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Circumcision Rates Decline in US…and We Care?

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(Let me just preface this post with the fact that this is NOT a debate about circumcision, I promise.)

The National Center for Health Statistics just revealed that from 1979 to 2010, the rate of circumcision in the United States (as determined by surveys from over 400 hospitals) has declined from 64.5% to 58.3%. The data shows that there have been some ebbs and flows throughout that time, particularly as the American Academy of Pediatrics has waffled on their recommendations in the past 30 years, but the most recent trend has been a pretty significant decline throughout the nation.

One of the more interesting results of the study was the difference among regions of the US. Just looking at the 2010 data, there were considerably more circumcisions in the Midwest and Northeast (71% and 66.3%, respectively) than the South and the Western US (58.4% and 40.2%, respectively). The NCHS offers no explanation for these regional differences, but it seems likely due to advocacy efforts among “intactivists” who seem to be much more concentrated along the west coast.

While the data is definitely interesting and paints a picture of the influence of the AAP recommendations, my overwhelming feeling on this particular piece of news is a hearty, so what?

Maybe that sounds a little flippant, but I have a hard time understanding why this is an issue I should have a strong opinion about, even as the mother of a boy. I don’t discuss his circumcision status because with anyone because frankly, it’s no one’s business. So why should anyone else care whether or not he’s been circumcised? Why do we care so very much about what other families choose for their boys and whether the trend is rising or declining?

I’m not going to debate circumcision and whether it’s right or it’s wrong here or in the comments, because to me that debate masks much bigger issues- those of privacy and judgement. Whether you choose or do not choose to circumcise your child is none of my business and not something I ever want to know. Circumcision status isn’t something the should be shared, flaunted or described because it’s probably one of the most private pieces of information you could ever hold over a child. And more importantly, I have no right to tell you whether your choice was right or wrong because it doesn’t impact my life in any measurable way and because it’s not my child.

So perhaps I’m missing something- why do we care about national circumcision rates?

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