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Can State Social Workers Decide Which Sex an Infant Should Have?
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On Tuesday, in a first of its kind case, a South Carolina couple has sued doctors and state social workers for submitting a 16-month-old child to surgery and assign sex according to their choice. The child, who was born with male and female genitalia was subjected to irreversible sex-assignment surgery with his male genitalia removed while he was a toddler and still in foster care. The couple later adopted the child, and learned of the predicament.

They have filed lawsuits in both state and federal courts asking whether doctors and social workers had the right to decide whether the infant’s body should appear to be female or male, when they were not in a position to predict how the gender of the infant would develop. The lawsuits carry allegations of gross negligence and medical malpractice based on a lack of informed consent.

The lawsuit filed in the state court in Columbia has the Medical University of South Carolina and the South Carolina Department of Social Services, as well as the Greenville Hospital System as defendants. The federal lawsuit has been filed in U.S. District Court in Charleston, South Carolina, alleging that the constitutional rights of the child have been violated.


The child, who is now 8 years old, strongly identifies himself as a male and lives as a boy (minus the male organs which were removed by the social workers and doctors, when he was in no position to give consent).

The couple, Pam and Mark Crawford told the media in a phone interview, “We feel strongly that these decisions to permanently alter somebody’s genitalia and their reproductive ability for no medical reason whatsoever is an abhorrent practice and can’t be continued … It’s too late for our son … the damage has been done to him.”

The lawsuits mention that doctors noted the infant had “ambiguous genitals” and had both female and male reproductive organs. The doctors determined that the child could be raised either as a boy or a girl and opted for genital surgery to make him look like a female, though the child’s gender identity was yet to emerge.

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The lawsuit observes, “The doctors knew that sex assignment surgeries on infants with conditions like M.C.’s poses a significant risk of imposing a gender that is ultimately rejected by the patient.”

The Crawfords say, that according to appearance, after taking M.C. in adoption, they initially raised M.C. as a girl from when he was about 20 months old. However, M.C. soon began to exhibit typically male interests and preferred male clothing.


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