The debate over whether routine circumcision of baby boys being either hygienic, safe or brutal and medically unnecessary continues in San Francisco. This November, residents will vote if the procedure shall be continued.
Circumcision is an age old practice that has been practiced by Muslims and Jews and has trended in and out for reasons of religion, hygiene, societal norms and beliefs about masculinity. Most men in the United States are circumcised. Most men worldwide, however, are not.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics there are both benefits and risks. The AAP recommends that parents should be provided with all the information necessary to make an informed decision. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not yet released its recommendations regarding the practice.
Male circumcision has often been, and remains, the subject of controversy on a number of grounds - including religious, ethical, sexual, and health, many claim circumcision to be unnecessary and refer to it as mutilation.
Georganne Chapin is the founder of an organization against circumcision wrote, “My argument against circumcision of children and infants is no more and no less than that it's a human rights issue…All people, male as well as female, are entitled to bodily integrity, and nobody — for any reason — has the right to cut off part of another person's body when that person is too young to understand and to consent.” She also addresses the sexual issues. “[The foreskin] contains thousands of nerve endings, and if you’re cutting off such an exquisitely sensitive body part you’re going to lose sexual sensitivity. During intercourse, the foreskin also provides a natural gliding action and a lubricating function that’s lost if the person is circumcised.” Chapin compares circumcision to female genital mutilation, which has already been banned in the U.S. ”In this country, we’ve made female genital cutting a crime and grounds for refugee status, but we do the same thing to boys that other cultures do to girls. Those in favor of male circumcision say that one is mutilation and the other is helpful, but the act of cutting off part of a child’s genitals is the same, whether it’s a boy or a girl.”
Daniel Halperin of the Harvard School of Public Health in reply wrote, “Circumcision provides a number of health benefits. It reduces the risk of HIV and penile cancer in men. It also reduces the risk of several other sexually transmitted infections in both men and women, including syphilis and herpes, and of cervical cancer in women. Urinary tract infections in infants are about 10 times less likely if the boy has been circumcised.” He added, “The risks associated with circumcision are very low, with fewer than 1% of procedures resulting in complications.”
San Francisco City Attorney's Office has ruled that the proposed referendum is unconstitutional and has joined a legal effort to have it removed from the ballot. The Attorney's office is concerned that the law is aimed at religious practices, since the city cannot outlaw medical procedures.