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Parents sue South Carolina for surgically making child female

By Holly Yan and Joe Sutton, CNN
May 15, 2013 -- Updated 1552 GMT (2352 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "M.C." was born with both male and female organs
  • As a baby, he was in state custody when doctors removed his male genitalia
  • The child, now 8 years old, is living as a boy and refuses to be called a girl
  • State social services agency and a hospital spokeswoman decline to comment

(CNN) -- The adoptive parents of a child born with male and female organs say South Carolina mutilated their son by choosing a gender and having his male genitalia surgically removed.

The surgery took place when the child was 16 months old and a ward of the state, according to a lawsuit filed by the parents against three doctors and several members of the South Carolina Department of Social Services.

The child's biological mother was deemed unfit, and the biological father had apparently abandoned him, according to the suit. So others made the decision.

The child, now 8 years old, feels more like a boy and "wants to be a normal boy," said Pamela Crawford, the boy's adoptive mother.

"It's become more and more difficult, just as his identity has become more clearly male, the idea that mutilation was done to him had become more and more real," she said in a video released by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is assisting in the case.

"There was no medical reason that this decision had to be made at this time."

Marilyn Matheus, a spokeswoman for the South Carolina Department of Social Services, said the agency does not have any comment on the pending litigation.

The defendants named in the suit also include doctors from Medical University of South Carolina and Greenville Memorial Hospital.

Sandy Dees, a spokeswoman for the Greenville Health System, said she could not comment because of the litigation.

Assigned to be a girl, but identifying as a boy

The child, identified in the lawsuit as "M.C.," refuses to be called a girl and lives as a boy. His family, friends, school, religious leaders and pediatrician support his identity.

"We just let him follow his instincts as much as we can," his adoptive father, John Mark Crawford, said in the video.

Pamela Crawford said performing gender assignment surgery on a baby robbed her child of the ability to make the decision for himself.

"I would have never made the decision to choose the gender either way," she said. "What I would have been working with is how do we preserve as much functioning in either direction because we can't know what this child's gender identity is going to be."

The lawsuit claims doctors at a state hospital and Department of Social Services workers "decided to remove M.C.'s healthy genital tissue and radically restructure his reproductive organs in order to make his body appear to be female."

The suit says the surgery violated the 14th Amendment, which says that no state shall "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law."

The suit also asks for "compensatory damages in an amount to be determined at trial."

But the adoptive father said the real intent of the lawsuit "is just to uphold these constitutional principles -- integrity of a person's body, and some kind of due process for infants where people around them in power are considering doing surgeries like this."

Pamela Crawford agreed.

"I would give anything for this to not have been done to our child," she said. "I don't want it to happen to any more kids."

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