California Weighs Unique Intersex Surgery Ban for Some Kids

California could become the first state to ban medically unnecessary surgeries on babies born with ambiguous or conflicting genitalia.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California lawmakers are considering a first-of-its-kind ban on medically unnecessary surgeries for children born with ambiguous or conflicting genitalia until they are at least 6.

The measure refers to intersex people who 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, according to the measure's author, state Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat.

The proposal would make California the first state in the U.S. to ban some of the procedures on infants, and lawmakers were scheduled to vote on it in a committee hearing Monday. It must pass the state Senate by Jan. 31 to have a chance at becoming law this year.

The bill would ban all intersex procedures on children 6 and under, unless they are deemed medically necessary by the Medical Board of California. Wiener said an example of a medically necessary procedure would be correcting a dangerous condition that prevents some intersex infants from urinating.

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

Wiener calls it a civil rights issue. He said the surgeries can have life-altering consequences, which could include sterilization and the loss of sexual sensation.


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“These are dangerous medical procedures with, in many cases, largely psychosocial benefits that cannot be considered in the context of an infant, who has yet to develop their sex or gender identity," Wiener said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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