Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Don't Cut Off Your Newborn's Penis


This op-ed ran in the Ashland Daily Tidings a few weeks ago. Our stance on circumcision is definitive: it's an unnecessary procedure that has no proven medical benefits and it is not something any dad should decide to do to his newborn. If a boy wants to decide to cut off his foreskin as a sexually active adult, we should leave that decision up to him.

Keep America's baby boys intact
By Jennifer Margulis
Guest opinion
August 26, 2009

On Tuesday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention held a meeting in Atlanta as part of a four-day conference on HIV prevention to discuss how to urge non-circumcising communities in American to circumcise. At the same time, the American Academy of Pediatrics, which has long remained neutral on the subject, is currently revising its guidelines in favor of circumcision. Growing up Jewish in America, I never questioned circumcision. But now, after having children and seeing how grown men in my life continue to suffer psychologically because of a procedure done to them as infants, I've come to believe that circumcision is not only unnecessary, it's a painful and traumatizing procedure that should not be done in infancy, if at all.

Deciding whether to circumcise is a decision that every American parent of a boy faces, though the majority simply choose to follow the doctor or hospital's recommendation.

According to an Aug. 24 article in the New York Times, approximately 79 percent of all adult American males are circumcised. According to Intact America, a nonprofit organization trying to stop routine circumcision in America, circumcision is the most common surgery performed in America and it happens to more than 1 million newborns a year, more than 3,000 times a day, or once every 26 seconds.

Before my brother Zach's wife gave birth to their third child, I started receiving frantic emails from a 28-year-old male relative whom I'll call J. "Do you know if they are planning to circumcise?" J. wrote me. "Could you find out about it? Could you tell them not to? Could you talk to them?" As the due date approached, the messages become increasingly desperate, as if J. felt that circumcision were a matter of life and death. At the same time, J. was ashamed for being so worried. He asked not to tell anyone that he was inquiring; he said he felt embarrassed and couldn't talk to my brother directly. He begged me not to mention to his mother, especially, how worried he felt about Zach's baby.

J. himself is circumcised. Circumcision is part of my family's cultural heritage. All of my relatives, including my father, my uncles and my grandfathers, have been circumcised. In the Bible, God actually commands Abraham to circumcise his male descendants. Practicing Jews hold what is usually a festive ceremony, called a bris, on the eighth day of a boy's life during which his foreskin is removed either by a doctor or a mohel, a rabbi trained in circumcision. Even in countries where circumcision is not the a norm, the majority of Jews choose to circumcise.

Yet it is not for traditional reasons that health officials want to see an upswing in American circumcisions. Recent health studies in Africa suggest that circumcised heterosexual men are less likely to get an HIV infection than their non-circumcised counterparts. Circumcision proponents also argue that urinary tract infections are less likely among circumcised men, and that it is necessary for cleanliness. They discount the pain involved in the procedure and argue that it creates no lasting damage.

Those in favor of circumcision for medical reasons are wrong. First of all, the procedure is painful, even with the administration of anesthesia. Anyone who has ever witnessed a circumcision (you can watch one on the internet if you don't believe me) and heard the high-pitched scream of a newborn having the tip of his penis cut off knows that this surgery causes terrible pain. For the week that the cut is healing, a baby is peeing and defecating on a raw, open wound. Circumcision is also dangerous. Just this past March a jury in Atlanta awarded $1.8 million in damages to a boy's parents after a seriously botched circumcision.

It's also a procedure that causes lasting regret in some grown men. J. feels so badly about being circumcised that he is on a campaign to stop all of us having children from circumcising. Other men I know wish their parents gave them the option to choose instead of forcing them to undergo a painful procedure as one of their earliest life experiences. If there really is a correlation between circumcision and HIV prevention, then we should let adult men choose to have the procedure done once they are sexually active.

My brother's baby turned out to be a girl. But my own son is not circumcised and if the baby I am carrying now, due in October, is a boy he will not be either. Forced circumcision of newborns is wrong. Let's not impose trauma on newborns and instead give adult men the right to choose.

Jennifer Margulis is a professional writer and the co-author of "The Baby Bonding Book For Dads." Read more about her at www.jennifermargulis.net.

11 comments:

DrMomma said...

Thank you for speaking up on behalf of babies everywhere and for electing to voice truth in the midst of a sometimes myth-filled society.

Noodle said...

I have to disagree with you. I believe it should be a decision between the parents and that no one should force that decision on them. Just because you don't agree with, does not mean you should dictate whether or not my child receives this procedure.

I am cicrumsized and very glad that I was when I first born. If there is pain, I do not remember it. It was not a pain that changed my life or tramatized me in any way. I would much rather NOT wait until I was older to have this procedure... I certainly would remember it then.

My boy was just circumcised yesterday. He came to my arms sound asleep after the procedure. Not once has he cried unexplainably since then. (If so, we could assume that it was from pain). If something is THAT painful, don' you think it would be a lingering pain? Don't you think he would be complaining about it for at least the first 24 hours?

Vaginal childbirth itself is very painful for the baby... maybe you think we should do c-sections on all births so baby doesn't haven't endure labor?

If doctors are giving the wrong info to parents to persuade them to get the procedure, I agree that that is wrong. Parents should make the decision based on facts. But they SHOULD NOT be denied the opportunity just because you don't like it.

Anonymous said...

Noodle - are the parents affected by their child's circumcision status?

No, of course they're not.

The child, and the man he will grow up to be, must live with the result of his parents' decision. He might not have made the same decision himself.

You thank your parents, but many men do not. Families have been torn apart over less.

Studies have recently shown (from circumcision taking place under MRI) that the brain is permanently changed by the effect of circumcision.

Many people mistakenly believe that their baby boy has "slept through" the procedure, when in fact many of them have gone into shock, or withdrawal from the pain.

Your comparison with natural birth is not a prudent one. Natural birth is, as the name suggests, natural. It is meant to take place. The human form, including the human baby, has evolved to be capable of birth.

The human form has not evolved to have its glans penis and prepuce forcilby separated, then have 20,000 nerve endings cut off. The human form has not evolved to be subjected to intense pain in the first days of life.

Parents should be denied the opportunity to permanently alter their sons bodies for the same reason they are denied the opportunity to alter their daughters' bodies.

Not because some people don't like it, but because every human has a right to their own body. That person, and that person alone, ought to be able to make irreversible changes to their own body.

If you had an adult brother who was left natural, and were his medical proxy while he was comatose for some reason, would you think it acceptable for you to have him circumcised? If not, why not?

And if you wouldn't do this to an adult man to whom you were related, why would you do it to a defenseless infant to whom you are related?

Anonymous said...

Noodle he wasn't sleeping, it's called Neurogenic shock, he had withdrawn from the horrible pain of having part of his body cut off. Look it up.

tdh said...

to noodle, vaginal birth is natural, as is being born with foreskin. neither natural event need involve a knife. it should not be a decision for parents to make...it is the baby's penis, so he should have the right to choose when he is at an appropriate age. should parents be allowed to genitally mutilate their daughters? i am sure your answer here is "no". why should there be any difference?

Lawn said...

Those who hold steadfast to perpetuating circumcision do not confront the fundamental and universal human right to self-determination and right to be safe in one's own body. There's no getting around the fact that no well-meaning parent has authority to picking body parts he/she doesn't like on a child and have them removed. Circumcision has been so discredited, and its defenders need to step back and recognize we should not be excising healthy body parts from the helpless and unconsenting.

Lawn said...

Those who hold steadfast to perpetuating circumcision do not confront the fundamental and universal human right to self-determination and right to be safe in one's own body. There's no getting around the fact that no well-meaning parent has authority to picking body parts he/she doesn't like on a child and have them removed. Circumcision has been so discredited, and its defenders need to step back and recognize we should not be excising healthy body parts from the helpless and unconsenting.

Anonymous said...

I stand up for what Noodle said. The rest of you are a bunch of hippies or vegans who have no backbone and should worry about larger problems in life rather worrying about some baby dicks. I'm circumcised and so happy that my parents made that decision for me so I don't have to endure that pain now and remember it. t(-.-t) Little something for you all against Noodle and downing someone else's beliefs.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately Noodle and the other A-hole that posted their comments about pro genital mutilation will probably not check back to read this post. However if you were standing next to me, I would beat your face violently until blood started to ooze from your openings! Why? Because apparently you believe in harming others human beings for absolutely no cause whatsoever. You both are true A-holes and deserve great pain, I would love to do the honors! You are both so psychologically scared from your own mutilations that you will never be able to admit your true inner pain, not to yourself and definitely never to others, any attempts would be evident. You thrive on watching others become victims as your source of inner medicine. You also have no idea how proper sexual intercourse is suppose to take place with the proper deep gliding motion of the penile skin (foreskin). This allows fluidic motion, greater clitoral contact, vaginal lubrication stays in the vagina where it is suppose to be and more control for the intact male. Instead you most likely thrust violently at some unfortunate women's vagina like most mutilated males, dry out their vaginal secretions, reach for some KY Jelly, and then finish before she's even close to satisfied. Pat yourself on the back morons, and don't even try to figure it out, you're obviously far to ignorant to ever understand nature as God designed it to be. If your wife is lucky, she'll work up the courage and leave your stupid ass. You are exactly the A-holes that keep America behind and ignorant. Circumcision is not even a proper word, it is a cover up word that historians, government, and medical personnel misuse and have misused to cover up the wrongful use of mutilation to produce a monetary profit! Mutilation actually increases the risk of all STD's if studies weren't skewed to show otherwise. The lack of moving skin, (foreskin) again causes tiny micro tears in penile skin which actually allows pathology to enter the blood stream. Outrageous! It would be identically insane to perform breast implants on a female baby to avoid the need for it later in life, or because a large percentage of the population finds it attractive for various reasons and unite together claiming that it is a correct a proper procedure. Far before Jesus ever came, (and yes mistakes were made back when Jesus was alive) God designed our bodies in their entirety, constructed and continues to construct our bodies in the womb, and gives life exactly the way he intends it to be. He has never and will never make mistakes in his divine design, not in the male body and not in the female body. Anybody including the ignorant Jews who believe otherwise are slapping God directly in the face! Shame on all of you sinners. You are claiming that God makes mistakes and doesn't know what he is doing. He will correct you one day, and you will be forced to listen. Your ignorance and evil is unfortunately contagious. I feel sorry for the innocent and for God, ashamed he must be.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately Noodle and the other A-hole that posted their comments about pro genital mutilation will probably not check back to read this post. However if you were standing next to me, I would beat your face violently until blood started to ooze from your openings! Why? Because apparently you believe in harming others human beings for absolutely no cause whatsoever. You both are true A-holes and deserve great pain, I would love to do the honors! You are both so psychologically scared from your own mutilations that you will never be able to admit your true inner pain, not to yourself and definitely never to others, any attempts would be evident. You thrive on watching others become victims as your source of inner medicine. You also have no idea how proper sexual intercourse is suppose to take place with the proper deep gliding motion of the penile skin (foreskin). This allows fluidic motion, greater clitoral contact, vaginal lubrication stays in the vagina where it is suppose to be and more control for the intact male. Instead you most likely thrust violently at some unfortunate women's vagina like most mutilated males, dry out their vaginal secretions, reach for some KY Jelly, and then finish before she's even close to satisfied. Pat yourself on the back morons, and don't even try to figure it out, you're obviously far to ignorant to ever understand nature as God designed it to be. If your wife is lucky, she'll work up the courage and leave your stupid ass. You are exactly the A-holes that keep America behind and ignorant. Circumcision is not even a proper word, it is a cover up word that historians, government, and medical personnel misuse and have misused to cover up the wrongful use of mutilation to produce a monetary profit! Mutilation actually increases the risk of all STD's if studies weren't skewed to show otherwise. The lack of moving skin, (foreskin) again causes tiny micro tears in penile skin which actually allows pathology to enter the blood stream. Outrageous! It would be identically insane to perform breast implants on a female baby to avoid the need for it later in life, or because a large percentage of the population finds it attractive for various reasons and unite together claiming that it is a correct a proper procedure. Far before Jesus ever came, (and yes mistakes were made back when Jesus was alive) God designed our bodies in their entirety, constructed and continues to construct our bodies in the womb, and gives life exactly the way he intends it to be. He has never and will never make mistakes in his divine design, not in the male body and not in the female body. Anybody including the ignorant Jews who believe otherwise are slapping God directly in the face! Shame on all of you sinners. You are claiming that God makes mistakes and doesn't know what he is doing. He will correct you one day, and you will be forced to listen. Your ignorance and evil is unfortunately contagious. I feel sorry for the innocent and for God, ashamed he must be.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I'm not even going to try to correct you on that. I'll just let you stay ignorant.