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Houston hospital pauses hormone therapy for transgender children as threats of child abuse investigations loom

Citing potential criminal penalties, Texas Children’s Hospital will no longer provide hormone therapy to transgender patients.

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Demonstrators held signs in front of the Texas Capitol on Tuesday during a protest for transgender kids’ rights. (Lauren Witte/The Texas Tribune)

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston has stopped providing hormone therapy to transgender children after Gov. Greg Abbott directed the state’s child welfare agency to open child abuse investigations into parents who provide gender-affirming care to their children.

“This step was taken to safeguard our healthcare professionals and impacted families from potential criminal legal ramifications,” a spokesperson for the hospital wrote in a statement.

It wasn’t immediately clear late Friday what alternative options transgender patients of the hospital system have. The spokesperson declined to comment on the medical guidance doctors were providing to patients, what impact halting the treatment will have on patients or when the hospital expects to resume hormone therapies.

Abbott’s directive cited a nonbinding legal opinion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who classified gender-affirming care as child abuse.

Most gender-affirming care focuses on “social transition” — allowing a child to express their gender however they see fit. Some children are also given puberty blockers, a completely reversible prescription that has been used for decades to delay early onset puberty. Paxton’s opinion also said body modification surgeries could be considered child abuse, but medical experts say those are rarely, if ever, performed on children.

Health care systems across the state have altered medical procedures in response to child abuse claims. GENECIS, a Dallas-based health program that offered hormone therapy to transgender children, formally dissolved in November. The closure came after protests accused the program of child abuse.

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A study from the Stanford University School of Medicine found that transgender people who began hormone treatment in adolescence had fewer thoughts of suicide, were less likely to experience major mental health disorders and had fewer problems with substance abuse than those who started hormones later in life.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Sneha Dey is a reporting fellow at The Texas Tribune. She is a senior at Northwestern University, where she studies journalism, legal studies and creative writing. The New York native has previously worked for the Chicago Sun-Times, NPR and Chalkbeat. She has also served as editor in chief of The Daily Northwestern. When she’s not in the newsroom, she is going on runs or eating her way through Austin.

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