Becoming the very first state in the country to do so, California condemned "corrective" intersex surgery for children through a resolution passed by the California State Legislature on Wednesday. The resolution was first introduced to by Sen. Scott Wiener with support from the nonprofit organization known as interACT Advocates for Intersex Youth.
The bill, SCR110, denounces "corrective" intersex surgery as a procedure — but it does not outright ban it. In its resolution, proponents said that "corrective" surgery on intersex children is medically unnecessary, according to USA Today. This procedure, supporters of the resolution argued, could potentially traumatize the children who undergo it.
"It means for the very first time a U.S. legislative body has affirmatively recognized that intersex children deserve dignity and the right to make decisions about their own bodies — just like everyone else," head director of interACT Advocates for Intersex Youth, Kimberly Zieselman, told USA Today.
"We don't condone female genital mutilation, nor should we condone the medically unnecessary, deeply harmful interventions like clitoral reductions and sterilizations that constitute intersex genital mutilation," director of interACT Advocates for Intersex Youth, Alesdair Ittelson told USA Today. "This is an issue that transcends party lines because it is easy to understand the basic humanity of these vulnerable children."
Proponents of the resolution said that such a move for intersex children —that is to say, children whose genitals do not fit into a singular biologically male or female category — could help with their mental health. In their bill, supporters argued that, "The World Health Organization explained, also in 2015, that intersex children have been 'subjected to medically unnecessary, often irreversible, interventions that may have lifelong consequences for their physical and mental health, including irreversible termination of all or some of their reproductive and sexual capacity.'"
Going further, they cited the WHO study which said that "human rights bodies and ethical and health professional organizations have recommended that free and informed consent should be ensured in medical interventions for people with intersex conditions, including full information, orally and in writing, on the suggested treatment, its justification and alternatives."
Based on the content of the bill, the central issue seemed to be the premature timing of such medical procedures. Citing the same WHO study, the resolution added, "Procedures that could be delayed until intersex children are old enough to decide whether they want them are instead performed on infants who then have to live with the consequences for a lifetime."
Ultimately, it is the "the bodily autonomy of intersex people" that needs to be respected and regarded, according to the proponents of the SCR110 bill. The bill also shared the comments of an unnamed Stanford-educated urologist who explained the aftermath following a "corrective" surgery. "The psychological damage caused by intervention," the anonymous urologist said, "is just as staggering, as evidenced by generations of intersex adults dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, problems with intimacy, and severe depression."
With SCR110's position — that of denouncing "corrective" medical procedures for intersex children — perhaps supporters will be able to raise more awareness about and consideration for life as an intersex child.