New Bill Aims to Ban Cosmetic Surgery for Intersex Infants

State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, announces SB 201, which would ban medically unnecessary genital surgery on intersex babies.  (Elor de Grey/Courtesy of interACT)

State lawmakers have introduced legislation to ban unnecessary genital surgery for intersex babies that would be the first of its kind in the nation if it passes.

Senate Bill 201 would prohibit medical providers from performing cosmetic surgeries on intersex babies — individuals born with natural variations in sex characteristics or genitalia — until they can make their own decisions. Some of the surgeries that advocates say are medically unnecessary include reducing a clitoris, creating a vagina or removing healthy gonadal tissue.

“There are some procedures that violate our fundamental values as Californians,” state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, said Monday in introducing the legislation.

Advocates say these procedures are based on the desire to “normalize” genitalia but can have irreversible and harmful effects on puberty, fertility and gender expression.

If the bill passes, California would be the first state to prohibit non-consensual genital surgery for intersex infants.

“Instead of forcing conformity, we should celebrate our differences,” said Elizabeth Gill, an attorney with the ACLU of Northern California.

Wiener said non-consensual procedures on intersex infants is a human rights issue.

Sponsored

“We banned conversion therapy for children — even if a psychiatrist thinks it's appropriate," Wiener said. "And by the same token, if an intersex baby is born and is healthy and does not medically require surgery to be healthy, we should not be allowing physicians to perform this cosmetic genital surgery that will have impacts for the rest of that person's life."

Hans Lindahl, of the intersex youth advocacy group interACT, said SB 201 would allow intersex people like herself to have autonomy over their bodies in the health care system.

“We're not anti-surgery. We're pro-consent. We just want the same rights as anyone else to make our own decisions about our own bodies,” Lindahl said.

If SB 201 passes, parents won't be able to give consent for their children to undergo cosmetic genital surgery.

"Parents and doctors have a critically important role to play in the health and well-being of their children, but we should not deprive individuals of the right to choose whether to undergo invasive surgeries that are cosmetic, medically unnecessary and associated with long-term permanent health consequences," Wiener said.

The California Medical Association, a group that represents thousands of California physicians, said they’re concerned the bill is "being overly prescriptive" and would "not give families and medical professionals the ability to take the specifics of each case into account.”

The legislation will be presented for committee hearing in the next few months.

Volume
KQED Live
Live Stream
Log In ToPledge-Free Stream
LATEST NEWSCAST
KQED
NPR
Live Stream information currently unavailable.
Share
LATEST NEWSCAST
KQED
NPR
KQED Live

Live Stream

Live Stream information currently unavailable.