Earlier this week, a California state senator withdrew a bill that would have banned medically unnecessary surgeries on intersex children. The bill would have prevented certain surgeries until the children were old enough to participate in the decision around the procedures.
State Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco, has previously tried to pass similar bills over the past few years. His most recent bill would have prohibited unnecessary surgeries on intersex children until they were 12 years old.
Intersex people are those born with nontypical male and female sex characteristics. When intersex children are born, many undergo irreversible surgeries.
“These irreversible genital reconstruction surgeries – usually performed when a child with variations in their genitalia are infants – have lifelong consequences. These consequences can include chronic pain, scarring, loss of sexual sensation, and more,” Wiener said in a press release. “For three years, we’ve worked to advance legislation, and it’s become apparent that we continue to lack the votes to pass a meaningful bill — one that actually protects intersex people — through committee.”
In his comments, Wiener referred to the U.N.’s support of bans on these surgeries.
Germany, Colombia, and Malta ban certain surgeries on intersex children. Two children’s hospitals in the U.S. have limited these surgeries, according to the Associated Press. However, no U.S. state has done so.
“We are disappointed that California is not yet ready to lead on this important civil rights issue, and we will continue to work with intersex individuals and advocates to move the state forward towards recognizing the bodily autonomy of intersex Californians,” Becca Cramer-Mowder, legislative coordinator and advocate with ACLU California Action, said.
In a statement to The Advocate, Hida Viloria, founding director of Intersex Campaign for Equality, said the group was thankful to Wiener.
“The original intention of the bill — to ban cosmetic, irreversible sex organ surgeries on intersex children — was great,” Viloria said. Viloria added that having the age be 12 for participation in the decision-making process for the surgeries was still too young for such life-altering surgeries.
Wiener said he would continue to fight for intersex people's rights.
“Pausing medically unnecessary genital surgeries until a child is old enough to participate in the decision isn’t a radical idea. Rather, it’s about basic human dignity,” Wiener said. “I’m not giving up, and I stand in solidarity with the intersex community in its fight for bodily autonomy, dignity, and choice.”