Should San Francisco Ban Circumcision?

A while back, I wrote a hot post (A Case Against Circumcision)†about a super controversial issue which CNN reports is showing up in the limelight now that a group seeking to ban circumcision of any male younger than 18 in San Francisco has succeeded in getting their measure on the November ballot. If passed, it would be illegal for a parent to choose to have a boy circumcised, and if he wanted it done, heíd have to wait until he was 18 to make his own choice. Failing to follow the law would become a misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or up to one year in jail. There would be no religious exemptions — period.

Iím flatly anti-circumcision — boys or girls. As I laid out in my other post, I donít†believe we should be imposing our own plastic surgery notions on young boys without their consent. Why? Here are some thoughts.

7 Reasons Not To Circumcise Your Baby

  • Thereís absolutely no medical reason to do so. Contrary to popular belief, circumcision does not make the penis cleaner — it just crosses off one more area that needs attention in the shower. In spite of the hype to the contrary, studies show that it does not reduce the risk of STDs, bladder infections, penile cancer, or penis infections.
  • The surgery carries risks — and yes, while I have never been personally responsible for pulling a Lorena Bobbitt on a poor, defenseless baby, I have seen little boys get the ends of their penises cut off as the result of circumcision. And remember, if you give birth at a hospital that has residents, itís often the intern performing the circumcision!
  • Many swear that having foreskin helps prevent premature ejaculation and can lead to longer lovemaking.
  • The body was made with foreskin. Are we to assume it was an accident?
  • Most countries do not circumcise their boys. Why should we?
  • A person should have the right to choose whether they undergo a purely cosmetic surgery that cannot be undone.
  • Circumcision HURTS! While some swear that babies cannot feel, I have watched them when I cut their little foreskins. And they definitely feel pain. Maybe they donít remember it, but somewhere in their little budding psyches, they might. Do we really want a childís first experience in life to be this pain?

Most importantly, I believe we should be raising our children to believe that, unless they were born with a birth defect, they do not need surgery to fix what ainít broken. It horrifies me to hear about Moms giving their daughters Botox or teenagers getting nose jobs and plastic boobs or pinning back a childís ears. What message are we giving our children if we do such things? Do we really want them to grow up believing that theyíre not beautiful, perfect, and whole just the way God made them?

Thatís why I wrote my book Whatís Up Down There?. Thatís why Iím helping empowering young girls to grow up with a positive body image as a spokesperson for UbyKotex. Thatís why I started And thatís why Iím writing this post, because I want to encourage all people to heal, connect, thrive, and live comfortably in their skin.

If you look through the 200+ comments on “A Case Against Circumcision,” youíll read many stories of men who were circumcised against their will when they were babies who want their foreskins back. They feel violated, as if something that is their birthright to keep was unwittingly stolen from them, and they felt so appreciative that I wrote this article. The reaction of these men in the comments section of my post was so potent that it inspired CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen to reach out to me and ask me to contact the men who commented on my post so she could interview them for this article.

So believe it or not, there are a whole bunch of men out there who call themselves ďinactivistsĒ and want their foreskin back. Your child could wind up being one of them.

But should we outlaw circumcision?

Well, thatís a horse of a different color. That kind of law exists for female circumcision. Female genital mutilation (FGM), which is clearly a different procedure, is illegal in this country. And one of the reasons I stopped doing circumcisions in the first place as an OB/GYN physician is because I spent a year working with victims of FGM, and one of my jobs was to convince them to stop cutting their girls. They argued with me, saying they had to cut their girls because of religious beliefs and because they wanted them to “look pretty.” When I tried to educate them about the dangers, the first argument those African women brought up when I asked them to stop butchering the vulvas of their little girls is that we Americans circumcise boys. Although I do, they didn’t really see the difference, and I get their point. The arguments for why we do it are the same as theirs.†In this country, if you perform FGM in the United States, itís a felony, and many have been arrested for doing this underground.

Clearly, circumcising boys is a less damaging, less risky procedure. But itís still unnecessary plastic surgery being inflicted upon a minor without his consent.

But should it be illegal?

Honestly, Iím not sure. Letís look at the issues.


Iím pro-choice when it comes to abortion — and I even performed them for a while — even though I donít like the idea of killing a fetus. Why? Because I believe in a womanís right to choose whatís right for her own body, and I believe the government has no business deciding whether she should or shouldnít. So I’m all for choice. And I can see the argument that this for a parent to decide, not for the government to decide. I certainly don’t want people doing black market circumcisions with rusty instruments, the way they did with abortions before Roe Vs. Wade.

Religious Freedom

But then thereís the issue of religious freedom, a freedom our constitution vehemently protects. Our rights to pursue our religious beliefs are protected in this country, but only when it doesn’t hurt someone else. A Muslim has the right to believe what he believes, but if he uses his religious beliefs to inflict harm, he’ll be prosecuted under our laws. So many Jews slammed me in my other circumcision post for violating their religious freedoms. But should Jews be allowed to alter a boyís body by doing something purely cosmetic and potentially risky, just because the Bible tells them to? Well, the Bible also tells you to sacrifice animals, but thatís illegal. So Iím not sure that argument holds up either.

Should The Government Protect Children?

Iíd prefer to educate families so they choose to stop performing circumcisions, rather than legislating it, just because things get all messy when the government gets involved — but so far, few are listening to the arguments of doctors like me and men like those who commented on my blog post. Certainly, we’ve put laws into place to protect children. And when Child Protective Services got wind that Kerry Campbell, the Botox mom was injecting her 8 year old with Botox, they swooped in and took her into protective custody. And public outcry clearly agreed that this kind of behavior is child abuse. But should it be legal to let a 10 year old get a nose job or a 15 year old get breast implants? What if parents want to pin a kids ears back surgically so they don’t stick out? Where do we draw the line? And when is a child old enough to choose for him or herself? Perhaps we do need government intervention in order to halt unnecessary and barbaric practices, in order to protect our children from parents who don’t realize the messages they’re sending their children- that you’re not okay, just the way you are.

I Guess I Have To Decide

I live in the San Francisco Bay area, so I guess I need to decide how Iíll vote before that time rolls around, but Iím inclined to vote in favor of banning circumcision, just to protect those little babies who arenít old enough to make a choice.

Iím sure youíll all have strong opinions about this issue, and I want to hear what you have to say, so go at it! Tell me what you think. Help me make my decision about how Iíll vote. Iím all earsÖ

*††† *††† *††† *

Related: A Case Against Circumcision

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Jo S.6 months ago

Thanks Lissa.

Cathy Q.
Cathy Q.about a year ago

It is a private matter up to the consent of the individual undergoing the operation. Since infants cannot give consent on a potentially risky surgery with no survival benefits other than a few rare exceptions, this should remain the right for a man to decide when he is 18. He will be the one living with his penis, not his parents.

Charles Wallace
Charles Wallace1 years ago


It doesn't matter if male circumcision is the same as Female Genital Mutilation or not. They are both wrong. Cutting off a baby's pinky finger isn't the same as FGM, but it's just as wrong, too. My son is 26 years old. He called me a couple of weeks ago, and thanked me for NOT having him circumcised. Our (my wife's and my) reasoning was simple: we don't own our son's body. We were just caring for it until he was capable of doing so for himself. Therefore, we had no right to make permanent physical changes to his body for non-medical reasons. If, as an adult, he wants to be circumcised, he can do so. But, if we circumcised him, and he decided as an adult that he did NOT want to be circumcised, there would be nothing he could do about that. You can't "uncircumcise" yourself. People, even defenseless babies, own their own bodies. Finally, it is definitely NOT true that circumcision is not painful for babies. They scream vociferously, and struggle violently. That's why they have to be restrained for the "procedure" to be done. Every child has a right to arrive at adulthood with their bodies intact, unless there are valid medical reasons for making changes in it. YOUR religious beliefs do not give you the right to cut on SOMEONE ELSE'S body, not even your children. Male or female.

Helga Ganguly
Helga Ganguly1 years ago

No-If she dies,it may take a whole week to find a replacement. That's the big difference I suppose. The guy you are talking about-it would take a day.

Ireelvant Kommentaytr
Janez Novak1 years ago

Yes. It's no different than female circumcision.

Amandine S.
Past Member 2 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Mandi A.
Amanda Adams3 years ago

I'm not sure where I stand on this issue.. I guess I will decide if I ever have a son.. Thank you for the info though..

Lynn Mason
Lynn Mason3 years ago

Circumcision is a personal decision, meaning it's a decision that should only be made by the person who owns the penis. Elective circumcision of a child is highly immoral and unethical. Doctors take oaths to do no harm. Circumcision not only harms but kills. Mohels are not doctors. They don't even need a high school diploma to practice circumcision. Not to mention, many mohels practice oral suction (metzitzah bpeh), meaning they put their mouth on the baby's penis after they circumcise them while it's a raw and open wound. That's how many Jewish infants contract herpes and why several have died from it. Why is this still legal in America?

Joe R.
Joe R.3 years ago

This mutilation should be banned. All men should be able to make the decision for themselves.

Ellie Damann
.3 years ago

it should be required