The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) [advocacy website] sued the South Carolina Department of Social Services (SCDSS) [official website], social workers and doctors on Tuesday on behalf of a couple whose adopted child underwent sex assignment surgery while in the state's custody. The child, M.C., was born with "ambiguous genitals," possessing both testicular and ovarian tissue. When M.C. was 16 months old, and in the custody of the SCDSS after his biological parents were deemed unfit and relinquished their parental rights, the SCDSS elected to perform sex assignment surgery to make M.C. a girl. M.C., who is now 8 years old and identifies as a boy, was adopted by Pamela and John Mark Crawford in 2004. The SPLC filed lawsuits on behalf of the Crawfords in both state and federal court [complaints, PDF], alleging that the SCDSS violated M.C.'s due process rights by subjecting him to a painful and medically unnecessary procedure. According to the federal lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the District of South Carolina [official website]:
In choosing to perform the surgery and potential sterilization without requesting, initiating, or inquiring as to a pre-deprivation hearing, Defendants Aaronson, Amrhein, and Appiagyei-Dankah acted under color of state law and unreasonably violated Plaintiff's procedural due process rights to bodily integrity, privacy, procreation, and liberty, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.The couple seeks a declaratory judgment and compensatory damages. The lawsuit is the first of its kind in the US.
One defendant, Dr. Ian Aaronson, had earlier addressed the risks of such surgeries in a medical journal, writing that it would be "catastrophic" if the infant eventually identified as a boy. All of the defendant doctors knew that they could not predict whether M.C.'s gender identity would develop as a boy or girl, and no medical standard exists to determine the gender of children born with intersex condition.