How many parents in Texas have to be accused of “abuse” for the simple act of loving their child before the federal government steps in to defend them? How many children have to be bullied by state officials? And how many pregnant people have to be denied their reproductive rights in the Lone Star State? Is there a number? Tell me what it is. I’d like to know how many people have to suffer because Texas has denied them medical care before the federal government does something to stop them.
I’m asking on behalf of 29 million people, at least some of whom did not sign up to live in a fundamentalist theocracy. How many people must be sacrificed at the altar of “states’ rights” before the national government intervenes?
Texas is a rogue state. It has been since it passed Senate Bill 8, a law that allows private bounty hunters to violate the constitutional rights of pregnant people seeking reproductive services, and to harass anybody who helps them access those services. I said, in real time, that the appropriate federal response would be to send abortion providers to Texas, under armed escort if necessary, to secure reproductive rights in that state. But the powers that be decided to go the more traditional route of speechifying and lawsuits.
The federal government had a good case against Texas. But, as anticipated, good legal arguments mean nothing when you let Republicans control the courts. The refusal of Democrats to expand and reform the Supreme Court resulted in an entirely predictable loss for the Biden administration in front of that court, which allowed Texas to continue treating women and pregnant people as mere incubators with only limited control of their own bodies.
What Republican officials in Texas have learned from the SB 8 saga is that the Supreme Court has no intention of stopping them from violating constitutional rights—and the federal government lacks the strength or the will to force them. Texas took a blowtorch to the rights of women and pregnant people, and the Biden administration responded by quoting the fire code instead of sending in the fire trucks.
Did you think Texas would stop there? Did you think the state’s cruelty toward vulnerable people would end with pregnant people? That’s just not how bullies work. Now that Texas knows it can do what it wants to people it doesn’t like, it will keep using the power of the state to hurt others, until somebody makes it stop.
It is, at least in part, in the context of this country’s permissiveness of Texas’s assault on reproductive rights that we can understand the state’s amped-up attack on trans rights. Texas is attacking kids because it knows the conservatives on the Supreme Court are on its side. Texas knows the Biden administration will shrug and let it do it. If the state’s leadership appears unhinged, it’s because the rest of the country won’t tell them “no.”
Last week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott and State Attorney General Ken Paxton took steps to punish parents or other family members who support transgender children—effectively “trying to criminalize the love of devoted parents and eradicate the survival opportunities of Texas young people,” as Chase Strangio wrote just a few days ago. Specifically, Paxton announced that gender-affirming medical treatment can legally constitute child abuse, and then Abbott directed the Texas Department of Child Protective Serivces to launch investigations into what he called “abusive procedures.” Abbott also ordered licensed professionals (doctors, nurses, teachers) to report families “suspected” of providing gender-affirming treatment, because apparently nothing is more “Texas” right now then pitting neighbor against neighbor and unleashing private vigilantes to suppress the rights of others.
There will be people—cishetero males employed by The Atlantic, mainly—who will act like there is some kind of grand confusion about who gets to “decide” gender, but nobody should fall for the intellectually dishonest bait offered by cultural conservatives made uncomfortable by difference. Like the increasingly insane restrictions on abortion, this is not about changing social mores around gender identification—it’s about health care. Trans kids, and the parents who love them, are seeking medical care. It exceeds the state’s legitimate authority to intervene in a medical decision between a parent, a child, and a doctor simply because its governor is being opportunistic with his bigotry. I don’t have to have an opinion about who gets to decide gender (though it’s the kid, obviously, you sick fucks) I just have to have an opinion about whether kids and their families can consult a doctor on medical treatments, or if they can only have the medicine that meets with the approval of a Texas Republican running for office.
The resolutions and memos signed by Paxton and Abbott are nonbinding. Child Protective Services could ignore calls for investigations, and Texas courts could reject Paxton’s legal analysis. This will lead some to say that the Texas measures are just for show. But this is a form of terrorism against the trans community. Paxton and Abbott are literally trying to frighten trans kids and their parents in an attempt to exclude them from the public sphere. Texas doesn’t have to kidnap all trans children—the possibility that it could happen to one child is enough to keep the entire community afraid.
Reporting the parents of trans kids for child abuse for seeking out medical treatment is no different from reporting a parent as a child abuser and pedophile for taking their daughter to the doctor to get birth control medication—which I hesitate to say aloud, because it’s probably exactly what the tyrannical white men who run Texas have planned next. Again, if you think Texas is going to stop with trans kids, you are a fool who is unable or unwilling to pay attention. If this assault on trans kids is allowed to stand, Texas will harm a vulnerable population—and then seek out even more victims in its war on modernity.
The solution to this Republican-manufactured crisis is the same as the last one: Send federal health care providers to Texas, under armed escort if necessary, to provide services and protect from vigilantes the people who seek those services. I’m not sure why this is so hard for people, including the current president, to understand. Texas is refusing to provide health care to people who live there. The “states’ rights” arguments should not translate into denying medical treatment to people in the name of religious fundamentalism. If Texas won’t provide health services, the federal government should create and deploy federal health care providers—and provide that care. Invade Texas with doctors, because the thing Texas is trying to do is prevent citizens it doesn’t like from seeking medical care Republicans disapprove of.
And then stage a doctor invasion of all the other states trying to copy Texas. Texas wants to be the poster child for these draconian measures against medicine, but there are many states in the neo-Confederacy that are already there. Medical professionals with federal protection to provide medical consultations and services is the kryptonite to all of the misogyny and bigotry Republicans are trying to legislate to subvert the Constitution one state at a time. Until the Biden administration shows that it is willing to commandeer the state’s health care facilities and use them to provide care instead of advance fundamentalist dogma, Texas and states like it will seek out ever more people to deny services and rights to.
I don’t know how else to put it. Speeches, admonitions, and lawsuits are of little use against Texas. The governor doesn’t care, and the conservative Supreme Court hates the same people Texas hates. Stop Texas with superior federal power, or let Texas sacrifice American citizens to its governor’s sick obsession with people’s private parts. Fight or lose—it’s really that simple.