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California may become the first state to limit intersex surgery on children

California may become the first state to limit intersex surgery on children

Protesting intersex surgeries

Lawmakers in California introduced a bill on Monday (4 February) aiming to limit intersex surgery on children.

Intersex people are born with atypical sex characteristics, including variations in the chromosomes, genitalia, gonads, or sex hormones. For almost a century, doctors have been performing surgery on those born with these variations.

Recent information and activism, however, have decried intersex surgery as both simply cosmetic and actively harmful.

State Sen. Scott Wiener (D) introduced SB-201 as its sponsor.

Per its language, the bill does not outright ban intersex surgery. Instead, it limits doctors’ abilities to perform it on minors.

SB-201 prohibits a surgeon from ‘performing any treatment or intervention on the sex characteristics of an intersex minor if the treatment or intervention may be deferred until the intersex minor can provide informed consent’.

The bill, however, does permit a surgeon to perform on an intersex minor if the procedure is deemed ‘medically necessary’.

‘Everyone deserves autonomy about who they are and what medically unnecessary surgeries they undergo,’ Wiener said in a statement.

‘This legislation allows individuals to choose for themselves if and when they undergo life-altering medical procedures. Parents and doctors have a critically important role to play in the health and well-being of their children, but we should not deprive individuals of the right to choose whether to undergo invasive surgeries that are cosmetic, medically unnecessary, and associated with long-term permanent health consequences.’

Last year, Wiener introduced another piece of legislation on intersex rights.

Concerns of the bill and this surgery

The California Medical Association (CMA) expressed ‘serious concerns’ regarding the bill. They specifically highlight the bill’s lacking definition of when a minor is old enough to consent.

Janus Norman, senior vice president for CMA’s governmental relations, said: ‘Our concern is that the approach in this bill may be being overly prescriptive and not give families and medical professionals the ability to take the specifics of each case into account.’

Intersex advocates, however, are hailing the bill as a victory.

Organization InterACT is a co-sponsor of the bill.

Kimberly Zieselman, Executive Director of interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth, said: ‘Attempting to erase these natural differences perpetuates a message of shame, stigma, and homophobia. Medicine evolves alongside social acceptance, and this bill sends a clear message: there’s no rush to perform these surgeries on infants.’

Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur called unnecessary intersex surgery a ‘critical human rights issues’ and praised California for leading the way.

See also

Med students push for more LGBTI health training

California offers ‘non-binary’ gender option on state ID cards in 2019

Why everyone should include pronouns in their email signature