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.

January 16, 2019
Patrick Bond
Jim Yong Kim’s Mixed Messages to the World Bank and the World
John Grant
Joe Biden, Crime Fighter from Hell
Alvaro Huerta
Brief History Notes on Mexican Immigration to the U.S.
Kenneth Surin
A Great Speaker of the UK’s House of Commons
Elizabeth Henderson
Why Sustainable Agriculture Should Support a Green New Deal
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion
Jeff Mackler
Trump’s Syria Exit Tweet Provokes Washington Panic
Barbara Nimri Aziz
How Long Can Nepal Blame Others for Its Woes?
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: When Just One Man Says, “No”
Cesar Chelala
Violence Against Women: A Pandemic No Longer Hidden
Kim C. Domenico
To Make a Vineyard of the Curse: Fate, Fatalism and Freedom
Dave Lindorff
Criminalizing BDS Trashes Free Speech & Association
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: The Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party: Part Two
Edward Curtin
A Gentrified Little Town Goes to Pot
January 15, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East
Howard Lisnoff
The Faux Political System by the Numbers
Lawrence Davidson
Amos Oz and the Real Israel
John W. Whitehead
Beware the Emergency State
John Laforge
Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness
Myles Hoenig
Labor in the Age of Trump
Jeff Cohen
Mainstream Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear
Dean Baker
Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?
George Ochenski
Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Glenn Sacks
On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years
Jonah Raskin
Love in a Cold War Climate
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party
January 14, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Tears of Justin Trudeau
Julia Stein
California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal
Dean Baker
Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?
Robert Fisk
The US Media has Lost One of Its Sanest Voices on Military Matters
Vijay Prashad
5.5 Million Women Build Their Wall
Nicky Reid
Lessons From Rojava
Ted Rall
Here is the Progressive Agenda
Robert Koehler
A Green Future is One Without War
Gary Leupp
The Chickens Come Home to Roost….in Northern Syria
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: “The Country Is Watching”
Sam Gordon
Who Are Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists?
Weekend Edition
January 11, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Richard Moser
Neoliberalism: Free Market Fundamentalism or Corporate Power?
Paul Street
Bordering on Fascism: Scholars Reflect on Dangerous Times
Joseph Majerle III – Matthew Stevenson
Who or What Brought Down Dag Hammarskjöld?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
How Tre Arrow Became America’s Most Wanted Environmental “Terrorist”
Andrew Levine
Dealbreakers: The Democrats, Trump and His Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail