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'Science' Behind Texas/Alabama Anti-Trans Policy Is 'Full of Errors'

Ken Paxton and Greg Abbott
From left: Ken Paxton and Greg Abbott

Texas's justification for "child abuse" investigations and Alabama's rationale for restrictions on gender-affirming care are riddled with inaccuracies, a new study says.

It may come as no surprise to many LGBTQ+ people, but now researchers have confirmed it: The Texas report calling gender-affirming health care child abuse is full of bad science, and so is the rationale behind the Alabama law criminalizing the provision of such care to minors.

"After examining the [Texas attorney general's] Opinion and the findings of 'fact' in the Alabama Law in detail, we conclude that their medical claims are not grounded in reputable science and are full of errors of omission and inclusion," says a report published on the Yale School of Medicine website by six scientists and a law professor. "These errors, taken together, thoroughly discredit the AG Opinion's claim that standard medical care for transgender children and adolescents constitutes child abuse. The Alabama Law contains similar assertions of scientific fact, and these too are riddled with errors, calling into question the scientific foundations of the law."

The authors include physicians and psychologists, most affiliated with the Yale School of Medicine and one with Children's Medical Center Dallas and the University of Texas Southwest. All regularly treat trans children and teens. The law professor is at Yale Law School. Their study is titled "Biased Science: The Texas and Alabama Measures Criminalizing Medical Treatment for Transgender Children and Adolescents Rely on Inaccurate and Misleading Scientific Statements."

They focus on Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's report that led Gov. Greg Abbott to order that parents who allow their children to access gender-affirming care be investigated for child abuse, while noting that the Alabama law drew on similar claims. The Texas investigations are temporarily stopped while a lawsuit against the state is heard.

Among the errors they cite is the claim that surgery on the genitals and reproductive organs is standard treatment for trans youth. "In fact, the authoritative protocols for medical care for transgender children and adolescents, which define what we term 'gender-affirming care,' specifically state that individuals must be over the age of majority before they can undergo such surgery," the authors point out.

Also, they note, both the Texas report and the Alabama law "ignore the mainstream scientific evidence showing the significant benefits of gender-affirming care and exaggerate potential risks. ... A solid body of reputable evidence shows that gender-affirming care can be lifesaving and significantly improves mental health and reduces suicide attempts." It would be unethical to deny this care to young people, they say.

The anti-trans documents further ignore the fact that the effects of puberty-blocking drugs are fully reversible and that there is evidence that the effects of hormone treatment are reversible as well, the researchers state. Also, Paxton implies that puberty blockers and hormones are given to children who have not yet reached puberty, but that is not the case, they say. And such treatment is never undertaken without extensive medical consultation, they add.

Additionally, Paxton cites a biased group, the Society for Evidence-Based Gender Medicine, which is not a recognized scientific association, and a "discredited claim" that peer pressure is leading teens to identify as transgender, the authors say. Along with these, he relies on a study that is badly out of date and one that is irrelevant to the issue -- and those are the only peer-reviewed scientific studies noted in the Paxton report.

Another claim made in his report and in the Alabama law is that gender dysphoria will often simply go away without treatment. But the researchers state unequivocally, "Scientific studies have demonstrated that gender dysphoria is a well-documented condition for which medical care is essential treatment. The established scientific evidence shows that treatment improves mental health outcomes, including reducing rates of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts."

Several media outlets, including the Austin American-Statesman and The Dallas Morning News, sought comment from Paxton's office, and there was no response. There's no record of comment from Alabama officials either.

"We need to call for fact-based checks on legal opinions and legislation," Meredithe McNamara, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Yale and one of the study's authors, said in a press release from Yale Law School. "Scientists need to have a seat at the table. And perhaps most importantly, there must be a penalty for writing fake science into law. Trans and nonbinary youth are facing the fight of their lives to simply exist and we can't let them stand alone. This is a matter of life and death."

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