This article was published on January 17th, 2022
Last week a bill that would have banned surgeries deemed ‘medically unnecessary’ on young children born with atypical genitalia failed in its first attempt at a vote on the California Senate floor even as supporters argued that continued legislation is necessary to protect intersex people.
Advocate groups for intersex people have been fighting diligently in California for legislation that would postpone genital surgeries, countering that they are harmful. Furthermore, the groups believe that infants that are born with atypical genitalia that have surgeries to ‘normalize’ their bodies run the risk of irreversible loss of sensation or incorrect gender assignment.
The Man Behind Senate Bill 201
Proposed by state Senator Scott Wiener of San Francisco, Bill 201 would have mandated that children be at least 16 years of age before surgery could be performed that was not medically necessary. Doctors opposed the bill and left the decision up to parents of the children and the physicians treating the child.
Despite the clamor on both sides of the issues, the bill failed when it went to the Senate’s Business, Professions, and Economic Development Committee where it garnered only two ‘yes’ votes from the panel of nine. Senator Steven Glazer, the Committee Chairman, expressed concerns on how broad the bill was and the potential for consequences unforeseen. The bill officially failed when three more senators declined to vote on the measure. Senator Wiener responded to the vote, saying:
“I’m deeply disappointed that the committee rejected the bill. This is a civil rights, a human rights piece of legislation, and California should be leading on protecting the rights of sexual minorities and gender nonconforming people. This sends a negative message when California rejects this kind of bill.”
The History of the Bill Through Legislation
First introduced last year by Wiener, SB 201 was quickly shelved when its death on the floor became apparent by insiders and those closely following the draft. Originally, the bill mandated a ban on genital surgeries deemed not medically necessary until a child reached an age old enough to provide informed consent on their body. The measure received staunch opposition, however, as it did not specify an age for consent, and this is what prompted Wiener to make amendments to the legislation with the age of 16. Wiener contended that by age 6, a child is old enough to express feelings that allow an informed parent to make decisions about the child’s well-being.
Where the Intersex Community Stands on the Issue
In the intersex community, there is no agreed upon consensus on how old someone must be before consent allows for surgery. Advocates maintain there is a balance that must be struck to ensure the minor is old enough to decide without outside pressure. Plus, doctors can avoid the impression of forcing children to wait until after they have finished puberty. The bill was opposed by the California Medical Association, the California Psychiatric Association, and the California Urological Association, all three influential in spreading information about the issue to constituents throughout the state.
What are your thoughts on these measures? What age do you believe is the correct one before surgery can be performed? Let HomoCulture know in the comments section below.