The Biden administration this week issued condemnations of a Texas policy whereby parents who facilitate gender transition medical treatments for children can be investigated for child abuse.

Governor Greg Abbott on Feb. 22 directed the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to investigate “a number of so-called ‘sex change’ procedures” which the attorney general’s office had determined “constituted child abuse under existing Texas law.”

Among the procedures mentioned in the attorney general’s February report were methods of sterilization including castration and hysterectomy, as well as puberty blockers and hormone treatments. Because children cannot legally consent to sterilization, “procedures and treatments that result in a child’s sterilization are unauthorized and infringe on the child’s fundamental right to procreate,” the attorney general wrote.

The White House issued a statement March 2 calling Texas’ move “government overreach at its worst.”

“In the United States of America, we respect the rights and dignity of all families,” the statement reads.

“Transgender children bring fulfillment to their parents, joy to their friends, and are made in the image of God. Affirming a transgender child’s identity is one of the best things a parent, teacher, or doctor can do to help keep children from harm, and parents who love and affirm their children should be applauded and supported, not threatened, investigated, or stigmatized.”

Xavier Becerra, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, said in a statement the same day that the HHS is prepared to “take immediate action” to “protect trans and gender diverse youth in Texas.”

“The Texas government’s attacks against transgender youth and those who love and care for them are discriminatory and unconscionable. These actions are clearly dangerous to the health of transgender youth in Texas,” Becerra said.

The statement also included a separate sheet explaining that under federal law, parents or caregivers who believe their child has been denied health care, including “gender-affirming care,” on the basis of that child’s gender identity, may file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights. This comes after the Supreme Court in 2020 reinterpreted “sex” in federal civil rights law to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

The HHS also released guidance to state child welfare agencies that “makes clear that states should use their child welfare systems to advance safety and support for LGBTQI+ youth, which importantly can include access to gender affirming care.” The medical process by which a person who identifies as transgender "transitions" is often referred to as "gender-affirming" therapy.

A state judge on March 2 blocked the Texas agency from investigating one particular family whose 16-year-old child is undergoing a gender transition, in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Texas, and Lambda Legal. The court will hear arguments, beginning March 11, on whether to block the order statewide.

Experts have told CNA that facilitating or supporting a gender transition isn't compassionate for a child, partly because they are agreeing to a radically life-altering process that doesn't resolve underlying problems, such as mental illness.