Lawmakers reject intersex surgery ban for children
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.