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A major children's hospital apologizes for performing surgery on intersex babies, then bans it.

A major children's hospital apologizes for performing surgery on intersex babies, then bans it.

After a three-year long campaign to end forced "corrective" and cosmetic surgeries on intersex babies, the activists have finally won.

In a historical move, the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago in Illinois has apologized for performing "corrective" genital surgeries on children born as intersex. They have also committed to banning the practice henceforth. The decision comes after years of campaigning and advocacy from intersex rights groups, who argued that cosmetic genital surgeries on intersex infants harmed children, CNN reports.

The activists have finally won the battle. Intersex is an umbrella term used for folks whose bodies do not conform to the typical "male" or "female" categories. Intersex folks are not as rare as we might think them to be. According to Planned Parenthood, estimates suggest that about one to two in 100 people born in the United States alone are intersex.

 



 

The hospital posted a statement to its blog regarding the decision on Tuesday. "Historically care for individuals with intersex traits included an emphasis on early genital surgery to make genitalia appear more typically male or female," it shared. "As the medical field has advanced, and understanding has grown, we now know this approach was harmful and wrong. Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and our Sex Development Clinic recognizes this truth. We empathize with intersex individuals who were harmed by the treatment that they received according to the historic standard of care and we apologize and are truly sorry." The hospital claimed that they had been in discussion with activists and those personally affected by "corrective" or cosmetic surgeries.

 



 

It also announced: "Our internal, and now public, policy is that, in intersex individuals (recognizing those with congenital adrenal hyperplasia [CAH] as potentially a separate patient population) irreversible genital procedures, particularly clitoroplasty, should not be performed until patients can participate meaningfully in making the decision for themselves, unless medically necessary." For activist Pidgeon Pagonis, who identifies as intersex and non-binary but was forced to undergo a clitorectomy at Lurie Children's Hospital -  this decision was a cause for celebration. They "just started crying" when they found out and felt a sense of relief. "[Lurie] took me and put me in their factory for boys and girls, basically," they stated. "[Lurie] took my intersex body, threw me on the girl conveyor belt and tried to put me into this box that I was never meant to be."

 



 

It was Pagonis' concerted efforts to tackle the hospital's oppressive policy that led to this change. Along with intersex activist Sean Saifa Wall, they established the activist group Intersex Justice Project, and held protests for three years outside the hospital. The group also created a petition, which gained popularity and support after it was shared by multiple celebrities such as transgender actress Indya Moore and actress Gabrielle Union. Further to this, activists also attribute the policy change to Dr. Ellie Kim, who championed the cause within the hospital. Dr. Kim, who is also transgender, affirmed, "I think it's a great step in the right direction. There's still a lot of work to be done, to say the least, but at least for now, in my opinion, it's a major victory and a major step forward."

 



 

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