(CNN)After a yearslong advocacy campaign waged by activists, the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago has become the first hospital in the nation to apologize for performing cosmetic genital surgeries on intersex infants.
Major children's hospital apologizes for performing cosmetic genital surgeries on intersex infants
In a statement posted Tuesday to its blog, the hospital said it understood its "approach was harmful and wrong" -- a reference to surgery to make genitalia appear more typically male or female.
The hospital said: "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."
It went on to say it was "evolving" its policies on the matter and that it would not perform such surgeries unless they were medically necessary.
Intersex is an umbrella term used to describe people born with bodies that are perceived as differing from typical "male" and "female" categories. In recent decades, irreversible cosmetic genital surgeries have been relatively common for infants born with atypical sex organs to bring them more in line with a "typical" male or female body.
But 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.
Multiple human rights organizations have argued that the practice violates a person's human rights and that these surgeries can cause lifelong pain, scarring, loss of sexual function, the need for lifelong hormone replacement and maintenance surgeries, as well as psychological harm similar to that of child sexual abuse victims.
In its blog, Lurie Children's Hospital said that "irreversible genital procedures, particularly clitoroplasty, should not be performed until patients can participate meaningfully in making the decision for themselves, unless medically necessary."
The hospital did not indicate how many such procedures were done over the years. It did say it has not performed a clitoroplasty on an infant or a child in five years.
The policy does provide an exception for patients with congenital adrenal hyperplasia, or CAH, noting that some patients believe it should not fall under the intersex label.
Activist Pidgeon Pagonis was born intersex and underwent a clitorectomy at Lurie Children's Hospital as a child to bring their genitalia m