Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Circumcision Ban?

For years, the decision whether or not to circumcise a boy has been a private matter. Sometimes, religion gets involved, but when you come right down to it (ha!), the decision to circumcise or not is made by mom and dad.

Voters in San Francisco may soon take the decision out of parents' hands. According to the L.A. Times, a November referendum will seek to ban the procedure. Proponents of the ban -- self-described "intactivists" -- argue that male circumcision is the equivalent of female genital mutilation, which is outlawed in the United States. They also state that there's no convincing medical reason for circumcision, at least not here in the developed world.

Opponents of the ban, including rabbis and concerned parents, contend that the ban would infringe upon personal and religious freedom. They point to studies that note decreased HIV and HPV infection rates in circumcised men. And --somewhat desperately -- they note that "90% [of nurses surveyed on a geriatric unit ] were strongly in favor of circumcision because it was difficult to bathe uncircumcised men in their 90s."

Ok. My bias is going to show at this point.

I've been a nurse in a geriatric unit. I've bathed men in their 90s. I even assisted on a bedside-circumcision of a man in his 90s. (He needed the circ because his foreskin had adhered to his penis and would not allow the passage of a catheter, which was needed for medical reasons.) But to say we should base a medical decision affecting a baby on what might happen to in his 90s?? That's stretching things.

Circumcision rates have been dropping in this country. According to the CDC, 56% of baby boys were circumcised in 2006. In 2009, that number was only 32.5%. (Note: that statistic does not include circumcisions performed out of hospitals, such as a bris.) If the ban goes through in San Francisco, the number will be even lower.

Personally, I'm pretty clearly anti-circumcision. (Despite the fact that I wrote a blog post called 'Another Reason You Might Circumcise,' I clearly stated that even given the new research, I would refuse to have my sons circumcised.) As a homeschooler, though, I'm also anti-government intervention into families' lives. HOWEVER...it occurs to me that the circumcision ban isn't a matter of denying parents their rights as much as it is protecting a human who is unable to speak for himself.

What do you think of the proposed circumcision ban?


  1. Just arrived to your post via twitter. Unsurprisingly, I agree. Your last point is particularly important, because the legislation isn't overbearingly restrictive in nature, and would simply serve to transfer the decision from the hands of medical practitioners to the individual.

  2. The foreskin is richly innervated erogenous tissue and should not be amputated without medical urgency or unless the benefit SIGNIFICANTLY outweighs the potential for harm. Virtually all medical associations in the world agree; there is no benefit to non-therapeutic circumcision. Bronze age religious blood rituals should never trump rational scientific judgment and contemporary medical ethics. Physicians need to put down the scalpels and respect the autonomy of the child. His body, his choice.

    Dr. Christopher L. Guest MD,FRCPC

  3. God gave children to parents to love, protect, and care for. They are not born into governmental agencies. I agree with anti-government intervention in families' lives. To give this argument a little dimension, let's throw immunizations into the pot. Some parents feel they are protecting their children by refusing immunizations. Others feel they are protecting them by getting them. The question is not whether circumcision should be outlawed. The question is when will the government stop trying to take away the rights of parents? Another thought, if banning circumcision is protecting a human who is unable to speak for himself, than why is it okay to kill them before they are born?

  4. Carol, I'm with you--"if banning circumcision is protecting a human who is unable to speak for himself, than why is it okay to kill them before they are born?" We certainly put a lot of limitations on speaking for them only if it doesn't infringe on the choice of the mother.

    Are we going to legislate breastfeeding, daycare options, and co-sleeping, too? Clearly those impact the health and well-being, too.

  5. Breastfeeding is legislated in some areas! I know a mall manager who has called security on nursing moms and had them escorted out for refusing to use the ladies lounge. I've also read accounts of women being arrested for nursing in public places. The hostility is out there, believe me.

  6. I am anti-circ, however all my boys are. This was a heavily debated topic in between my husband and me. And, maybe it was because I was tired and pregnant or because his argument of "You get to decide everything else, I want this. I want my son to look like me" bowled me over, I gave in. In retrospect, I wish I had stood up for the rights of my children more than I had.

  7. Lots of views on this one! Thanks, everyone, for keeping the debate civil. I really enjoy sharing information, listening to others and pondering other viewpoints.

  8. I think that circumcision should be up to the child when he's old enough. It's an important decision that will affect your sex life, so I see no reason why parents should choose to do it on behalf of their children.

    That being said, circumcision can be a good thing as an adult. I have chosen to circumcise myself at the age of 27. At first I had some foreskin reduction due to excess foreskin, but me and my girlfriend decided that no foreskin at all would be even neater. I'm not from a country where circumcision is very widespread but found out it was the correct thing to do after marrying a girl that's from a country where it's more common.

    And it has turned out well. Both of us think it looks much better, and my performance in bed is better as I can keep on going for much longer periods of time.