AUSTIN, Texas (CN) — An employee of the Texas child protective services agency, which was recently tasked by state officials to investigate transgender children’s parents for “child abuse,” sued the state Tuesday over the policy after the agency sent an investigator to determine if she was abusing her trans daughter.
In February, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote in a non-binding legal opinion that gender-affirming healthcare, such as hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgeries, constitute “child abuse” under Texas law because they could cause sterility. The state’s governor, Greg Abbott, soon followed with a letter directing the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TDFS) to investigate families suspected of helping secure such treatments for their children.
Experts from medical groups such as the American Medical Association say these treatments are beneficial to kids experiencing gender dysphoria and note that transgender sex reassignment surgeries are rarely administered to children. Trans rights advocates have called the policy “sadistic.”
The TDFS employee sued the agency, Abbott and TDFS commissioner Jaime Masters in Austin’s state district court Tuesday under the pseudonym Jane Doe on behalf of her daughter, named Mary Doe in the suit. Jane’s job is to review reports of child abuse and neglect.
In the lawsuit, Jane says that the day after Abbott sent his letter to TDFS, mere hours after asking her supervisor how the letter would affect the agency’s policy, she was placed on leave because her daughter receives gender dysphoria treatment recommended by her lifelong pediatrician.
On Friday, the mother says, an investigator came to their home to interview the parents and child and sought access to the girl’s medical records; the family refused to release the records. The mother fears the loss of her job and therefore the family’s health care coverage, and says her daughter has been “traumatized” by the idea that she might be taken from her parents and “lose access to the medical treatment that has enabled her to thrive.”
Mary Doe’s father and a Houston-area clinical psychologist, Megan Mooney, are also plaintiffs to the suit.
Mooney is a mandatory reporter who must report child abuse and neglect to DFPS, according to the suit, and says the new policy conflicts with the American Psychological Association’s code of ethics, which directs clinicians to “do no harm” to patients.
The psychologist has “observed the tremendous health benefits that her patients experience as a result of medical treatment for gender dysphoria,” including youth whose depression and feelings of hopelessness were alleviated by gender-affirming treatment, Mooney alleges. “The governor’s directive and DFPS have places Dr. Mooney in an untenable situation.”
Together the plaintiffs ask the court to consider whether Abbott and Paxton’s announcements are valid, restrain TDFS from investigating families based solely on the fact their children are trans, stop requiring mandatory reporters to flag families who seek medical treatment for gender dysphoria and declare the new policy is contrary to Texas law.
The change in policy at TDFS comes more than a year after the most recent Texas legislature declined to pass a bill that would have changed the definition of “child abuse” to include treatments for gender dysphoria. The family claims that Paxton and Abbott “have attempted to legislate by press release” since lawmakers did not accomplish this legislative priority of the state’s top Republicans.
“Gender-affirming care for the treatment of gender dysphoria is medically necessary care, full stop. Criminalizing that care and threatening to tear children from their families is unconscionable and terrifying, and cannot stand,” said Paul Castillo, senior counsel for Lambda Legal, in a statement Tuesday.
The family is represented by attorneys representing the American Civil Liberties union, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and Austin-area law firm Baker Botts LLP.
Advocates for trans youth panned the change in policy Tuesday.
“We will not allow for these continued efforts to restrict access to life-saving care and criminalize families based on patently false information. To Attorney General Paxton and Governor Abbott, we will not continue to play a sadistic role in your political theater,” said Emmett Schelling, the executive director of Transgender Education Network of Texas, in a statement to press
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