Example 5: The rights of children born with variations of reproductive or sexual anatomy in the US
Project Type: Advocacy and Litigation
Advocates for Informed Choice
Advocates for Informed Choice (AIC) is an organisation based in the US, which uses innovative legal strategies to advocate for the rights of children born with variations of reproductive or sexual anatomy.
Some children who are born with variations of reproductive or sexual anatomy undergo ‘corrective’ surgery to create an ostensible approximation of either male or female genitalia. The issue is that this non-consensual surgery can have devastating impacts on the child’s development, even when the child’s developing gender identity conforms to the surgical outcome.
AIC uses traditional legal and non-legal tools domestically and advocates internationally to protect the rights of children born with intersex conditions or “disorders of sex development” (DSD). On May 14th, 2013, Advocates for Informed Choice, with other affiliates, filed a lawsuit in South Carolina called MC v. Aaronson. The case is filed against various bodies and individual employees for performing an irreversible and medically unnecessary surgery on an infant who was in the state’s care at the time of the surgery.
Results and Lessons Learned
The case is unresolved as of yet, however it should prove to be important for the rights of intersex persons regardless of the outcome as it highlights many relevant intersex issues:
• The case is important as it illustrates a radical shift in perspective about who is able to consent to what is done to intersex bodies, specifically during childhood.
• It highlights that although there may be actual health problems associated with some forms of intersex persons, this does not necessarily mean that being born with variations of reproductive or sexual anatomy is a medical problem.
• The case will raise awareness of intersex issues, and help shift the view away from a sensationalised and an often stigmatising point of view.
• As AIC also operates from an international advocacy standpoint, they will be able to use the findings and nuances of the case to further advocate for the rights of intersex persons. The case could create some useful guidance for other Countries when analysing similar issues.
• The case has already received attention from other sections of civil society, for example the Organisation Intersex International Australia (OII Australia) are following the case and anticipating the decision. Such a case could provide for some strong persuasive advocacy points for organisations similar to AIC on an international level.
• 10 days after MC v. Aaronson was filed another ground-breaking lawsuit was filed to protect an intersex child in Kenya. For more information, see: http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/article-121590/intersex-child-5-sues-state-birth-certificate.
Resources on the case MC v. Aaronson:
- AIC blog post, with links to newspaper articles, available at: http://aiclegal.org/aics-landmark-lawsuit-makes-history/.
- Federal and state case complaints available at: http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/case-docket/mc-v-aaronson#.UZVREbVQGCk.