US legal defense and education funds have been responsible for some of the most influential human and civil rights court cases in history, ranging from the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that ordered desegregation of public schools, to the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges case that secured equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. Now a new legal defense fund aims to protect children from the more than 1.2 million medically unnecessary penile circumcisions performed in the US every year.
The Genital Autonomy Legal Defense and Education Fund (GALDEF) envisions a world where the rights of children to bodily integrity and future autonomy over their genitals and their sexuality are respected and legally protected. GALDEF will engage in and support impact litigation, or lawsuits with the potential to set legal precedents recognizing the child’s right to bodily integrity and autonomy. Such cases will have a ripple effect on the judicial system and society, and will play a key role in effecting the social change necessary to allow children to remain free from non-therapeutic genital surgeries and to exercise their rights to consent to genital modifications when they are old enough to understand the consequences.
The formation of GALDEF has been met with praise from numerous pioneers in the genital autonomy movement. David Llewellyn, the ‘circumcision lawyer’, proclaimed “I think this is a great idea. We have needed such a fund for a long time.” Peter Adler, professor of international law at the University of Massachusetts said. “I too support your plan and enthusiastically!” George Denniston, MD, the founder of Doctors Opposing Circumcision (D.O.C.), endorsed GALDEF by saying: “Doctors will put down their scalpels when they realize that the profits from non-therapeutic infant male circumcision are no match against lawsuits asserting fraud and establishing the rights of children to bodily integrity.” D.O.C. reinforced these words with a generous pledge of seed money, to which GALDEF Founder and Board President Tim Hammond responded “Pursuing impact litigation to end childhood genital cutting will be a costly fight that we intend to win, and we are humbled and deeply grateful for this early vote of confidence and encourage more donors to step forward.”
With impact litigation as its core mission, GALDEF has a number of means by which to pursue it. Specifically, GALDEF will spearhead funding and education programs, essential elements for opening the courtroom doors that would otherwise be inaccessible. Furthermore, GALDEF has a well-defined plaintiff support process, as well as a variety of attorney outreach and networking avenues to connect plaintiffs and attorneys.
Whom We Serve:
GALDEF intends to serve, without necessarily limiting itself to, the following cases involving:
- Parents victimized by aggressive solicitation for circumcision by hospitals and their staff
- Parents who did not consent or who were given no or inadequate information prior to consenting (including non-English speaking immigrants)
- Young individuals who have reached the age of majority (not yet exceeded the statute of limitations) who seek accountability for circumcision harm they suffered
- Consumers who were defrauded by specious and exaggerated benefits of penile circumcision
- Taxpayers who challenge state-funded Medicaid reimbursement for medically unnecessary circumcision
- Cases involving premature forced foreskin retraction
- Health care workers who expose fraudulent insurance billing for non-medically indicated penile surgery
- Transgender women (assigned male at birth and subjected to penile circumcision) whose foreskin tissue loss disadvantaged them during gender-affirming surgery
Means of Impact Litigation Support:
GALDEF is currently raising a war chest of funds necessary to contribute to the requisite legal costs of impact litigation involving Children at Risk and Those Affected by Cutting (the CARTAC community). More specifically, GALDEF’s funding will help to subsidize legal retainer fees as well as reasonable legal costs (filing fees, discovery expenses, provision of expert witnesses, etc) and, when appropriate, will seek to indemnify attorneys willing to undertake novel and potentially groundbreaking litigation.
GALDEF’s education programs will prepare the next generation of attorneys for advancing children’s rights to genital autonomy, as well as expanding awareness in the legal community and building coalitions of support in the courtrooms and beyond.
Plaintiff Support Process
GALDEF’s support process begins with a Legal Assistance Request Form accessible on the website and submitted by the plaintiff. From there it goes to GALDEF’s Grant Review Committee to screen for eligibility based on impact litigation criteria. Upon approval, the process of selecting a law firm or opening a dialogue with the plaintiff’s existing attorney begins, followed by the launch of a case-specific fundraising campaign, and engagement in political and media outreach if and when warranted. In the event that the funding request does not meet GALDEF’s impact litigation criteria, the plaintiff will still be referred to legal resources.
Your Support is Crucial
Bold initiatives require bold support. If you’re inspired by our vision and mission, we encourage you to learn the many ways that you can lend your financial assistance. In addition to traditional funding through the Paypal Giving Fund, Paypal and Venmo, we offer other novel giving options such as the Charity Charge Mastercard, where a percentage of all your purchases benefits GALDEF. We also provide information on how to designate GALDEF as a beneficiary in your will, utilize employer matching gift programs, and cater to those who wish to donate using crypto-currency. Please visit our Ways to Give page to explore the full range of giving options.