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Circumcision debate: The medical and religious arguments against the anti-circumcision measure

Circumcision Both the editorial and Op-Ed pages have weighed in on the measure that would ban male circumcision in San Francisco if passed in November. Here are excerpts from two arguments against the proposition:

The religious perspective:

Still, there's something so breathtakingly wrong about the presence of such a proposition on any ballot that its implications are worth at least a few minutes of reflection. On one level, it's simply the most recent and egregious example of how California's long experiment with direct democracy has gone stunningly wrong at every level of government. Simply because more than 12,000 residents signed a petition, you have the people of an American city voting on whether or not to proscribe one of the central rituals of an entire religious community — in this case, Jews, who have been required to circumcise male infants within eight days of birth since the time of Abraham. Many Muslims also practice circumcision for religious reasons, while significant numbers of other American parents elect the procedure for hygienic or health reasons. The San Francisco measure proposes to make the circumcision of males under 18 a misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine or a year in jail. […]

That's true even when, as in this instance, a measure clearly is aimed at a particular part of the community, and there's no doubt that this proposition knowingly targets Jews. Marc Stern, a lawyer for the American Jewish Committee, had the matter exactly right when said: "This is the most direct assault on Jewish religious practice in the United States. It's unprecedented in Jewish life."

-- Tim Rutten

The medical view:

Religion is not the main reason to reject this movement. Female genital mutilation is part of the cultural or faith traditions of some groups, yet it is rightly illegal because it is a form of child abuse. According to the World Health Organization, it bestows no health benefits and carries terrible long-term consequences, among them higher rates of maternal and newborn mortality, repeated pelvic and urinary tract infections, fistulas and difficulty urinating. Our society accords religious traditions strong legal protection, but it rarely allows the personal beliefs of parents to take precedence over serious health and safety concerns.

Male circumcision is different, and the experts say the decision should be left with parents. The American Academy of Pediatrics, for instance, notes that "scientific evidence demonstrates potential medical benefits of newborn male circumcision" but that the evidence is not robust enough at this point for a recommendation for routine circumcision. Those potential benefits, according to the Mayo Clinic, include lower risk of urinary tract infection and penile cancer, reduced rates of cervical cancer in the female partners of circumcised men, and possibly lower risk of sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS. But families who choose circumcision don't need to prove any health benefits because, in the absence of any evidence that they are harming their sons, they have the right to make medical decisions for them.

--Editorial Board

What are your arguments for or against the anti-circumcision proposition?


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Comments () | Archives (25)

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It is known that the MAYO clinic has a few circumcision pushers. They are not experts. In fact they do not understand the importance of the parts called the foreskin. They have not investigated what the parts do, what the thousands of nerves do that are disconnected from the brain by the procedure. The MAYO people have no knowledge of the loss of sexual function and pleasure. They are color blind people advocating removal of color sight.

The rest of the world think this is HARM to a baby. There is no hygiene or any STD benefit in the real world. The idea that natural penis boys have more infections is part myth and part BAD medical advice. It is now known that boys that are natural should not have their foreskin touched by others. The US medical advice was to pull it back and scrub with soap. That causes problems including infections. Natural boys really have no problems if you don't retract THEIR foreskin. People like those at MAYO are causing medical problems and they don't realize it. Sometimes their advice ends with death. Much of the time the advice ends with erectile dysfunction.

The rest of the world thinks this practice is heinous and thinks the US medical community is Obsessed with cutting off penis parts. They get info such as : "Circumcision health benefit virtually nil, study finds : While it is the most common surgical procedure in the world, there is virtually no demonstrable health benefit derived from circumcision of either newborns or adults, a new study concludes..."

Stop with the misinformation campaign. Boys deserve the PLEASURE and function of all of their penis.






Typical pro-circumcision editorial, attempting to claim that male circumcision is different from female circumcision. No it is not! Not in terms of the essential issue - that altering people's bodies in the name of religion is beyond the scope of freedom of religion.


The rest of the non-Islamic world seems to be doing pretty well without circumcision. Why cause your son excruciating pain for no good reason other than the same was done to you? Why alter his body because YOU like it that way? It is just a form of body rape. You are taking away HIS choice. I hope the ban passes.


Wow! I get to witness the miracle of birth a lot, and I see perfect babies being born. with the blessings of God and nature, those which created us. They do not need alteration. Of course if something is wrong with any newborn, ethically we need to fix it at all cost. When born perfect, ethically we need to appreciate and honor it at all cost. Think about that for a minute.


just because people have been doing it for century's, doesn't make it right. I wouldn't remove my appendix, just in case I get infection later, and there is antibiotics for UTI's... It's just cruel. Child abuse really. No reason for it.


does a ban on circumcision impose on the freedom of religeon? yes. if you don't like that freedom then this is not your country.


I think the SF measure violates religious freedom and should be rejected on that; even if it wins, it'll probably be overturned in the courts anyway.

As for the medical arguments, people should be aware that even if circumcision can prevent urinary tract infections and penile cancer, UTIs are actually very easy to treat anyway, and penile cancer is very rare. As for STDs, men need to wear condoms whether they're circumcised or not, and at the end of the day, an uncircumcised man wearing a condom still has a lower risk of contracting an STD (including HIV) than a circumcised man without one.

I think we need to admit that routine circumcision (i.e. circumcision not performed as a religious right or as a medical necessity) is basically a cultural tradition in America that arose from faulty medical thinking during the Victorian era, when it was promoted throughout the English-speaking world as a way to stop masturbation and because people thought it would help hygiene.

Of course, we now know that masturbation isn't bad for you, and it doesn't take much effort to pull the foreskin back, apply soap and rinse. That's why circumcision has mostly died out in other Anglophone countries and never really caught on in Europe or most of non-Muslim Asia.


No one had the right to cut off a normal part of my body without a valid medical indication and without my consent! Absolutely no one!

The fact that Muslim and Jewish parents believe that male circumcision is a religious requirement is not a sufficiently good reason for American doctors to tolerate unnecessary surgery on the genitals of non-Muslim and non-Jewish boys. The American Academy of Pediatrics said in 1971 there is no valid medical indication for newborn male circumcision. It is shameful that American doctors did not end the practice of non-religious, non-therapeutic circumcision of boys forty years ago.

Michael Glass

Freedom of religion? Well, Genesis 17:12-14 makes it clear that your slaves must be circumcised. The Thirteenth Amendment bans slavery so that part of the text has been dropped.

I think everyone should take a deep breath and consider some reforms that people might have a chance of agreeing about.

*Forced circumcision of adults should be banned. This is not Darfur, Ambon in Indonesia or other places where this atrocity has been committed.
*Also ban the circumcision of boys whose parents oppose circumcision. No-one who says it's the parent's right to decide can challenge that one.
*If the parents disagree on circumcision, then it should be left for the owner of the foreskin to decide what to do with it, when he reaches adulthood.
*Do-it-yourself circumcisions by untrained operators should also be banned. If an untrained operator attempts to circumcise another, this should be treated as assault and punished accordingly.
*Finally, if a qualified operator messes up, he or she should lose the licence to operate.


Thanks to the Internet people from around the world are waking up and join together to ban this cruelty performed on children. This disgusting human rights violation and sexual assault on helpless children should have been banned already six thousand years ago or whenever the first brain sick and cruel tyrant used this evil atrocity to mark people in the flesh and to make obedient slaves out of them!

It’s about time that the government steps in to enforce our existing laws against child abuse, torture, mutilation and human vivisection. Circumcisers are breaking these above laws and with it they are breaking the laws of the American Constitution, the laws of the International Human Rights Charta and the laws of the Geneva Convention.


Most people don't know that circumcision kills more than 100 baby boys every year in North America alone; many mutilated boys grow into men that have to live with deformed and dysfunctional genitals and some of the poorest souls even lost all their genitals at the hands of circumcisers.

Sadly, you can now add the name of Jamaal Coleson, Jr. to the growing list of needless deaths from circumcision.

Another case was just reported of a two year old boy from the Mid East that has lost his penis after circumcision.

Anybody that can think clearly knows that circumcision is genital mutilation and child torture. These atrocities were always criminal and illegal and therefore this crime of all crimes has to be banned not just in a few progressive cities - but world wide.

Those who continue to deceive parents with lies misuse medicine and religions for profit and to enslave people. They are now being recorded and their names and data is being kept as evidence for judgment day, which is the day when they are getting arrested and punished for preaching and committing these despicable cruelties. They shall drop their knives now or they will be brought to justice by our governments and the ever growing number of awakening and angry people.


I'm Jewish and did not circumcise my sons. It is not my right as to permanently alter their bodies in the name of my religion. They can decide for themselves when they are consenting adults what to do with their own bodies based on their own beliefs. That is their right and no one else's. Many Jews are actually keeping our sons whole these days. A number of our friends and relatives have made similar decisions and the movement to keep Jewish boys whole is quite a growing movement.
The health benefits of circumcision are questionable at best. All the claims about circumcision helping to fight HIV, STDs, or cancer have been debunked repeatedly. Over half-a-dozen medical and pediatric associations in Holland, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere have therefore officially condemned circumcision. They have looked at all the latest and best research from around the world and found no reason to cut off perfectly healthy foreskins. The risks and disadvantages of circumcision, however, are undeniable. It is undeniable that up to 15 sq. inches of sensitive, nerve-filled, and vein-rich tissue is lost to adult men who are circumcised. It is undeniable that many men suffer physical scarring and life-long trauma from being circumcised. And it is undeniable that many boys die each year from circumcision. Ultimately, it is undeniable that circumcision is needless and immoral.

Michael Mooney

For anyone to say this is anti-Semitic or against a religion is nonsense - that is a red herring. The core issue is that circumcision is a human rights violation.

Circumcision mutilates, as if humans know better than Mother Nature and we have to cut off skin with 20,000+ nerves off because it's an improvement. It degrades sexual function and is a human rights violation, according to the leading international statement of medical ethics from the European Convention on Human Rights and Bioethics, where "Article 20(1) prohibits non-therapeutic tissue removal from those who do not have the capacity to consent. Children have a right to the protection of the security of their person and to protection from degrading treatment. Circumcision violates those human rights. Several authorities report that circumcision degrades the erectile function of the penis. Circumcision, therefore, must be regarded as degrading treatment. Degrading treatment is an additional violation of human rights.”

And the purported health benefits are more nonsense than reality, when analyzed carefully. There are half a dozen studies that confirm it does not reduce HIV risk, for instance.

The Council on Scientific Affairs of the American Medical Association says that ‘‘…circumcision cannot be responsibly viewed as ‘protecting’ against such infections.”

The reduced risk of cervical cancer notion was analyzed and dismissed in an article April 4, 2011 in Scientific American by Michelle Clement.

See a fully-referenced article detailing this at http://wehonews.com/z/wehonews/archive/page.php?articleID=5792

Dan Bollinger

The real issues here aren’t religion or medicine, it is sexism. Cutting boys is a human rights violation. These men are not permitted to have a say in how their body looks, works, and feels. This is doubly important because it effects their sexuality, too. We protect girls from harm, and rightly so. The Federal female genital cutting law, which has no religious exemption by the way, prohibits even a pinprick to extract one drop of blood. Male genital cutting--aka circumcision--is certainly worse than that.

If the SF ban were to protect all boys EXCEPT those born to Jewish parents, THAT would be discrimination. This law is more than fair and past due. And, it rectifies a gender inequity, too; girls have been protected from forced genital cutting for fifteen years.

The 1996 Federal female genital cutting prohibition—which has no religious exceptions for Muslims—prohibits even a pinprick to extract one drop of blood. Male genital cutting—aka circumcision—is certainly worse than that. The 14th Amendment guarantees equal protection under the law, and is often used to provide equal rights for women. In this case it should protect males, too, when combined with that Federal law. If the SF ban seems surprising, harsh, or out of place, it is only because it seeks to correct the human-rights-violation loophole Congress created when it failed to write that law in gender neutral terms.

Speaking of Constitutional rights, boys have a right to being secure in their bodies as protected by the 4th Amendment. Since it is his penis under the knife, his 4th Amendment rights trump any 1st Amendment rights parents have to practicing religion. After all, adults make a choice to practice religion, but genital cutting is forced upon children. In simpler terms, your right to practice religion stops at my nose, or any other of my body parts! The proof? Children are protected from sterilization even if their parents desire it, and there are no gender or religious exception to that law.

More than 100 baby boys die each year as a result of their circumcision (sadly, some born to Jewish parents, too, as we’ve read in the news), all were avoidable, and all were in the name of “parent’s rights.” I hope no one is saying those boys are better off dead than having to live with that “birth defect” called a foreskin.

Frankly, I just don’t see how this ban singles out Jews. Less than one-tenth of one percent of all male infant genital cuttings is performed within the context of a Jewish ritual by being performed by a mohel on the 8th day. If anything, this ban overwhelmingly singles-out secular circumcisions by a factor of 999 to 1.

We’ve come a long way with gender rights. We need to abolish this harmful double standard. I want to protect ALL children from genital cuttings regardless of their parent’s good intentions.


I am thrilled that this movement to protect baby boys from genital mutilation is gaining ground. The foreskin is the most sensitive erogenous zone on the male body. As if cutting it off, too often without any pain killers, weren't bad enough, I am horrified at the infants that die or are horribly injured (more so than intended) by this elective cosmetic procedure. Parents can't cut off ear lobes or little toes or the tips of their baby's noses. They should not be allowed to have any part of their baby's genitals cut off either.

James Loewen

If the central ritual of a religion is the sexual wounding / genital mutilation of a child then that religion will have to change to accommodate respect for the human rights of children.

The sexual anatomy of a child does not require immediate surgical reshaping and diminishing.

Parents who "elect the procedure for hygienic or health reasons" are severely lacking in a basic understanding of human sexual anatomy. To amputate the most erogenous part of a child's penis is the most cruel way to achieve "hygiene."

Whether or not the San Francisco ban passes is immaterial. The fact that this issue, sexual mutilation of children's genitals, is now being spoken of world wide. The laws will eventually protect children from this atrocity, in the meantime conscious, informed parents are already doing just that.


It's just WRONG.


All human beings - male/female, adult/child, Muslim/Jew/Christian/etc. - deserve to be protected from non-consensual genital cutting, unless a compelling medical indication exists that cannot be solved by less invasive measures. Girls and adults are currently protected by law from non-consensual genital cutting. It it time we protect boys as well.


It is refreshing to see this ban coming about, for years only females enjoyed protection from religious markings in their genitals. It is time we stand up for our boys as well.


"A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right." - Thomas Paine

Bronwyn Millar

"Male circumcision is different, and the experts say the decision should be left with parents."

Excuse me but HOW precisely is male and female circumcision for cultural reasons different? CRAP! Both remove viable, nerve rich genital tissue from an unconsenting child who is having THEIR freedom to choose their religion removed.


The idea that preventing non medically indicated amputation is a breach of religious freedom fails to take into account EQUALITY. If we are equal we ALL have this right. Marking someone ELSE'S body with YOUR religion breaches that person's religious freedom. This is not an attempt to stop Jews from being circumcised, it's a measure to allow men to choose whether or not it is right for them to give up a body part for ANY reason, be that health, conformity, or religion. You can't sit here and squawk about all the reasons YOU like amputated genitals, because your opinion only speaks for you. If we allow a popular opinion to breach human rights we've got oppression, not equality.


Stop this barbaric penis-cutting!


I have a right to my religious beliefs and to exercise that right as I see fit. If you do not like circumcision, don't have one or allow your son to have one prior to him reaching the age of majority. Do not tell me how to practice my religion and do not tell me how to raise my children and I will respect your right to live life as you see fit.

This is religious discrimination and is unconstitutional very plain and simple. Maybe it is time to ban veganism for children under 18 because it has been proven to be very harmful to their developing brain. And let's add vegetarianism to the list of banned things because it damages the planet (air, soil, and water pollution) and harms poor innocent plants that can communicate with each other and they feel pain.

It is all about how rediculous do you want to get and how many rights do you want to trample on. Personally, live your life as you see fit. Feel free to offer advice or comments to others but do not feel slighted if they ignore you. If you try and control someone else's life, you will bring a whole host of problems into your life.



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