Law­mak­ers re­ject in­ter­sex surgery ban for chil­dren

Antelope Valley Press - - OPINION -

SACRA­MENTO, Calif. (AP) — Cal­i­for­nia law­mak­ers have re­jected what would have been a first-of-its-kind ban on med­i­cally un­nec­es­sary treat­ment for in­fants born with am­bigu­ous or con­flict­ing gen­i­talia.

The mea­sure would have banned all pro­ce­dures on in­ter­sex chil­dren six and un­der un­less they were deemed med­i­cally nec­es­sary by the Med­i­cal Board of Cal­i­for­nia.

State Sen. Scott Wiener, a Demo­crat from San Fran­cisco who wrote the mea­sure, called it a civil rights is­sue and said the bill would “en­sure that peo­ple who are born in­ter­sex are able to make their own choices about their health and their gen­der iden­tity in­stead of hav­ing other peo­ple make those ir­re­versible sur­gi­cal choices for them.”

But a ma­jor­ity of law­mak­ers on a key leg­isla­tive com­mit­tee thought the pro­posal was too broad and ques­tioned whether chil­dren as young as six could un­der­stand enough to help par­ents make a de­ci­sion.

“I look at my grand­daugh­ter who is 5, al­most 6 — I don’t know if that’s some­thing that she could make that de­ci­sion on,” said state Sen. Jerry Hill, a Demo­crat from San Ma­teo.

Wiener noted that it would not re­quire the child to make the de­ci­sion but would let them have in­put. He said its de­feat in com­mit­tee means it is most likely dead for the year.

“In­ter­sex peo­ple de­serve le­gal pro­tec­tion,” Wiener said. “To­day’s vote was a set­back, but this is only the be­gin­ning. We aren’t giv­ing up on pro­tect­ing in­ter­sex peo­ple from non-con­sen­sual, in­va­sive, dan­ger­ous surgery.”

In­ter­sex peo­ple are born with gen­i­talia, chro­mo­somes or re­pro­duc­tive or­gans that don’t fit typ­i­cal def­i­ni­tions for males or fe­males.

Ex­am­ples in­clude peo­ple born with both ovaries and male gen­i­tals or in­com­pletely formed gen­i­tals that can be am­bigu­ous. Be­tween 1% and 2% of the pop­u­la­tion are born with in­ter­sex traits, Wiener said.

The Cal­i­for­nia Med­i­cal Associatio­n op­posed the mea­sure, say­ing clin­i­cal ev­i­dence for the risks of such surg­eries “are still in­con­clu­sive to al­low for leg­is­lat­ing of the prac­tice.”

Hil­lary Copp, a pe­di­atric urol­o­gist at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, San Fran­cisco, said the mea­sure “re­moves all flex­i­bil­ity for trained med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als and their loved ones to do what is in the best in­ter­est of the pa­tient.”

Mon­day’s com­mit­tee hear­ing at­tracted many peo­ple who gave pub­lic com­ment, in­clud­ing some who were born with in­ter­sex traits and op­posed the bill, say­ing they had the surgery as a child and don’t re­gret it.

Bria Brown-King, a 27-year-old who was born with in­ter­sex traits, sup­ports the bill and says they re­gret hav­ing surgery when they were 13.

“They may be well in­ten­tioned, but these surg­eries are of­ten car­ried out with the as­sump­tion this is what the chil­dren would want as adults,” Brown-King said.

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