Texas governor Greg Abbott recently compared gender-affirming care for trans youth to “child abuse” and ordered investigations into it.

In a letter sent on 22 February to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), the 64-year-old wrote “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”.

“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,” he added.

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

According to a lawsuit filed on 1 March, the state has “initiated investigations” into parents of trans adolescents as a result of Abbott’s letter.

A currently unnamed employee of the state protective services agency is one of the first to be probed under the governor’s instructions.

She has a 16-year-old child, referred to as Mary Doe in court documents, and the filing states that she was put on administrative leave last week.

On 25 February, the staff member was apparently visited by one of the agency’s investigators who wanted medical records relating to her daughter.

As part of the lawsuit, the mother (who is identified as Jane Doe and her husband as John Doe) wrote a declaration that said: “We are terrified for Mary’s health and well-being, and for our family.

“I feel betrayed by my state and the agency for whom I work.”

She added that not giving Mary the care she needs is “not an option for us.”

The allegation facing the parents is that their daughter is “currently transitioning from male to female” and may have had gender-affirming care, the suit states.

The same day Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, and ACLU of Texas filed a suit to block the DFPS from investigating parents who work with medical professionals to help care for their trans children.

Abbott is named personally in the documents.

“For Governor Abbott and Attorney General Paxton, it seems the cruelty is the point,” said Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Paul Castillo.

“They are joining a politically motivated misinformation campaign with no consideration of medical science and seem determined to criminalize parents seeking to care and provide for their kids, and medical professionals abiding by accepted standards of care for transgender youth. 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.”

The complaint was filed on behalf of the aforementioned employee who is under investigation and can be read in full here.