Should circumcisions be banned? Some folks in San Francisco think so. They’re moving to put a ballot question on the 2011 ballot that would ban circumcisions, making it a misdemeanor to:
“to circumcise, excise, cut or mutilate the foreskin, testicle or penis of another person who has not attained the age of 18.”
Most of the response I’ve seen suggests this is crazy talk: another case of San Francisco being oh-so-San-Francisco and legislating an extreme progressive agenda instead of letting people just do their thing. This is the city that just outlawed Happy Meal toys, after all.
A circumcision is not like a cheap plastic toy, though. It’s a surgical procedure that changes a person’s body forever. Is that a choice parents should really be allowed to make for their kid at birth?
Right now, the ballot question hasn’t even gathered enough signatures to make it on the ballot. But the election is a year away, and there’s enough anti-circumcision activism that I bet they’ll get a vote on it.
Should it pass?
The Stir doesn’t think so. Their response, like so many others, tells San Francisco to lay off the bans and let parents decide what they think is best for their kids.
It’s hard to make a strong case for circumcision, though. There’s no basis for it medically, except in rare cases. There are religious communities that circumcise male infants, but that accounts for only a small percentage of the circumcisions performed every day in American hospitals.
There’s an argument there about tradition, and fathers wanting their sons to “match”. The Stir cautions against taking away a parental perogative to decide what’s best for a child. But we do that about all kinds of traditional things. You can’t arrange a marriage for your child, pull your daughter out of school to work in a factory at age 6, or beat your son with a belt.
The best defense of circumcision seems to be a 2005 study that suggests it helps protect against HIV and other STIs. The protection isn’t sufficient to rely on though: your best practice is still to use a condom.
There was a huge outcry against a recent decision to support the ritual bloodletting of girl’s genitals with a pinprick in a doctor’s office rather than removing the girls’ clitoris. Yet there’s a loud defense of circumcision whenever the topic comes up. Why are we so cavalier about surgically altering baby boys’ penises?
Maybe circumcision should be banned, barring religious exemptions and the rare cases of medical necessity. What do you think?