A North Carolina couple is suing the state to challenge their decision to perform sexual-reassignment surgery on a 16-month old in their care who was born with both male and female internal sexual genitals.
Mark and Pam Crawford, who adopted the now 8-year-old child shortly after surgery, argue that doctors should not have performed surgery to make the child’s body appear to be female when they knew they could not predict how gender would develop.
The Crawford’s say the child was born with intersex condition, which means a person is born with a sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the definition of a typical man or woman.
The couple said they are taking legal action in the hopes of helping other children who face similar medical conditions.
“We feel very strongly that these decisions to permanently alter somebody’s genitalia and their reproductive ability for no medical reason whatsoever is an abhorrent practice and can’t be continued,” Pam Crawford told Reuters in a phone interview. “It is too late for our son. The damage has been done to him.”
“We want to put other doctors on notice,” said Mark Crawford who noted the action was “drastic and permanent.”
“The state took something very special away from our son, and for no reason except for adults’ inability to accept people who are born different,” said Pam Crawford.
The lawsuit, filed in state court in Columbia, names the South Carolina Department of Social Services, Greenville Hospital System and Medical University of South Carolina as defendants.
The lawsuit states doctors, acting as agents of Defendant hospitals, performed the gender-reassignment surgery and assigned the child the female gender despite a conclusion that the toddler “was a true hermaphrodite but there was no compelling reason that she should either be made male or female.”
At birth, the child was identified as a male because of his external genitalia, but shortly after, doctors discovered the baby had “ambiguous genitals” and both male and female internal reproductive structures, according to the lawsuit.
Defendants decided to remove the child’s healthy genital tissue and “radically restructure his reproductive organs in order to make his body appear to be female,” the lawsuit states.
The suit filed in federal court alleges DSS and individual doctors violated the child’s right to privacy by deciding to ahead with the surgery. The state suit alleges medical malpractice and gross negligence by DSS, MUSC and GHS.
While the child is healthy, the Crawfords’ lawyers say there are medical issues that can result from the surgery, including sterilization or the loss of sexual function.
The couple is suing for damages, but is leaving the dollar amount up to the courts decision.
About one in every 2,000 children is born “intersex,” or with ambiguous genitalia, according to Anne Tamar-Mattis, an attorney with Advocates for Informed Choice, a group that supports intersex children.