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Should San Francisco Ban Circumcision?

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

Read more: Babies, Body Image, Children, Guidance, Health, Inspiration, News & Issues, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the†Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of†Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself.† She is on a grassroots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself.† Lissa blogs at† and also created two online communities -† and† She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.


+ add your own
10:54AM PDT on May 20, 2015

Thanks Lissa.

4:08PM PST on Nov 25, 2014

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.

1:26AM PST on Mar 8, 2014


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.

8:16PM PST on Mar 7, 2014

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.

3:14PM PST on Jan 2, 2014

Yes. It's no different than female circumcision.

5:04AM PDT on Oct 18, 2013

Thanks for the article.

2:14PM PDT on May 16, 2012

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..

2:07PM PDT on May 16, 2012

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?

6:48AM PST on Feb 4, 2012

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

2:47PM PST on Nov 30, 2011

it should be required

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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