A look into the many sides of the surgical procedure
Imagine this. You’re tied down to a table, and you can only move your head. A surgeon, wearing white, steps up next to you with a scalpel in his hand. His arm comes down and he begins to operate on you without providing painkillers. Sounds like torture, right? But for millions of infants each year, this is a reality.
I’m not talking about some ritual in a third-world country; circumcision is one of the most performed surgeries in the United States. Everyone knows someone affected by this practice. A brother, a cousin, a friend.
Maybe even yourself.
With this issue, the more research you do, the more you’re against the procedure.
Now, I would like to clarify something. The purpose of this isn't to make you feel bad about your body or for a previous decision you’ve made. I simply want to inform you about why this procedure isn’t necessary, why it’s unethical, and why you shouldn’t subject your future children to it.
Properties of the foreskin
A common misconception is that the foreskin is "just a bit of skin," but it is actually a highly-specialized organ with distinct properties, including:
Although the procedure is often described as quick and painless, a circumcision is a complicated process. The infant is restrained in a cricumstraint and the foreskin is ripped form the glans, which is necessary because the two are fused at birth. The next step depends on the method used, but the surgeon will usually place a clamp over the glans to protect it while the foreskin is crushed. Once the tissue dies, it is excised, leaving the newborn with an open would that takes about 10 days to heal.
Risks of the procedure
Every surgery, including circumcision, has risks. Although most of these are rare, they can still occur:
Without the foreskin, the penis develops differently than it would for an intact child, which can lead to permanent problems.
In a critique of the American Academy of Pediatrics 2012 Technical Report and Policy Statement on Male Circumcision, Morten Frisch and others debunked some of the claimed benefits of the procedure.
Other resources on medical concerns
According to a 2012 article on Forward.com, a newspaper geared towards American Jews, the national incidence of hospital circumcisions has been dropping for decades. At the time of publication, it was around 55%.
However, rates varied across the country. It was lowest in the west at 25%, and highest in the Midwest at 75%. Even within regions, there was a high degree of variability. Nevada had the lowest incidence in the nation at only 12%.
The locker room issue
Even in places where the procedure is performed more frequently, conformity is not a good reason to have a child circumcised. A 2012 study published in The Journal of Urology looked into how circumcision, or lack thereof, affects teasing in locker rooms.
According to the authors, only 10% of boys were teased in middle and high school locker rooms for penile appearance. Of these, 83% were teased for size. Assuming that the only other reason boys were teased was for circumcision status, a boy had an overall 1.7% chance of being laughed at for this reason.
Of these boys, half were teased for having a foreskin, and the other half were made fun of for not having one. Overall, this means that a boy had a less than 1% chance of being teased, regardless of whether or not he was circumcised.
Some parents say that their child needs the surgery so he matches his father, but unless a family is living in a nudist colony, differing circumcision statuses rarely matter. Hair, skin, and eye color, tattoos, and scars are much more visible differences.
It is also worth noting that the social forces that led to the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War, which were authorization, routinization, and dehumanization, allow circumcision to continue today. Read more about this by clicking here.
Other resources on social concerns
Circumcision in the Bible
Although the Old Testament of the Bible says that the procedure is a necessary covenant, the New Testament is sprinkled with verses that go against this idea. It's also worth noting that Biblical circumcision only required the removal of the foreskin that extended past the glans; this was changed when Jewish athletes tried to look intact like their Greek competitors.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Also worth noting, the Jewish people have developed an alternative to the practice. Instead, they can perform a Brit Shalom, which translates to “covenant of peace.” This naming ceremony involves no surgical operation.
Find out more at the following sites:
The child can't consent
Although parents can make choices in some cases for their children, this is not one of them. Circumcision is medically unnecessary when performed on infants, which makes it a cosmetic or social surgery. This would be similar to a parent wanting to give his or her child a nose job.
Even when parents want the surgery done for social or religious reasons, there is no way to know for sure that the child will hold the same beliefs. His religious beliefs could be different from those he was raised with, and he may not have a problem with nonconformity. Regardless of the man’s views as an adult, he has the right to make a decision that will change his body and sex life forever.
The procedure in unconstitutional
Another ethical issue with circumcision is that it is illegal to perform on girls. 18 U.S. Code § 116 makes it a federal crime to cut the genitals of a girl under the age of 18 without an explicit medical need, regardless of the personal beliefs of the parents. There are many forms of Female Genital Mutilation, but one of them involves excising the clitoral hood, which is the anatomical equivalent of the foreskin.
The 14th Amendment to the Constitution guarantees everyone the right to equal protection under the law, regardless of gender, age, race, sexual orientation, etc. Therefore, if it is illegal to remove a girl’s foreskin, it should be illegal to remove a boy’s.
According to a Stanford ethics page, the four basic principles of medical ethics are autonomy, justice, beneficence, and non-maleficence. The description of autonomy includes the following statement: “Requires that the patient have autonomy of thought, intention, and action when making decisions regarding health care procedures. Therefore, the decision-making process must be free of coercion or coaxing. In order for a patient to make a fully informed decision, she/he must understand all risks and benefits of the procedure and the likelihood of success…” Clearly, it is impossible for an infant to make a fully informed decision.