FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Justice for M.C.

A South Carolina hospital is being sued for irreparable harm caused by surgery on a toddler’s genitals.

M.C. was 16 months old, in the care of South Carolina’s Department of Social Services, when doctors and department officials determined the child had an intersex condition—a difference in anatomy that resists typical definitions of female or male—and took it upon themselves to make M.C. a girl.

M.C.’s adoptive parents, Mark Crawford and Pam Crawford, have sued. They assert that South Carolina violated M.C.’s substantive and procedural due process rights by excising M.C.’s healthy genital tissue.  The child, now 8, faced surgery about three months before the adoption was final.

“They disfigured him because they could not accept him for who he was—not because he needed any surgery,” said Pam Crawford.

For indeed M.C. is a male child; that’s because M.C. gets to decide.

The doctors committed medical malpractice, say M.C.’s parents, who are suing the Greenville Hospital System and the Medical University of South Carolina as well as Social Services. Attorney Alesdair H. Ittelson said: “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.”

Now, the doctors and officials will be called to answer for their decision, and its irreversible impacts on a child’s life.  M.C. v. Medical University of South Carolina is pending in County of Richland Court of Common Pleas. M.C. v. Aaronson is pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina. The legal work comes from Advocates for Informed Choice as well as the Southern Poverty Law Center, and pro bono counsel for the law firms of Janet, Jenner & Suggs and Steptoe & Johnson LLP.

Why Does the Child Have to Be Ordered?

Curtis Hinkle, founder of the Organisation Intersex International (OII), calls M.C.’s parents “great” in the way they’re standing up for M.C.  The goal of OII is equality for intersex people, and the end of human-rights violations including non-consensual genital surgeries.

“I personally feel that the tragic mutilation of M.C. reveals the violence perpetrated on all of us, to some degree—by the very act of assigning a gender,” says Hinkle.

“The legal separation of all humans into just two genders is rooted in a desperate need to impose stereotypical identities on all of us. I have met countless people who have been emotionally mutilated as a result of this socially sanctioned act.”

Acknowledging that people will hold various views, Organisation Intersex International respects an individual’s self-defined identity. Thus, OII supports children who make the decision for intervention, once they have a real voice.  Yet the group’s ethos considers sexual identifications socially and medically constructed. For OII, human being is the fundamental identity of a child.  The group asserts that male and female are not absolute terms, and an official binary stigmatizes and marginalizes those who don’t fit.

Intersex advocates recommend that medically unnecessary genital surgery be postponed until the child is old enough to self-identify with a particular gender—or find satisfaction just being a mix of female and male. For intersex is not a disorder, says Hinkle–who asks, “Why does the child have to be ordered?”

Changing Norms

M.C.’s case highlights the reality that operations on intersex kids cause medical problems—pain, scars, diminished sexual sensation, lengthy dependence on hormones and doctors—accompanied by the struggle to come to terms with irreversible decisions they weren’t allowed to make for themselves.  Intersex kids have long been expected to appreciate such decisions, and adults have doubtless believed their decisions advanced the children’s interests. Frequently, though, adults conceal the medical history from the child. OII is working to open communication channels between intersex people and their parents by providing an online support system.  As Hinkle explains, “It is important not to make parents feel guilty, nor to demonize doctors. We are all part of this system. Working peacefully to create more respect and love for the diversity that nature has given us is more productive.”

What happens in M.C.’s case will help decide whether being intersex is understood as a natural variation in human biological sex, as well as who has the legal right to consent to medically unnecessary procedures. And the case follows this year’s release of  a United Nations statement which expressly names intersex persons as it “calls upon all States to repeal any law allowing intrusive and irreversible treatments, including forced genital-normalizing surgery”—indicating that people should have social equality without having to agree to be male or female.

The government and doctors “told M.C. that he was not acceptable or loveable the way he was born,” said Pam Crawford.  But global norms are changing. And in the United States, thanks to M.C.’s case, these surgeries will never again be business as usual.

“M.C. is a charming, enchanting and resilient kid,” Pam Crawford said in a Southern Poverty Law Center press release. “We will not stop until we get justice for our son.”

And the online momentum (hashtag: #justice4mc) will challenge social assumptions that have long constrained all human beings.

Lee Hall is Legal VP for Friends of Animals, a candidate for Vermont Law School’s LL.M. in environmental law (2014); and the author of On Their Own Terms: Bringing Animal Rights Philosophy Down to Earth (2010). Lee presented work at the nexus of intersex and animal-rights activism at the University of North Carolina Asheville Spring 2013 Queering Spaces – Queering Borders Conference.

More articles by:

Lee Hall, J.D., LL.M., is an independent author, an adjunct professor of law and legal studies, a retail worker, and the creator of a studio for the Art of Animal Liberation on Patreon, for which support is always welcome and deeply appreciated.

Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
David Yearsley
Bollocks to Brexit: the Plumber Sings
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail