Child should have decided
In what may be the first lawsuit of its kind, a South Carolina couple is suing the state for performing sex-reassignment surgery on a toddler in its care.
Did the state overstep its bounds, or does the couple — who adopted the child soon after the surgery — need to drop the case?
Mark and Pam Crawford are the parents of a child that they adopted a few months after the state decided to perform sex-reassignment surgery on him. They contend that the surgery was not only unnecessary but is one that the child should have decided on for himself later in life — not by the state, and not at 16 months of age.
The child was born with intersex condition, which means that he could not be identified as either male or female. He was identified as male at birth, but soon after was discovered to have ambiguous genitals and also has internal male and female reproductive structures. It was decided to surgically alter him and declare him a girl. The lawsuit declares that the child had no medical need to be operated on and could have grown up as a healthy male or female.
"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. She and the child’s father said that he identifies himself as a boy and requested boy’s clothing and a boy’s haircut.
Most parents we spoke with felt that the state had way overstepped its bounds by deciding to operate on a child, especially one so young.
"I would not want to feel responsible for creating a lifelong struggle with their identity."
“My heart breaks for this poor little boy,” related Bethany, mom of one. “If his external parts were boy parts, why not just leave them and call him a boy? If I had a child born with this condition, even if the child had both parts on the outside, I would leave him/her alone until they decided what their gender is.”
Taryn, mom of two, agreed. “I feel had it been my child I would have waited until they were old enough to choose their gender,” she explained. “I would not want to feel responsible for creating a lifelong struggle with their identity. How could this possibly have been in the child's best interest?"
Taryn also lamented the fact that children in foster or state care may not have anyone advocating for them. “I find it shocking the state was allowed to make such a major decision,” she said.
Suing for damages is the right thing to do
Other parents — in addition to feeling outrage that the surgery was performed in the first place — felt that the parents were absolutely right to sue the state. “Their decision has probably caused the child more emotional trauma than [he] would have had making the decision for [himself],” shared Molly, expecting her second child. “Now he'll have to undergo yet another operation (if he chooses) to feel how he views himself. That makes me sad. If I were his parent I would probably sue just to have a future operation covered (again if he chooses) and for any therapy he would need.”
The parents are seeking damages but are leaving the amount up to the court, and their lawyers said it may be the first case of its type in the nation. The couple hopes that this case, whatever the result, will be a wakeup call to physicians and those in charge of children in state care — they are people, and deserve to be advocated for.
Hear more from the parents, Mark and Pam Crawford in this video:
Image courtesy of Southern Poverty Law Center
More on foster care and adoption