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Family Talk: 'The Doctors' Discuss Circumcision Ban

Some make the comparison between circumcision and female genital mutilation.

Is snip, snip OK?

A recent segment on The Doctors show dunked into the debate on circumcising baby boys, and whether or not a ban the procedure. From health and religious justifications to a baby's rights and comparisons of male circumcision to the act of female genital mutilation, arguments on both sides can be cogently made.

And the debate is not a new one. Last year a proposal to ban circumcisions in San Francisco garnered enough signatures from petitioners to get onto the ballot. Being shot down via a California law against banning circumcision, the San Francisco ban did not pass. The presiding judge stopped the proposal in its tracks "noting that only the state can regulate a widespread medical procedure," as reported by USA Today.

Having a son, my husband and I had to make the decision on whether or not to have him circumcised. There wasn't much of a debate.

But while we came to an agreement quickly, I can't imagine how it would feel to not even have the choice.

I have to say that I am personally not an advocate of circumcision, for any medical or health reasons. A study reported by Scientific American shows that circumcised males are less likely to contract HIV— a point one of The Doctors diminished by stating that by that reasoning, society should just attach condoms to newborns.

It's a more vulgar way of looking at the statistic than I would, but it's also a great point.

We all know that religions like Judaism and Islam proscibe circumcision, making it meaningful to many.

But parents choosing to circumcise in the belief that it is more aesthetically clean should really take a look at why they feel that way.

Cutting off a piece of one's body to look visually pleasing is not something that a parent should force on a baby. Would you give a child a nose job because it made them look better? Better yet, would you be able to?

Rudy June 01, 2012 at 02:18 PM
For many this is a religious requirement, the attack is NOT based on anything but divisivness. Shame!! Rudy
Human Rights Abuse June 01, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Circumcision may cripple a person sexually for the whole of his/her life! Just as female circumcision (genital mutilation) is a despicable atrocity intended to permanently reduce the sexual sensation of women, so too, male circumcision is nothing but penile-sexual reduction surgery (genital mutilation) intended to permanently reduce the sexual sensation/function of men. Circumcision under false pretences is a human rights’ violation. Non-therapeutic circumcision of children is criminal sexual child abuse! http://www.cirp.org/library/sex_function/
Thomas Tobin June 02, 2012 at 02:01 PM
I can't believe that no one has taken in before the Supreme Court. It is not only unethical, and a medicalized religious ritual, but sexist. The US offers genital protection for its females, and declares open hunting season on its males, and then sells their severed body parts for profit. They don't even have to inform the parents. Under the equal protection under the law, how can this continue in a civilized society?
Harriet Brown June 02, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Civilized society? This is anti-semitism pure and simple. You will find that the same people who oppose male cirumcision, also oppose Kosher slaughtering and just about everything done by the State of Israel.
Mark Lyndon June 02, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Even a symbolic nick or just a pinprick is banned on a girl. Is that anti-Muslim? A disproportionate number of intactivists are Jewish themselves btw. I don't think anyone has a problem with a Jewish man (or a convert) being circumcised as long as it's his informed choice.
Harriet Brown June 02, 2012 at 06:58 PM
It can be painless and it heals much faster in infancy.
J. Match June 02, 2012 at 09:00 PM
It is not painless, and while it heals faster in infancy, the resulting scaring is often more uneven and it is impossible to know how the penis will grow during puberty and how this will affect the amount of skin removed. Even with all of that, you cannot argue that the procedure is justified just because it heals fast. Female circumcision heals fast on infants as well. The bottom line is once a child is circumcised without being able to consent, he will never be able to choose for himself if he wants to be circumcised or not. It is an unnecessary permanent alteration to a very personal part of his body.
J. Match June 02, 2012 at 09:01 PM
I was circumcised as an infant. I'm not sure of the exact reasoning for me being circumcised, but I was born right at the peak of circumcision rates in the United States, and in the region where it was most common. I am unhappy with the decision to have me circumcised. If I have a son, I will not have him circumcised, because it takes away his right to bodily integrity. There is no way for me to know exactly what I am missing, but I have begun the process of manually restoring my foreskin. Sensitivity has increased because the keratinization that inevitably occurs on the glans of a circumcised penis is reversing. Keratinization occurs because of constant exposure of the glans to clothing and drying of the glans. In addition, circumcision removes a large amount of nerve endings. While there will inevitably be people that encourage you to circumcise him for hygienic or health reasons, hygienic and health problems related to the foreskin are so rare and easy to avoid and treat without circumcision. This article states that it reduces the risk for HPV (a fact that in itself is disputed), but Gardasil is much more effective. The bottom line though is that once a boy is circumcised, it cannot be undone. It is a permanent alteration to his body. If he chooses later in life, when he is able to understand what circumcision is, to get circumcised he will still have that choice if you leave him intact.
Mark Lyndon June 02, 2012 at 09:22 PM
The pain isn't really the issue here, but it actually hurts newborns *more* because 1) general anesthetic can't be used and 2) the foreskin has to be separated from the glans for a newborn - the most painful part of the operation. The risks seem to be greater in infancy too. There are just two countries in the world where more than 50% of baby boys are circumcised - the USA (55%) and Israel. Several other countries circumcise, but generally at the age of around seven to puberty or late adolescence.
Harriet Brown June 03, 2012 at 09:41 PM
Although general anesthesia isn't used, numbing cream is. If numbing cream is used, it is painless. Why anyone wants to have the foreskin restored, is beyond my comprehension.
Mark Lyndon June 03, 2012 at 10:10 PM
Numbing cream isn't that effective or they'd use it for all circumcisions. Neither general or local anesthetic help against the post-operative pain though, and like I said before, the pain is only a side-issue. Even if it was totally painless, cutting parts off a boy's penis is still wrong. Women in countries where they cut girls also express amazement that anyone could think it is a big deal btw. Even if you can't understand why some men restore their foreskins, the fact that some do should be enough to make anyone question elective circumcision where the owner of the body can't give informed consent. It can wait till the boy or man can decide for himself. Most males left intact prefer it that way. It's *their* body, so let them decide.
Harriet Brown June 03, 2012 at 10:12 PM
That is because not everyone knows how to work with numbing cream. I have seen it work. It was entirely painless.
Harriet Brown June 03, 2012 at 10:15 PM
This has absolutely nothing to do with what they do to females. If it is done properly, there are NO bad effects, whatsoever. It heals much faster in infancy than in adulthood. Sometimes when it hasn't been done in infancy, it has to be done later, for medical reasons.
Mark Lyndon June 03, 2012 at 10:29 PM
I don't see a fundamental difference between cutting parts off the genitals of children of either sex, and the people who cut girls claim the exact same reasons as are used to cut boys (hygiene, disease prevention, religious, cosmetic). US doctors used to say the same thing when they were promoting female circumcision: Circumcision of the Female ("If the male needs circumcision for cleanliness and hygiene, why not the female?") C.F. McDonald, M.D. - Milwaukee, Wisconsin GP, Vol. XVIII No. 3, p. 98-99, September, 1958 http://www.noharmm.org/circumfemale.htm Only about 1-2% of boys left intact ever need to be circumcised for medical reasons and the rate is dropping, whereas around 5% of infants circumcised need a "revision" (effectively a repeat circumcision). How can you say there are no bad effects though, when clearly some people are very unhappy about having been circumcised? Does this count as a "bad effect"? "Conclusions Circumcision was associated with frequent orgasm difficulties in Danish men and with a range of frequent sexual difficulties in women, notably orgasm difficulties, dyspareunia and a sense of incomplete sexual needs fulfilment." http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2011/06/13/ije.dyr104.short
Harriet Brown June 03, 2012 at 10:53 PM
There is a HUGE difference between what they do to females and infant male circumcision. If it is done properly there are NO bad effects. There is a "back to nature" movement that is telling women that if they don't breast feed, they are bad mothers. It tels men that they shouldn't be circumcised. You left out the vast number of countries with a Muslim majority that have a majority of men circumsised. Whenever there are the difficulties that you describe, that means that it wasn't done properly.
Mark Lyndon June 04, 2012 at 12:00 AM
The worst forms of female genital cutting are unquestionably worse than the usual form of western male circumcision, but the worst forms of male circumcision are also worse than the lesser forms of female cutting. Over 100 males died of circumcision in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa in 2010, and there were at least two penile amputations. Compare that with this: http://aandes.blogspot.com/2010/04/circumcision.html Why would the procedure in that most recent link be illegal in most western countries, yet this is legal: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6584757516627632617 Do *you* think there's much of a difference between trained surgeons removing the prepuce of a male or the prepuce of a female? Muslims usually circumcise, but don't do it to babies. What I said was this: "There are just two countries in the world where more than 50% of baby boys are circumcised - the USA (55%) and Israel. Several other countries circumcise, but generally at the age of around seven to puberty or late adolescence." There doesn't seem to be any reason to suggest that the problems reported in the Danish study were due to the operation not being done properly.
Hugh7 June 04, 2012 at 11:36 PM
Calling something "a religious requirement" is just passing the buck. You choose to subscribe to a religion. You undoubtedly pick and choose which of its "requirements" to follow, if only by choosing which branch to adhere to. More and more Jews are questioning circumcision, and more than 80 celebrants of non-surgical baby-naming ceremonies (Brisot Shalom) are available in 30 US states and several other countries, including Israel: http://tinyurl.com/britshalom Opposition to infant genital cutting is based on human rights. His body, his choice.
Hugh7 June 04, 2012 at 11:40 PM
"I can't imagine how it would feel to not even have the choice." Many men know exactly how it feels not to have the choice, and they're as mad as hell about it, and they're not going to take it any more. Some are restoring as much as they can of their foreskins. Some are active in organisations like Intact America, the National Organisation of Restoring Men (NORM), NORM-UK, Genital Autonomy, or on Facebook through The Whole Network.
Hugh7 June 04, 2012 at 11:45 PM
"If it is done properly, there are NO bad effects, whatsoever." IF. Aye, there's the rub. There is no guarantee that it will be done properly, and no definition of "properly". There is no dotted line saying "cut here". Many problems of circumcision don't come to light until adulthood, and even then they may not be sheeted home to their true cause, since the men imagine that what they have is all any man has. In a sense you are right that "This has absolutely nothing to do with what they do to females.". Even if no girl had ever been cut, cutting boys would STILL be a human rights abuse, and in fact that would then be a lot more obvious.
Hugh7 June 04, 2012 at 11:47 PM
97% of circumcision in the US is not Jewish, so opposing all infant circumcision, as Intactivists do, would be a remarkably inefficient way of being antisemitic.
Hugh7 June 04, 2012 at 11:50 PM
"Is snip, snip OK?" * With a Gomco, Winkelman or Mogen Clamp it's sliced - and a Mogen may take more than just the foreskin, which has led to successful claims worth millions and the Mogen company going out of business. * With a Plastibell or PrePex it's crushed and allowed to die. * With an Accu-circ it's chopped. - but never "snipped". Watch a video of a circumcision actually being done - there are plenty online - and you'll never call it "snipping" again.
pkj June 05, 2012 at 02:13 AM
I don't see how any parent or medical person couldn't see this as plain sexual abuse. Taking the choice, that's exactly why I didn't do my son. It would not be a normal thing to meddle with my son's body, esecailly his genitals, What kind of father is concerned with how his son's penis looks compared to him? Why are they thinking of their children as needing to be saved from sexual diseases? Any parent or any medical personnel that finds a need to perform an operation on little boys or little girls, or even touch them in a ceremony there, is in my mind a sexual pervert. For a long time I thought they didn't know better. I'm leaning more and more toward believing this is just blatant sexual abuse, if from nothing but the unatural intent it has to sexualize the child early in their mind of parents and others. The child gets nothing from the experience. So are they interested in helping a poor helpless healthy child, or needing an excuse to pull their pants down to do something that will help the child when he is sexually mature? They must be looking at the girl or boy as grown up sexual beings. What parent looks at their baby in that light? I think sick sick ones.
G Kuhn June 07, 2012 at 06:41 PM
I suffered through my male sons' circumcision-more than he did. But i would not expect those who do not share my faith to have the slightest understanding of what seems from their view as a bizarre ritual. It really is NOT about sexualizing a baby, but i think of it ( from my secular Jewish understanding) as bestowing Jewish personhood on him. He is welcomed to be a new member of the family and started on his way to fulfilling the obligations which result from G-ds Covenant with the Jewish (or semitic) people. I actually think of it as an ancient myth, but it is one which has given my people a great sense of peoplehood and strength in the face of centuries of unspeakable acts of hostility. It has therefore aided in keeping us attuned to the Bible and all it's moral teachings, not just making for strength but an ethical and focused sensibility. As a secular person, however, I ultimately recommended for my grandson because of medical studies showing less of several STD's,
Mark Lyndon June 08, 2012 at 11:11 AM
@G Kuhn: People who cut their daughters generally think they're doing them a favor too, and they use pretty much the same arguments to justify it (religious, cultural, cosmetic, hygiene, disease prevention). If we found out that cutting off part of a girl's genitals reduced her risk of contracting an STI, would that make it acceptable? This study shows exactly that: http://www.ias-2005.org/planner/Abstracts.aspx?AID=3138 The longest running study of STI's anc circumcision showed a very slightly *higher* rate of STI's among circumcised men btw: http://www.jpeds.com/article/S0022-3476(07)00707-X/abstract Babies aren't going to be getting any STI's before they're old enough to decide for themselves whether or not they want part of their genitals cutting off. It's their body; it should be their decision.
Harriet Brown June 08, 2012 at 03:51 PM
What they do to females is NOTHING like infant male circumcision. In order to compare them, you would have to remove the tip of the penis. They don't do that. But, pretty much, they remove the tip of the cliteris. No comparison, whatsoever.
Mark Lyndon June 08, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Like I said before: I don't see a fundamental difference between cutting parts off the genitals of children of either sex, and the people who cut girls claim the exact same reasons as are used to cut boys (hygiene, disease prevention, religious, cosmetic). US doctors used to say the same thing when they were promoting female circumcision. More recently, the AAP's Bioethics committee changed its policy on female cutting in 2010 saying "It might be more effective if federal and state laws enabled pediatricians to reach out to families by offering a ritual [clitoral] nick as a possible compromise to avoid greater harm." They were forced to retract this about six weeks later: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/722840 The committee chair said "We're talking about something far less extensive than the removal of foreskin in a male". The worst forms of female genital cutting are unquestionably worse than the usual form of western male circumcision, but the worst forms of male circumcision are also worse than the lesser forms of female cutting. Over 100 males died of circumcision in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa in 2010, and there were at least two penile amputations. Compare that with this: http://aandes.blogspot.com/2010/04/circumcision.html Why would that be illegal in the USA, yet this is legal: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6584757516627632617
Harriet Brown June 08, 2012 at 04:15 PM
I don;'t know who performed the circumcisions in the Eastern Province of South Africa, but they certainly didn't do it properly. There is NO religious requirement for what they do to females.
Hugh7 June 08, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Your argument is circular. You are defining "properly" by the results so of course doing it "properly" can NEVER have bad results. They're just as dead, and the person it is done to has no choice whether it is done "properly" or not. Here is the religious requirement for FGC: 'Um Atiyyat al-Ansariyyah said: A woman used to perform circumcision in Medina. The Prophet (pbuh) said to her: Do not cut too severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband'." 1,8 So you could say that the horrors of Africa are not being done "properly" either. They are being done nonetheless. Non-therapeutic genital cutting, unconsented (by the recipient) genital cutting is ALL a human rights violation. It ALL must stop.
Hugh7 June 09, 2012 at 07:25 AM
How can cutting part off a baby's genitals make for either strength or "an ethical and focused sensibility" when depriving someone of autonomy over his own body parts is so profoundly unethical? And how do Jewish women manage to achieve Jewish personhood when they haven't had it "bestowed on" them, whether by cutting part off their genitals or any other way? If it has given your people "a great sense of peoplehood and strength" it has only done so through the bonds cemented between the adults at the ceremony - at the expense of the person most directly affected. The baby is past caring. Many Jews are now forging those bonds without cuttting parts off babies, through Brit Shalom. Here are contact details for more than 80 celebrants in 30 US States and several other countries including Israel: http://tinyurl.com/britshalom
Hugh7 June 09, 2012 at 07:44 AM
They sometimes DO remove the tip (glans) of the penis and the foreskin IS the tip of the penis, far more sensitive than the glans. In terms of the sensitivity of the parts removed, circumcision is as bad as female cutting. You are probably comparing the horrors of FGC in subSaharan Africa with surgical circumcision, but they do surgical FGC in Indonesia and Malaysia, and horrendous male circumcision in Southern Africa, killing scores of boys every year. A doctor called Rathmann invented a device in 1959 to circumcise girls in the USA, with a shield to spare the clitoris. When you compare apples with apples, they are very comparable.

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