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.
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
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Related: A Case Against Circumcision