Home>Articles>Bill That Would Ban Surgery on Intersex Children Dies in Committee

Senator Scott Wiener. (Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Bill That Would Ban Surgery on Intersex Children Dies in Committee

SB 201’s vote sparks a growing scandal over campaign donations made to Senator Glazer by a group who opposed the bill.

By Evan Symon, January 15, 2020 6:32 am

By a vote of 4 to 2, with three abstentions, the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee voted down what would have been the first ban on intersex children surgery in the country.

The attempted intersex children surgery ban

SB 201, authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), would have banned surgery on children under six who had indeterminate sexual characteristics. This would include surgery to determine a gender if the child had sexual organs and characteristics of more than one gender.

Advocates for the ban were disappointing by the ruling.

“It’s a travesty,” said Michael ‘Mica’ Reed, an intersex advocate and crisis volunteer in Los Angeles. “People should choose their gender, not have it chosen by their parents at an age they don’t even realize what’s happening.

A lot of people who switch genders were intersex who were assigned one at birth and given surgery before they were old enough to know what the consequences would be.

And now they still have no protection.”

Dismay from Senator Wiener

Bill author Senator Wiener also was disheartened by the rejection of the bill.

“I’m very disappointed that the committee voted down this civil rights bill,” stated Senator Wiener. “Intersex people deserve legal protection, and we are committed to ensuring that protection under California law.”
“Today’s vote was a setback, but this is only the beginning. We aren’t giving up on protecting intersex people from non-consensual, invasive, dangerous surgery. As with many civil rights struggles, it sometimes takes multiple tries to prevail. We will be back.”
Before being taken completely off the table, the bill was voted to be reconsidered at a later date, meaning the bill is not completely dead.
Several medical and parent groups, most notably the California Medical Association, praised the vote. They believe it is the parent’s choice and, in many cases, is a necessary choice for adults to make.
Possible lobbying donation influence of Senator Glazer
Senator Steven M. Glazer. (Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

The vote has also caused a minor scandal in Sacramento. Senator Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) has been accused of voting down the bill because of $50,000 he received in campaign finance from the lobbying group of the California Medical Association three days before the vote.

Senator Glazer, who previously had allegations over compromising a bill with other lawmakers influenced by lobbying groups, has denying wrongdoing, and said he only opposed the bill because it wasn’t written right at this time.

“It’s with reluctance that I can’t find myself, under the bill as it’s written today, encouraging its passage,” said Senator Glazer after the vote. “It requires some narrowing.”

Later he clarified, stating, “I oppose sex assignment surgery on infants born with ambiguous sex characteristics. I believe a narrower bill could be crafted to achieve that objective. I’m sorry that this did not occur today.”

The California Medical Association has also denied that the donation influenced his vote.

A new session, a new vote

SB 201 will need to wait until the next session to have another Committee vote

Intersex genital surgeries are currently banned in several countries, such as Austria and Portugal, and have been condemned by the United Nations and the Human Rights Watch. California would have been the first state in North America to ban the practice. Several other countries, such as Canada, are currently debating bans.

Evan Symon
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