It's rare to find a balanced article regarding the forced circumcision of minors in the media nowadays, particularly in knife-happy America, where 80% of men are circumcised. Most seem to be shameless plugs for circumcision, focusing on the latest "research," or the enthusiasm of some crazy circumfetishist gushing on and on about how all men in the world should be circumcised, which is why I was surprised to find this article in my news feed on Facebook.
The article is surprisingly balanced, considering it was written by a Jewish author. He counters the most commonly cited alibis with reason and reality, and he beckons readers to listen to what the other side has to say, without dismissing them, conceding that we might actually have a point.
I especially like the fact that he openly declares the fact that he is Jewish, admitting that he has a religious conviction to circumcise his children. I don't think I've read an article written by a Jewish person which gives both sides of the debate consideration in my life.
Still, although I see the author strive for balance, he does stop short of asking some very important questions, but I suppose I can see why; as a Jewish advocate of circumcision with a religious axe to grind, there is only so far he can go.
Still, he is to be commended, for in spite of his conviction he has given our side a fair chance.
Could it be American media is coming around to giving the questioning of the practice of forcibly circumcising healthy, non-consenting infants serious consideration?
I wrote a letter to the editor, which I doubt will be posted, because it's probably too long. I've taken the liberty of posting it here for my readers to read.
This is in response to the recent article "Should You Circumcise Your Child?" by Aaron E. Carroll, May 9, 2016.
First off, I must applaud the author, for this is the most balanced article I've read on the New York Times concerning this issue. Most articles read like an infomercial selling male infant circumcision, citing all the wonderful things American medical organizations have to say on the matter, mostly ignoring what medical organizations in the rest of the world have to say. I applaud the author for going out on a limb and declaring the conflict of interest that he is Jewish and has religious conviction to do this to his children regardless of what the "science" says. Nonetheless, this author goes out of his way to give American readers perspective, citing reality in light of all the "research" (mostly conducted by American, presumably circumcised authors), that says male infant circumcision is all great and wonderful.
There are a few important facts that I hoped the author would include, however. For example, that in spite of having a male population that 80% is circumcised from birth, we still manage to have higher, if not the highest rates of STDs than industrialized countries where circumcision is rare or not practiced. In some instances, we have higher STDs than countries said to be 2nd world, or developing. According to the CIA World Factbook, we have a higher HIV prevalence than 53 countries where circumcision is rare or not practiced. We have more HIV than Mexico.
Finally, I'd like to pose the question; does parental prerogative and religious conviction truly justify performing non-medical surgery on healthy, non-consenting minors? Where is the limit to this? Because for better or for worse, female circumcision is also a religious conviction for some, and for better or for worse, it is what some parents wish to do to their daughters. Some readers may object to this question, citing that female circumcision is "more horrific" than male circumcision, but I will contest those who make this objection may not be fully enlightened as to the realities surrounding female circumcision.
While it is true, that female circumcision as performed in the African bush, by amateur healers, with crude materials such as rusty blades and glass shards, is brutal and life threatening, the same is true for male circumcision performed in those conditions. Scores of African men lose their lives annually due to circumcision initiation rituals, while countless others lose their penises to gangrene.
As in male circumcision, when female circumcision is performed in infancy, by trained professionals, using sterile utensils, in the pristine conditions of a medical setting, female circumcision is performed without a hitch. It must be pointed out that our very own AAP has suggested that American doctors perform a "ritual nick" in females for parents who want this for their daughters, admitting that male infant circumcision is riskier and has more adverse problems when they present themselves. A recent paper published in the Journal of Medical Ethics (Arora and Jacobs) echoes the AAP, and affirms the position that female circumcision isn't as bad as anti-FGM activists, as well as male infant circumcision advocates, would like others to believe.
Under any other case, performing elective, non-medical surgery on healthy, non-consenting individuals constitutes medical fraud. Without medical or clinical indication, can a doctor even be performing surgery on healthy, non-consenting minors, let alone be giving parents any kind of "choice?" What other elective, non-medical cosmetic surgeries are doctors obliged to perform on children "because the parents wanted it," or "because it's the parent's religious conviction?" These are the questions that Mr. Carroll forgot to ask in his paper. Otherwise, I really must say, Kudos on a paper well-written.
Thank you for your time.
Aaron E. Carroll admits that circumcision has risks and complications, and that they are greater than zero, but he fails to mention what these risks and complications actually are.
The risks and complications of male infant circumcision include infection, partial or full ablation, hemorrhage and even death.
I close with my mission statement:
The foreskin is not a birth defect. Neither is it a congenital deformity or genetic anomaly akin to a 6th finger or a cleft. Neither is it a medical condition like a ruptured appendix or diseased gall bladder. Neither is it a dead part of the body, like the umbilical cord, hair, or fingernails.
The foreskin is not "extra skin." The foreskin is normal, natural, healthy, functioning tissue, present in all males at birth; it is as intrinsic to male genitalia as labia are to female genitalia.
Unless there is a medical or clinical indication, the circumcision of a healthy, non-consenting individuals is a deliberate wound; it is the destruction of normal, healthy tissue, the permanent disfigurement of normal, healthy organs, and by very definition, infant genital mutilation, and a violation of the most basic of human rights.
Without medical or clinical indication, doctors have absolutely no business performing surgery in healthy, non-consenting individuals, much less be eliciting any kind of "decision" from parents, and much less expect to be reimbursed.
Genital mutilation, whether it be wrapped in culture, religion or “research” is still genital mutilation.
It is mistaken, the belief that the right amount of “science” can be used to legitimize the deliberate violation of basic human rights.