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California Becomes First State to Condemn Surgery On Intersex Children

While the surgery has been an accepted medical practice since the 1950s, intersex advocates have recently begun pushing back.

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California made history this week when the State Legislature passed a resolution that condemns performing surgery on intersex children. Those in support of the new resolution say that these surgeries not only present serious and unnecessary health hazards to the children but are typically performed well before a kid is able to consent to the procedure.

Doctors have been performing the ‘corrective’ surgery on newborns since the early 1950s, but, in recent years, advocates for the intersex community have begun pushing back against what they consider a human rights violation. In fact, the intersex youth advocacy group interACT helped author the legislation.

“It’s the very first time that a US legislative body has recognized that intersex children deserve bodily autonomy and the right to make decisions about their own bodies just like everyone else,” said Kimberly Zieselman, the executive director of interACT. “We’re hoping it’s just the beginning of more to come.”

It is currently estimated that one in every 2,000 babies in America are born intersex, meaning that the child has a “combination of male and female biological characteristics, such as chromosomes or genitals, that can make doctors unable to assign their sex as distinctly male or female.”

While some have argued that modern medical practices make it possible to perform the surgery without any major health risks, those against ‘corrective’ surgery have pointed out that the procedure can cause a myriad of long-term health problems, including scarring, loss of sexual function, damage to a person’s psychological well-being, chronic pain, and assigning gender incorrectly.

While the newly-passed legislation, SCR110, doesn’t make the surgeries illegal, advocates believe that it will encourage doctors to strongly reconsider performing ‘corrective’ surgery on kids moving forward.