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Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, compared medical procedures for young transgender people to “child abuse”.

In a letter sent on 22 February to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, the 64-year-old ordered investigations into gender-affirming care.

“Because the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) is responsible for protecting children from abuse, I hereby direct your agency to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation of any reported instances of these abusive procedures in the State of Texas,” Abbott wrote.

He said that this should include parents of children who undergo such treatments, including the likes of puberty and hormone-suppressing drugs.

According to the governor, “all licensed professionals who have direct contact with children who may be subject to such abuse, including doctors, nurses, and teachers” should report it immediately or face “criminal penalties”.

A statement from the White House swiftly rejected Abbott’s stance.

“Families should have the right to seek healthcare that will enable young people to live healthy and fulfilled lives. Conservative officials in Texas and other states across the country should stop inserting themselves into healthcare decisions that create needless tension between paediatricians and their patients,” it stated.

“And no parent should face the agony of a politician standing in the way of accessing life-saving care for their child.”

Ken Paxton, the attorney general in Texas, said the medical procedures are a violation of state law in an opinion that followed the letter.

Although this does not set new legislation, it does provide an interpretation of laws currently in place.

Data from America’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that roughly 60% to 70% of trans people take hormones, with 20% to 40% having had gender-affirming surgery.

Rachel Levine, the assistant secretary for health for the Department of Health and Human Services who is also a trans woman, said the care is “essential and can be lifesaving”.

“Our nation’s leading paediatricians support evidence-based, gender-affirming care for transgender young people,” she added.