The Southern Poverty Law Center, one of the country’s most well-known legal activism organizations, is representing the adoptive parents of an intersex child whose genitals were mutilated prior to the adoption.

The two articles below describe the lawsuit.

Steven Svoboda
Attorneys for the Rights of the Child


Parents sue South Carolina for surgically making child female

By Holly Yan and Joe Sutton

May 15, 2013 (CNN) — The adoptive parents of a child born with male and female organs say South Carolina mutilated their son by choosing a gender and having his male genitalia surgically removed.

The surgery took place when the child was 16 months old and a ward of the state, according to a lawsuit filed by the parents against three doctors and several members of the South Carolina Department of Social Services.

The child’s biological mother was deemed unfit, and the biological father had apparently abandoned him, according to the suit. So others made the decision.

The child, now 8 years old, feels more like a boy and “wants to be a normal boy,” said Pamela Crawford, the boy’s adoptive mother.

“It’s become more and more difficult, just as his identity has become more clearly male, the idea that mutilation was done to him had become more and more real,” she said in a video released by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is assisting in the case.

“There was no medical reason that this decision had to be made at this time.”

Marilyn Matheus, a spokeswoman for the South Carolina Department of Social Services, said the agency does not have any comment on the pending litigation.

The defendants named in the suit also include doctors from Medical University of South Carolina and Greenville Memorial Hospital.

Sandy Dees, a spokeswoman for the Greenville Health System, said she could not comment because of the litigation.

Assigned to be a girl, but identifying as a boy

The child, identified in the lawsuit as “M.C.,” refuses to be called a girl and lives as a boy. His family, friends, school, religious leaders and pediatrician support his identity.

“We just let him follow his instincts as much as we can,” his adoptive father, John Mark Crawford, said in the video.

Pamela Crawford said performing gender assignment surgery on a baby robbed her child of the ability to make the decision for himself.

“I would have never made the decision to choose the gender either way,” she said. “What I would have been working with is how do we preserve as much functioning in either direction because we can’t know what this child’s gender identity is going to be.”

The lawsuit claims doctors at a state hospital and Department of Social Services workers “decided to remove M.C.’s healthy genital tissue and radically restructure his reproductive organs in order to make his body appear to be female.”

The suit says the surgery violated the 14th Amendment, which says that no state shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”

The suit also asks for “compensatory damages in an amount to be determined at trial.”

But the adoptive father said the real intent of the lawsuit “is just to uphold these constitutional principles — integrity of a person’s body, and some kind of due process for infants where people around them in power are considering doing surgeries like this.”

Pamela Crawford agreed.

“I would give anything for this to not have been done to our child,” she said. “I don’t want it to happen to any more kids.”


Parents of Intersex Child Sue Over ‘Unnecessary’ Surgery

Southern Poverty Law Center touts lawsuit that could have major impact

By Steven Nelson
May 14, 2013

A South Carolina couple is suing the state’s Department of Social Services, a hospital, a medical school and individual hospital employees, alleging that a “medically unnecessary” genital removal surgery violated their adopted intersex child’s constitutional rights.

Mark and Pam Crawford say that their child, identified as M.C., is now 8 years old and chooses to identify as a boy, despite doctors deciding that M.C. should be a girl at 16 months old. The couple say that they chose to adopt M.C., who was in state custody at the time of adoption, knowing about the intersex condition.

“The first thought that I had was, lets make sure they don’t do the surgery,” Pam Crawford said in an audio recording posted to YouTube. Crawford said the surgery happened about three months before the adoption.

“I was really sad that that decision had been made for him,” she said. “It’s become more and more difficult as his identity has become more clearly male. The idea that mutilation was done to him has become more and more real. There was no medical reason that this decision had to be made at that time.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center is spearheading the lawsuit, along with the group Advocates for Informed Choice and pro bono attorneys.

“Although long-term outcomes of today’s genital surgeries in children have not been well-studied, many doctors and advocates recommend that children with intersex conditions be assigned a gender at birth, but postpone any unnecessary surgery until they are old enough to self-identify with a gender and make their own decisions about their bodies,” Advocates for Informed Choice, a group that represents intersex people, said in a press release.

The SPLC said in a Tuesday statement that M.C.’s constitutional right to due process was violated by doctors performing the surgery “without notice or a hearing to determine whether the procedure was in M.C.’s best interest.”

“This case is about ensuring the safety of all children who do not have a voice,” said SPLC attorney Alesdair Ittelson in the release. “No one advocated for M.C.’s right to be free from unnecessary medical intervention at a time when the state was entrusted with his safety and well-being. It is high time all involved answer for the needless injury they inflicted on M.C.”

The Medical University of South Carolina and the Greenville Hospital System committed medical malpractice and the state’s social services department is liable for gross negligence, the attorneys argued in the lawsuit filed Tuesday.

According to the Intersex Society of North America, research suggests that approximately one percent of people are born with bodies that “differ from standard male or female.”