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Ban on cosmetic surgeries on intersex infants fails key California vote

A bill that would have banned cosmetic surgeries on intersex infants failed a key California vote Monday afternoon, effectively tabling the bill for this legislative session.

SB 201 would have been the first legislation in the country to ban cosmetic genital surgeries on intersex babies, a practice the United Nations has condemned and the international non-profit Human Rights Watch has ruled a human rights violation.

In recent decades, the surgeries have been relatively common for infants born with atypical sex organs. But more recently, intersex activists have argued that a person should have the legal right to consent to cosmetic surgeries performed on one’s own body — an ability infants do not have. Such is the case for Rosie Lohman, now 7, whose parents have been open about their choice to have her grow up without surgical intervention.

SB 201 needed to pass Monday’s vote out of committee in order to advance for a floor vote.

The bill’s author, state Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat, said in response, “I’m very disappointed that the committee voted down this civil rights bill. Intersex people deserve legal protection, and we are committed to ensuring that protection under California law.

“Today’s vote was a setback, but this is only the beginning. We aren’t giving up on protecting intersex people from non-consensual, invasive, dangerous surgery. As with many civil rights struggles, it sometimes takes multiple tries to prevail. We will be back.”

The bill was opposed by the committee’s chairman, state Sen. Steve Glazer, a Democrat.

Just before the vote, Glazer told his committee he believed SB 201 was moving “in the right direction,” but that he did not support the bill in its current form as it “requires some narrowing.”

“It’s with reluctance that I can’t find myself, under the bill as it’s written today, encouraging its passage,” he said.

In a statement after the vote, he explained further, “I oppose sex assignment surgery on infants born with ambiguous sex characteristics. I believe a narrower bill could be crafted to achieve that objective. I’m sorry that this did not occur today.”

An independent committee to support Glazer’s reelection received a $50,000 contribution Friday from the California Medical Association’s lobbying group, according to publicly available state records accessed by CNN.

The California Medical Association is one of the most vocal opponents of SB 201. Last year, an earlier iteration of the same bill was tabled also because of the opposition of the California Medical Association, among others.

The California Medical Association Independent Expenditure Committee made the donation to the Coalition for a Healthy and Safe California in Support of Glazer for Senate 2020.

When asked whether Glazer believed that contribution, donated the last business day before the hearing in his committee would take place, was directly tied to SB 201, his spokesman Steven Harmon said, “The senator was not involved in that independent committee’s work.”

When asked whether the association’s donation was tied to SB 201, Vice President of Strategic Communications Anthony York said, “CMA has been a strong supporter of Sen. Glazer for years, and the donation to (Glazer’s) independent expenditure committee had absolutely nothing to do with the timing of any legislative hearing.”

In the final vote, four senators voted no, two voted yes and three, including Glazer, abstained.

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