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Biden accuses Texas Gov. Abbott of ‘government overreach at its worst’ for investigating parents of children transitioning genders

President Biden speaks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before departing with first lady Jill Biden to Wisconsin on Wednesday. (Sarah Silbiger/For The Washington Post)

President Biden said Wednesday night that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is carrying out “a cynical and dangerous campaign” by directing state officials to investigate families for child abuse if they allow their children to medically transition genders.

“This is government overreach at its worst,” Biden said in a statement. “Like so many anti-transgender attacks proliferating in states across the country, the Governor’s actions callously threaten to harm children and their families just to score political points. These actions are terrifying many families in Texas and beyond. And they must stop.”

Biden said his administration is taking several steps to protect transgender children in Texas. Among them was an invitation Wednesday by Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra for families to contact the department’s civil rights office if they were “targeted by a child welfare investigation because of this discriminatory gubernatorial order.”

Judge partially blocks Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s order to treat gender-affirming care as child abuse

In a letter sent last month to state health agencies, Abbott noted that the Texas attorney general’s office had determined that providing medical treatments such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy could “legally constitute child abuse” under state law.

“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 to the commissioner of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Biden’s statement.

Abbott, who is seeking reelection this year, will face former Democratic congressman Beto O’Rourke in November. Abbott has also been mentioned as a potential 2024 presidential contender.

Asked this week about the politics of the transgender youth issue, Dave Carney, a senior adviser for Abbott’s reelection campaign, said he considers it “a 75, 80 percent winner” for Abbott.

Speaking to reporters, Carney downplayed the criticism that Abbott’s stance has received.

“All of this wokeness is great, because quite honestly, the people you, all your cohorts, work with on the editorial pages, and columnists think this is a terrible thing and tsk, tsk, tsk as they drink white wine through a mask with straw,” he said. “Voters don’t care about these things. This is not a D.C. race.”

In his statement, Biden said the directive, which has prompted legal challenges, amounts to “weaponizing child protective services against loving families.”

“Respected medical organizations have said that access to gender-affirming care for transgender children can benefit mental health, lower suicide rates, and improve other health outcomes,” Biden said. “Children, their parents, and their doctors should have the freedom to make the medical decisions that are best for each young person—without politicians getting in the way.”

Since his election, Biden has repeatedly pledged to take steps to protect transgender Americans, including in Tuesday’s State of the Union address, when he said he would “always have your back.”

“Transgender children bring fulfillment to their parents, joy to their friends, and are made in the image of God,” Biden said in his statement Tuesday night.

David Weigel and Casey Parks contributed to this report.