A bill that would ban certain surgeries performed on children under the age of 12 was withdrawn from committee on Monday following a reported lack of support for the bill.
Senate Bill 225, authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), would have postponed physicians and surgeons from performing genitalia modification procedures on intersex individuals below the age of 12. An exception would only be made if the surgery was required in events of a risk of immediate physical harm to the child in question.
Wiener wanted SB 225, also known as the Bodily Autonomy, Dignity and Choice Act, to pass, as genital and sexual organ procedures done to infants and young children who display sexual characteristics from both genders are often permanent and irreversible. It is also done at an age before gender identity is developed. Wiener argued that SB 225 would give a child enough time to decide for themselves on what they want to do. Although Wiener originally called for six years old to be the age minimum for surgery due to sexual identification starting around that age, Wiener later bumped up the age to 12 in an amendment made last month following talks with intersex and LGBT groups.
“People should have the chance to make informed decisions about their own bodies instead of having those decisions made for them and without their input,” said Senator Wiener in January. “This legislation gives children and their families more time to research and opt in or out of non-emergency surgeries to irreversibly change a child’s sex characteristics. We must provide people the ability to make important healthcare decisions for themselves – especially when healthcare decisions are associated with a person’s gender assignment, and can result in long-term pain, PTSD, depression, and a loss of sexual sensation.”
However, much like versions of SB 225 Wiener has tried to pass for the last 3 years, the failed SB 201 he attempted last year, with physician and health groups steadfastly opposed such legislation. They have argued that a surgery ban is so broad that it could harm or even result in the death of thousands of patients and possibly even bar religious and cultural procedures, such as circumcisions.
“It’s not a question of allowing a child to choose their gender,” explained Anthony Kovic, a representative for physicians and health care workers in the Midwest who has helped oppose similar bills across the country. “That’s not the issue. The issue is that these bills, especially California’s, are so sweeping and don’t take into account a lot of specific surgeries and procedures. Yes, there are many negatives to surgeries in those areas on people that young, but this could potentially block many types from being performed.”
“And the wording, ‘unless the procedure is a surgery required to address an immediate risk of physical harm,’ is vague. They do list a few of the procedures later on in the bill, but even that eventually just says ‘any other surgery necessary to preserve life in the event of a medical emergency.’ That can mean anything and that can be nothing.”
“And where does it mention religious usage? Or cases of non-life threatening but quality of life surgeries? This is all so slapdash that it fooled me that this has been attempted three times before. We need to zero in on the limits, not broaden it out. You broaden, you put kids lives at risk.”
Despite the attempts by Wiener and supporters to garner more Senate support, it was not enough, and on Monday, Wiener withdrew it from the Senate Committee on Business, Professions, and Economic Development before it could be voted on.
“We’ve sadly come to the conclusion that we do not have enough support in the Senate Business and Professions Committee to pass SB 225. As a result, we are not presenting the bill in the committee today as planned,” said Wiener. “We have the option of taking the bill up for a committee vote in January 2022, and we will assess going forward how to proceed.”
“Given that this legislation has stalled in the Business and Professions Committee for three years in a row, we do have concerns about whether this LGBTQ+ civil rights bill can ever pass through the committee in a form that protects all intersex people. The proposed committee amendments, unfortunately, would likely exclude a large majority of intersex people from the bill’s protections. I’m deeply committed to the fight to protect intersex children from harmful and medically unnecessary genital surgeries, and we are not giving up.”
A new intersex surgery bill is expected to be drawn up next year.