The debate over whether San Francisco should ban male circumcision was, thankfully, ended by a Superior Court judge, who ruled that medical services are under the purview of the states, not individual cities. The judge, Loretta Giorgi, ordered that the ban be removed from the November ballot. If it had passed, the measure would have made circumcision of an underage boy punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail. There would have been no religious exemptions.
The measure was widely criticized by Jewish and Muslim groups, as well as the ACLU and San Francisco’s Medical Society. For Jews and Muslims, circumcision is an important religious ritual, while medical experts pointed out that male circumcision has been proven to reduce the risk of HIV infection. Others pointed out that many Christian and secular parents choose to circumcise their children, and that the practice, far from being “male genital mutilation,” is widely culturally accepted.
The controversy over the ban threatened, at times, to turn anti-Semitic. The “Foreskin Man” comic books created by Matthew Hess, an anti-circumcision activist, drew a great deal of well-deserved flak for casting a mohel, a Jewish official who specializes in ritual circumcision, as a villain.
Lloyd Schofield, who has been active in the Bay Area advocacy group determined to make circumcision illegal, says that the surgery violates human rights. He claimed that to have the measure struck from the ballot was, at this stage, “undemocratic.”
But the coalition of civil rights groups who opposed the ban were far more persuasive. At its root, the ban would have violated the choice to participate in a widely practiced cultural tradition, and stigmatized religious groups. ”Not only is the ban patently illegal, it also threatened family privacy and religious freedom,” explained ACLU Northern California staff attorney Margaret Crosby in a statement. ”The court’s order protects fundamental constitutional values in San Francisco.”
The anti-circumcision advocates say that they are considering an appeal. But given Judge Giorgi’s decisive order, it seems unlikely that an appeal would succeed.
Photo from aesop via flickr.