Circumcision: Should it be Illegal for Under 18’s?

“All truth goes through three stages.  First it is ridiculed.  Then it is violently opposed.  Finally, it is accepted as self-evident.”

Arthur Schoepenhauer.

Newborn babyFollowing my recent article, Circumcision, AIDS and Human Rights questioning the legitimacy of circumcision, I posted this question on an official White House discussion board;

‘Is it time to make circumcision illegal for under 18’s?

My aim was to help facilitate discussion and debate regarding this subject.

I asked….

What about the rights of newborn babies and children?

Don’t they need protection?

As a Manager at United States Department of Defense put it;

“the arguments flew from irrational, to emotional, to religious, to parental rights!”

Part of my opening arguments were as follows:

Human rights as listed by the U.N.

* Article 3: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.
* Article 5(1): “Everyone has the right to liberty and security of the person”.
* Article 8: “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life” except for the “protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”.
* Article 9(1): “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”.
* Article 9(2): “Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”.(III)

And the relationship within these rights and the pain endured by the infant.

Because according to a comprehensive study, newborn responses to pain are ‘similar to, but greater than, those observed in adult subjects.’

Some infants do not cry because they go into traumatic shock from the overwhelming pain of the surgery. No experimental anesthetic has been found to be safe and effective in preventing circumcision pain in infants.

The procedure for circumcision in America involves the baby being strapped spread-eagle to a plastic board, with his arms and legs immobilized by Velcro straps.  A nurse scrubs his genitals with an antiseptic solution and places a surgical drape – with a hole in it to expose his penis – across his body.

The doctor grasps the tip of the foreskin with one hemostat and inserts another hemostat between the foreskin and the glans. In 96% of newborns, these two structures are attached to one another by a continuous layer of epithelium, which protects the sensitive glans from urine and feces in infancy and childhood.

The foreskin is then torn from the glans. The hemostat is used to crush an area of the foreskin lengthwise, which prevents bleeding when the doctor cuts through the tissue to enlarge the foreskin opening. This allows insertion of the circumcision instrument. The foreskin is crushed against this device and amputated.

Currently, some doctors use a dorsal penile nerve block to numb the penis during infant circumcision. While not always effective, this anesthesia may afford some pain relief during the surgery, although it offers no pain relief during the recovery period (which can last up to 14 days) when the baby urinates and defecates into the raw wound.

Does this enforced practice, inflicted without approval from the subject, constitute infringement of human (child ) rights and a call for an age of consent?

Someone put forward this argument…..

“Judaism and other religions, routinely remove the foreskin for religious purposes. Health benefits follow. Perhaps those who began this practice, ‘God’?, knew something that contemporary humans refute”.

If it was God, how come he installed the foreskin with 20,000 specialized nerve endings (sexual receptors) only to say ‘tear it off’, depriving the owner “a symphony of sensation” during sexual activity?

Is he saying he made a mistake?

It is not healthy for a child to have their foreskin removed. The foreskin is normal, healthy tissue, and its adherence to the glans (head of the penis) serves the important function of protecting the glans penis from urine and feces in infancy and early childhood.

Another response…..

“I was circumcised.  I’m protestant, but was done anyway. Don’t remember it. No harm, no foul. Newborns have to have a blood draw for a test almost immediately after birth. It hurts, and they don’t consent. Should we stop that, too?”

You would never get much support for this “cause.”

and…..

“I was circumcised too. I’ve never seen such an absurd topic discussed in my 54 year life. Don’t see what the fuss is all about.”

I put forward that there was another harmless cultural practice that folk used to think was acceptable and didn’t see what the fuss was about…

Chinese foot binding…..

An ancient tradition of beauty and torture. Passed from mother to daughter, generation to generation, that lasted for almost 1,000 years, foot binding was seen as a sign of beauty and attractiveness.

Once a girl was of marriageable age, prospective mother-in-laws would come around and pick a wife for her son by the appearance of the girl’s feet. Foot binding was the act of wrapping a three- to five-year old girl’s feet with binding so as to bend the toes under, break the bones and force the back of the foot together.

The bound foot was also a symbol of identity and virtue. A bound foot signified that a woman had achieved womanhood, and served as a mark of her gendered identity. Foot binding was not considered mutilation but a form of adornment, an embellishment to the human body.

So is circumcision mutilation?

“Mutilation … implies the cutting off or removal of a part essential to completeness, not only of a person but also of a thing, and to his or its perfection, beauty, entirety, or fulfillment of function.” (Webster’s Dictionary of SynonymsSpringfield,)

Which initiated this response….

“Circumcision does not affect any functional part of the body, and does not affect either sexual or urinary function. It is a choice of the parents. It does no harm. Get a life”.

and…

“I guess Ann is a symptom of a wider disease. She is merely acting out a desire to inflict her opinion on others. It’s a disease that seems to infect mostly the radical left [let’s face it Ann, your a lefty, aren’t you?]. If you don’t agree with the radicals they launch into their verbose little diatribe which quotes all sorts of facts and figures from other lefties. They throw this up as some sort of proof that they’re right.

Let’s be frank Ann, can we? You’re not a man. Circumcision doesn’t affect you. You saw a vacancy in the Circumcision Advocates Weekly and went for it. As a man, I resent having you as my representative. Men don’t need you looking after their penises. Little boys have done fine for thousands of years without Ann Margrain and we will continue to do so”.

and…

“Ann, making circumcision illegal is unconstitutional. It violates the right to religious freedom. What right of yours do you want taken away or for me to try to make illegal?

And, as the representative of the Department of Defense pointed out…

“Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.  There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, etc… This means that none of the articles you stipulate validate (or apply) to your question against circumcision”.

I replied…

I agree, circumcision is a big constitutional issue, with parental rights and religious issues involved.

People have tried to impose U.S law on religious groups before.  For example, the Supreme Court invalidated statutes requiring Jehovah’s Witness children to salute the flag in public schools. The Court found that the flag salute statute violated the religious establishment and free exercise clauses of the first amendment and emphasized that the refusal to salute would have no effect on others.

Whether circumcision has an effect, mentally or physically, on others namely the infant is open to debate.

And we could debate all day and night about rights and freedom.  As people state, it’s about religious freedom and rights of the family to do what they want.

All right. Let’s throw my opening case of rights for the child out of the window.

Let’s take a different direction.

Would a child be afforded protection under Civil Law?

Because there are “no medical indications for routine circumcision,” the doctrine of informed consent requires that parents be told that such surgery is not required, that is is painful and that there are significant rates of surgical complications. Failure to give a complete explanation warrants a suit by parents, by the child or by a friend acting on the child’s behalf.

However, does authorizing surgery on an infant after such a warning, conceivably open the door to a subsequent suit by the child against his parents?

Okay, maybe the courts would be reluctant to take this route.

Would it be possible for a class action suit against hospitals because competent surgeons are aware that routine neonatal circumcision is not good medical practice?

Would this avoid the constitutional issues of parental rights, as well as religious issues, since the Orthodox Jewish circumcision ceremony is not normally performed in medical centers by medical personnel?

As William E. Brigman, Professor of Law, points out in his paper, ‘Circumcision as Child Abuse‘, the Legal and Constitutional Issues suits for damages against surgeons, hospitals, and conceivably parents, are possible because;

“Malice in the sense of ill will or a desire to cause injury is not essential to sustain a recovery for intentional wrongdoing. It is enough for the plaintiff to show that the defendant knowingly and intentionally did the act which caused the damage and that damage was substantially certain to follow.”

This may be the only solution because at the end of the day, as John Geishker DOC Seattle, pointed out to me…

“With all due respect and admiration for your efforts on behalf of children:

I rarely miss a chance to express my firm opposition to non-therapeutic cultural surgeries upon children such as circumcision.

However, Obama is no fool. He knows that even though Jews make up only 2% of the US population, they are overwhelmingly liberal and form a strong and influential base of his urban support. As they would be
offended (even the atheists among them, and there are many, would be, always a mystery) he would not touch this issue with a 12-mile pole, let alone lend it any support.

It’s a ‘third-rail,’ a PR death-wish, like suggesting the races have differences in intelligence, or women are too emotional for politics.

All hell would break lose and he and his advisers, esp. Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, Dan Shapiro, Mara Rudman, and Dennis Ross, (all Jews by heritage), would all likely go apoplectic.

That’s true even though it is very likely that Obama is himself intact. The Luo, his father’s tribe, do not circumcise, and his mother was a free-thinker hippie type.

That said, I doubt there is much to lose by trying; I just think it is quixotic”.

There you have it.

Perhaps the idea of age of consent for circumcision is impracticable in the U.S.A.

Maybe we should stay out of other people’s business and let things run their course.  After all, 30 years ago the circumcision rate in the USA was 85-95% and, today, we’re down to around 52.3% nationally, and less than 25% in the West.

However, by discussing and debating the issue, it is bringing awareness to the situation –  that this tradition is not a necessity.

Related article, ‘Circumcision, AIDS and Human Rights

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Thank you

Ann Margrain

Founder, ‘Heroin and Cornflakes’ blog.

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Links

Full White House discussion http://www.linkedin.com/groupAnswers?viewQuestionAndAnswers=&gid=2199632&discussionID=10671738&split_page=1

If you are opposed to circumcision or require information  the below websites may be of use

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is developing public health recommendations for the U.S. on male circumcision – ignoring the serious risks such as hemorrhage, infection, surgical mishap, and death – in favor of highly debatable and inconclusive research.

The CDC is the foremost expert on public health in our country and, as such, has a responsibility to share the truth about circumcision.

Sign a petition to the CDC, demanding the organization release a truthful statement on the harms and risks of circumcision.

If you believe as I do, that we should protect newborn babies from harmful and unnecessary surgery, then join me by clicking the link below:

http://www.intactamerica.org

MGMbill.org is a private non-profit organization based in San Diego, California, seeking to pass a law that will end the practice of male genital mutilation (circumcision) in the United States of America. Currently, girls are protected from genital mutilation by U.S. federal law, but boys are not.

Although legal protection of only girls from circumcision would seem to violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the fact remains that it is still widely considered to be legal in this country to mutilate a boy’s genitals in the name of social custom, hygiene, religion, or any other reason.

http://www.cirp.org/ –   The Circumcision Information and Resource Pages are an Internet resource that provide you with information about all aspects of the genital surgery known as circumcision

http://www.circumcisionandhiv.com/ – Male circumcision and HIV

http://www.circumcision.org/ The Circumcision Resource Center is a nonprofit educational organization with the purpose of informing the public and professionals about the practice of circumcision.

http://www.mothersagainstcirc.org/ – The Circumcision Decision: An Overview

http://www.circumstitions.com/index.html – The struggle for genital integrity and against the involuntary genital modification of children of any sex:

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