A ban on male infant circumcision is set to be put on the ballot for the November election in San Francisco, and those against it allege that the ban would infringe on "parental rights" and "religious freedom."
I wrote a blog post on this subject earlier, here:
Opponents of the ban bemoan that the government is "taking over our lives," citing the latest crackdown on McDonald's happy meals as an example.
I've already agreed earlier that the happy meal law is ridiculous, but when it comes to permanent body modification, is government intervention really all that outlandish?
In the post just before this one, I wrote my thoughts on a recent incident, where a mother loses custody of her daughter for injecting her with botox, so that she would fare better in beauty pageants.
This was just one example of how the state can and does step in.
But now, I'd like to bring attention to the state of Oregon, where, much to the chagrin of a certain religious group, a law that would infringe on "parental choice" and "religious freedoms" is being instituted swimmingly.
The state of Oregon has been the longtime home of the "Followers of Christ," an Oregon City-based, Christian sect whose members believe solely in prayer to treat sickness, in lieu of medicine. Optometry or dental care is sometimes exempt, but seeking medical help for one's self or one's sick children is prohibited. As a result, the church has a high child mortality rate, and a long history of children dying from treatable conditions.
Up until now, Oregon had maintained a two-track legal system that granted special legal privileges to parents with these religious beliefs. Using religion as a defense, it was possible for parents of said beliefs to let their children die of medical neglect, and they would automatically receive special treatment and lighter sentences by using religion as a defense.
(Sounds awfully familiar to the New York mohel/herpes case...)
For a time, many states granted immunity to parents who insisted on treating their sick children through prayer alone. However, many of them abandoned this approach, having realized that it was enabling child abuse in the name of the protection of "religious freedom."
Oregon has remained one of the few states to automatically shield faith-healing parents from prosecution for homicide or first-degree manslaughter. Said parents were also exempt from mandatory sentences under state Measure 11.
That is, until now.
After nearly 50 years of looking the other way, Oregon is finally changing its laws. As they stand, Oregon's current laws violate basic equal protection laws, requiring most parents in Oregon to meet the minimum standards of parenthood, while creating exemption for only a chosen few in the name of "religious freedom." The consequences of allowing this double-standard to continue has resulted in the deaths of many children.
Since 2009, several parents in the Followers of Christ church have been prosecuted or sanctioned for failing to provide their children with medical care. One child was a 15-month-old girl who died of untreated pneumonia and an infection. Another was a teenage boy who slowly died of an untreated urinary blockage. Another child suffered a massive untreated growth that disfigured her face and compromised her vision. It has taken these high-profile cases to finally force the Oregon Legislature to change.
Child advocate Rita Swan regretfully tells the story of her son who died in 1977, after she and her husband withheld necessary medical care, under the direction of their church. She explains why a single legal standard is not just a moral imperative for Oregon, but also a clearer guideline for people in religious sects.
"It would relieve parents of the moral tension of violating laws of the church," she says. "It would clarify what society expects of them."
Strangely enough, Jewish film maker Elias Ungar-Sargon makes a similar argument:
The Oregon House has unanimously approved the faith-healing bill, and the Senate is expected to approve it this week (article published on May 15, 2011), after adding an "emergency clause" to speed its enactment. The sudden urgency, after so many years of deference and inaction, is a strange, bittersweet relief to some.
(I'd like to bet a dime to a dollar that the double-standard with male and female circumcision will persist though...)
So here you have a law that, for all intents and purposes, is going to infringe on the "religious freedoms" and "parental rights" of many.
Do objectors to the San Francisco Circumcision Ban voice their rage here?
Where do you draw the line?
How far should parents be allowed to go before we call child protective services on them?
When does an action cross the line from "religious freedom" and "parental rights" over to "child abuse?"
In treating male circumcision as a "religious freedom" and a "parental right," but banning any and every form of female genital cutting without religious exeption, aren't we maintaining a two-track legal system that grants special legal privileges to parents with a specific set of religious beliefs?
Why have we decided that only male circumcision should be defended in the name of "parental choice" and "religious freedom?"
It must be noted that circumcision can and often does result in complications, which include partial or full penile ablation (Google David Reimer for a famous case), infection, and yes, even death.
In a previous post I talk about circumcision complications which include death...:
...as well as a death that happened recently:
Yes, I'm sure that all surgeries have risks, but is putting a healthy, non-consenting child elective, cosmetic non-medical surgery justified?
The bottom line is always this: Unless there is a medical or clinical indication, can doctors even be performing surgeries in healthy, non-consenting individuals, much less be giving parents of said individuals any kind of "choice?" Is it even legal to be stoking a parents' sense of entitlement for a procedure that there isn't a medical indication for?