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Citing Abbott’s Order, Texas Children’s Hospital Halts Gender-Affirming Care

One critic of the move said the hospital should stand up to Abbott “instead of bowing down and harming” patients.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a campaign event on February 23, 2022, in Houston, Texas.

Texas Children’s Hospital, the largest pediatric hospital in the United States, announced that it would no longer provide gender-affirming care to patients in response to an executive order from Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

That order, which relied on a non-binding legal opinion from state Attorney General Ken Paxton, stated that such care equated to child abuse — a notion that contradicts scientific consensus on the subject, and which experts and medical associations have vehemently disagreed with. Abbott’s decree also demands that the state investigate families who seek out gender-affirming care for their children, and similarly requires investigations into doctors, nurses and other medical staff that assist in such treatment.

In announcing its decision, Texas Children’s Hospital cited Abbott’s order, which warned of “criminal penalties” for those who ignored it.

“After assessing the Attorney General’s and Governor’s actions, Texas Children’s Hospital paused hormone-related prescription therapies for gender-affirming services,” a statement from the hospital said. “This step was taken to safeguard our healthcare professionals and impacted families from potential criminal legal ramifications.”

Texas Children’s Hospital’s decision to halt care for transgender and gender diverse children was widely condemned. The hospital could have taken a firm and decisive stand against Abbott’s order, some have pointed out, as legal challenges to the order have already successfully halted investigations into at least one family in the state (later this week, a judge is set to rule on whether the order violates families’ rights overall).

“Think about the implications of the biggest pediatric hospital in Texas suddenly halting lifesaving hormone therapy for trans youth,” Ari Drennen, LGBTQ program director for Media Matters for America, said on Twitter. “This will force kids who’ve been thriving as themselves either traumatically detransition or turn to less safe internet sources for treatment.”

Travis Reece-Nguyen, a board-certified general and pediatric anesthesiologist and a member of the World/US Professional Association for Transgender Health, also rebuked the action by Texas Children’s Hospital.

“Hey @TexasChildrens, do you know how harmful it is to totally stop ALL gender-affirming care for #trans and #genderdiverse [patients]? You should be leading the efforts opposing this TX HATE [executive order] instead of bowing down and harming your own [patients],” Reece-Nguyen wrote. “DO BETTER.”

Meanwhile, the Campaign for Southern Equality noted that the hospital’s decision and similar moves from other entities in Texas “are the consequences of the cruelty from the Texas Attorney General, Governor, and anti-transgender forces in the state.”

Transgender lawyer and activist Chase Strangio expressed similar sentiments, stating that “there is so much bad stuff happening to trans people in Texas so fast it is hard to catch our breaths.”

“I am sending so much love to everyone on the ground [sic] their fighting for justice and fighting to live,” Strangio added.

Studies show that gender-affirming care is beneficial to those who receive it, including children; in many cases, such treatment can even be life-saving.

Transgender and gender diverse children “who have access to gender-affirming medical care experience improvements in mental health and often show mental health comparable to their cisgender peers,” one analysis of multiple studies examining the topic concluded.

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