out against anti-transgender bills in the Legislature of Texas are targeted by the DFPS.

“What started as a sectarian stunt by the attorney general and the governor turned into political persecution,” Martinez said. “It’s a whole different level of evil: prioritizing children with loving families when there are foster children sleeping in administrative offices awaiting placement.”

Issue considered a winner for the GOP

The lawsuit in Travis County District Court argues that the governor’s directive violates Texas Administrative Procedure Law, the separation of powers requirements of the Texas Constitution, and the constitutional rights of transgender youth and their parents.

The other plaintiff in the case, Megan Mooney, is a Houston psychologist who treats children with gender dysphoria. Her job requires her to report child abuse, but she disagrees with this, saying it would harm her clients and violate her ethical obligations as a professional counselor.

Castillo said Mooney had previously received communications from people “threatening his license.”

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Assistant Attorney General Ryan Kercher argued in court that Paxton’s legal opinion alone was not a directive to DFPS and did not change the law. Kercher said the opinion just found that a court could find some transgender care to be abusive.

“Despite frankly breathless media coverage of these important issues, there have been no calls to investigate all trans youth or all young people undergoing these gender affirmation procedures,” Kercher said.

Meachum was skeptical of that argument, asking why Abbott would have written the letter to DFPS if not to spur enforcement.

“How often does the governor send directions to DFPS about conducting investigations?” she asked. Kercher said he didn’t know.

Castillo noted that a statement given to reporters by DFPS last week said the agency would follow Paxton’s views.

The judge also alluded to the pending class action lawsuit filed against the agency for its mismanagement of the state’s foster care system. A court-ordered team monitoring the agency found 23 children died in state custody between summer 2019 and spring 2021.

“Has he (Abbott) worked with the commissioner on all of these issues or is this the only issue that has been given direction with him?” Meachum asked.

Democrats and LGBT advocates have accused Paxton and Abbott of using transgender children as political pawns, pointing out that they chose to act on the issue the week before disputed primary elections for both.

Abbott’s senior strategist Dave Carney, in a call with reporters Wednesday, did not speak to the timing, but noted the governor viewed the issue as a “75-80% win.”

“Texans have common sense,” he said.

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