|CALLING THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS (AAP)
| by Georganne Chapin
Just about a year ago, after an article published in the journal Pediatrics called for minimizing painful medical procedures in children, Intact America launched a petition. As of last week, more than 12,000 people had signed that petition, demanding that the AAP tell its member pediatricians to “End the Pain,” and stop circumcising baby boys.
The petition and our demand were further bolstered by an odd piece published in the April 2016 issue of that same journal, Pediatrics, by pediatric urologist Andrew Freedman. If his name sounds familiar to you, perhaps it’s because Freedman, in addition to being a member of the AAP’s Circumcision Task Force that in 2012 published the Academy’s revised policy on the subject of foreskin removal, made headlines by openly talking about circumcising his own son on his parents’ (the boy’s grandparents’) kitchen table.
Freedman’s April 2016 statement sought to “clarify” the meaning of the 2012 Report’s “benefits outweigh the risks” position. According to Freedman, the report wasn’t really talking about the medical benefits of forced foreskin removal from babies who cannot consent, but rather the overall benefits, “given the role of the phallus in our culture….” What’s important, he says, is that parents who choose circumcision for their boys should have “access” to the procedure, in the form of third-party (Medicaid or private insurance) payment (to doctors and hospitals, of course).
Clearly, there’s a lot more we could say here. But for now, we want to thank those of you who signed the petition and tell you that, together with the 12,160 signatures, it’s been forwarded to Dr. Karen Remley, Chief Executive Officer of the AAP. You can see my letter to Dr. Remley below. We will keep you posted on the AAP’s response.
March 2, 2017
Karen Remley, MD, MBA, MPH, FAAP
The American Academy of Pediatrics
141 Northwest Point Boulevard
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007-1098
Dear Dr. Remley:
A year ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Fetus and Newborn and Section on Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine published “Prevention and Management of Procedural Pain in the Neonate: An Update” in the February 2016 issue of Pediatrics. The study prompted the AAP to call for hospitals to minimize the number of painful procedures performed on newborns.
Unfortunately, the AAP did not take the next logical step: acknowledging that the painful and medically unnecessary circumcision of baby boys should cease.
Today, Intact America is submitting to you a petition, signed by more than 11,000 men and women, asking the AAP to take that step and call for your members to stop circumcising baby boys.
For every signature we received, we know there are dozens of other Americans who believe that circumcision needlessly subjects our baby boys to excruciating pain and robs them of a part of their anatomy that is important to their future sexual health.
As the AAP itself acknowledges, routine circumcision is not medically necessary. (Source: “Should the Baby Be Circumcised?,” on the AAP’s HealthyChildren.org website.) Yet, the public perception persists that the AAP recommends the procedure—a perception refuted in a 2016 commentary by Andrew Freedman, MD, pediatric urologist and a member of the Circumcision Task Force that formulated the Academy’s 2012 statement.
“To many, especially in the lay press, [the 2012 AAP statement] was interpreted as moving the needle from a neutral stance… to being pro-circumcision,” Dr. Freedman wrote in, “The Circumcision Debate: Beyond Benefits and Risks,” published in the April 2016 Pediatrics. However, Dr. Freedman explained, the statement’s actual point was that “the procedure’s benefits justify access to this procedure for families who choose it.” (Emphasis added.)
Regarding infant circumcision, parental choice is determined more by culture than health concerns, Dr. Freedman further noted. “Most circumcisions are done due to religious and cultural tradition. In the West, although parents may use the conflicting medical literature to buttress their own beliefs and desires, for the most part, parents choose what they want for a wide variety of nonmedical reasons.”
The AAP should not be complicit in encouraging parents to make a cultural decision under the pretense of science. The AAP must publicly recognize, in an official communication, that an erroneous perception exists and that the AAP does not and has never recommended circumcision as a medical necessity. The AAP also must ask pediatricians to inform parents accordingly. We urge you to take such action.
We also ask that the AAP educate its member pediatricians about the role of the foreskin in (1) protecting the glans, and (2) sexual pleasure—two major benefits not acknowledged in the 2012 assessment of benefits and risks.
In addition, we ask that you correct the mistaken assertion in the 2012 Task Force Report that a boy’s foreskin will usually separate from the glans by 2-4 months of age; while expert opinion on the average age of spontaneous foreskin retraction varies wildly around the world, the AAP’s own HealthyChildren.org says, “Most boys will be able to retract their foreskins by the time they are 5 years old, yet others will not be able to until the teen years.” (The Pediatric Society of New Zealand says “by age 18”; the British Association of Urological Surgeons says “by age 10.” A Danish medical survey found the mean age of first foreskin retraction to be 10.4 years.)
We believe that your members should be advised that forcible retraction of a boy’s foreskin is never indicated, because the age of spontaneous retraction is variable and might not occur until late adolescence. It is important that the AAP correct the record, because many American health professionals are unfamiliar with the normal intact male penis, and believe that it is necessary to force separation of the foreskin from the glans —potentially causing boys extreme pain and—potentially—lasting physical damage.
Finally, as our enclosed petition demonstrates, we continue to ask you to tell pediatricians to end the pain, and stop circumcising baby boys.
Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and Intact America share a common goal – protecting the health and wellbeing of children. We can and should work together toward that goal.
Georganne Chapin, MPhil, JD
 Thorvaldsen MA, Meyhoff H. Patologisk eller fysiologisk fimose? [Phimosis: Pathological or physiological?] Ugeskr Læger. 2005;167(17):1858- 62.
by Georganne Chapin
“Movements are composed of people — people who are living their lives and who look up and say, ‘This is not fair, this is not right.’ They may have been struggling alone, in isolation for some time. But when they come together, and there’s a movement … that’s when you see change….”
As I was preparing to write the introduction to the Intact America December newsletter, I heard these words, spoken by Attorney General Loretta Lynch in an interview on MSNBC. Lynch was reflecting on progress made in civil rights and human rights in the United States — particularly for LGBTQ people and African Americans — over past decades, and on what yet remains to be done. Her words gave me enormous hope.
As 2016 comes to a close, I reflect upon both the progress that Intact America and the intactivist movement have made, and — inevitably — upon the work still left to do to guarantee boys and the men they will become the right to be free from forced genital surgery, The right to keep the whole, intact bodies they are born with.
Another year gone by means we are one year closer to reaching the tipping point — the point at which a critical number of Americans will have come to believe that the foreskin is natural. And valuable. And that nobody but its natural owner has the right to cut a boy’s or man’s or anybody else’s genitals.
Here is more of what AG Lynch said, when asked about the progress toward human rights.
- “History is bigger than just the electoral wheel…. And human rights are bigger than any Administration.”
- “History encompasses all of the change and the progress we’ve made….”
- “[History] is on the side of marginalized people who speak up for themselves, people who feel isolated and left out who speak up for themselves.”
With regard to the passing of legislation guaranteeing equal rights, Lynch emphasized: “… [The] movements came first. And the movements are composed of people — people who are living their lives and who look up and say, “This is not fair, this is not right.” They may have been struggling alone, in isolation for some time. But when they come together, and there’s a movement … that’s when you see change…”
Big change is in the air.
I am so thankful that people have come together to speak out and create this extraordinary movement. And I feel extraordinarily privileged to be a part of it. I wish all of you a happy holiday season, and offer you the gifts of hope, optimism, and confidence in our ability to change the way America thinks about circumcision.
Together, we will win.
by Georganne Chapin and David Grant
Sunday, June 26, Intact America will be rocking an awesome float at NYC Pride. As representatives of a movement that fights for boys’ rights to keep the bodies they were born with, we are proud to join with and be embraced by the LGBTQ community – a community that has fought for decades for the basic human right of ALL people to be who they are.
Circumcision is still a topic that too many Americans turn away from. Intact (or, as some still say, “uncircumcised”) penises are even more frightening. But, thanks to the intactivist movement, THIS IS CHANGING! For years, decades even, people working against the genital cutting of baby boys have been denied participation in baby fairs, children’s rights groups, even organizations that work to end female genital mutilation. But the LGBTQ community has welcomed us, because they understand what it’s like to be stigmatized, what it’s like to have one’s voice silenced or ignored for taking people out of their comfort zones, and what happens when you ask people to question what they’ve been taught (brainwashed?) into thinking is “normal.”
Intactivists have been welcomed in the NYC Pride March since we first asked to be included in 2006. It’s great, because unlike our protests against infant genital cutting, at Pride we can throw a big, informative party for the foreskin, and celebrate the right of every child – male, female or intersex – to keep and enjoy the whole body that nature gave them.
Pride 2015 was the first time that Intact America marched with a float. Decked with “Foreskin Pride” banners, music blasting, we were accompanied by intactivists from all walks of life and of all ages (little kids know right away, unfiltered, that cutting off part of a baby’s penis is NOT ok).
Even before we stepped off, other marchers and spectators came by to talk, to hear our message, and to tell us how happy they were to see somebody taking circumcision OUT OF THE CLOSET!! As we proceeded down Fifth Avenue and into Greenwich Village, we created quite a stir – remarkable, for an event already known to be outrageous. Jaws dropped as people along the parade route saw our #ForeskinPride banners and our “His Body His Rights” and “You Want to Cut Off What?!?” signs, and realized what we were championing. Intactivists who had marched in previous years felt a definite difference – more real curiosity, more openness, more acceptance, more LOVE from the crowd. And besides adding to the celebration, our volunteers gave away lots of fun stuff.
This year, we’ve got some new “schwag,” new messaging, and a lot of new graphics. Here’s our Pleasure Dude, debunking the myth of the foreskin causing health problems and telling the real story!
If you’re in or around New York City on Sunday, June 26, join us! We’ll be lining up on East 39th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues at 2 pm. Or give us a shout-out on the parade route. Help us celebrate #ForeskinPride, and everybody’s right to be whole, out, and proud!
And check out this year’s new handout – our 3″ x 5″ Faux Foreskin cards.
Let’s stop arguing about circumcision and begin teaching about it instead.
I floated this idea in “Changing Opinions Over the Changing Table,” a Huffington Post article published Christmas Eve (read the article here), and it seems a lot of people liked this approach. The article received 31 positive comments, 1,800 Facebook likes, 278 shares, and 100 pins on Pinterest.
So, we have to do something to educate relatives, friends, and pediatricians who continue to challenge mothers who want to protect their baby boys by leaving them intact. So, when challenged, I’m asking mothers to turn it into a teachable moment.
To quote the article:
“I know you would like to say, ‘How dare you tell me to butcher my baby! You don’t know anything!’
“But what if you said instead, ‘You know, I was pretty clueless about circumcision in the past, because it’s been the so-called normal thing to do in America. But I decided to get educated, and I’m so happy I did. Do you want to hear what I learned?’
One reader commented, “Thank you Huffington Post for having the guts to keep writing about this issue! Great suggestions, and reminder that at one time most of us ‘intactivists’ took for granted that circumcision was normal and necessary.”
The headlines have subsided, but Florida mother Heather Hironimus is in now in her seventh week of hiding to protect her son from his father, who wants to cut off the boy’s foreskin. A Palm Beach County judge has ordered her arrest. As Heather sat in captivity, just recently scores of intactivists gathered in Washington, DC to protest the removal of boys’ normal, healthy foreskins by U.S. physicians. A practice for decades accepted as the regular American thing to do has emerged as a landmark human rights concern.
Widely decried by physicians and ethicists throughout European and Commonwealth countries, circumcision is falling out of favor here as parents learn the facts. Meanwhile, as Denmark and other Scandinavian countries are considering whether to outlaw the surgery on minors altogether, U.S. physician organizations are redoubling their efforts to get the government to pay for it.
Adding to the mix are the ever-more-vehement voices of American men expressing outrage at having been robbed of their normal sexual anatomy – and their freedom of choice – when they were too young to consent.
April 5, 2015
In recent days, celebrity news has been aflutter with talk that Jimmy Kimmel “had surgery on his penis … twice!” Though we don’t know exactly when, it appears that as an adult Kimmel underwent two “horrible” operations to reopen his urethra when “it just kind of closed up on its own.”
What nobody’s saying is that Jimmy almost certainly experienced not two but three horrible penis surgeries. And the first one – his circumcision – was responsible for the other two.
Meatal stenosis, the narrowing of the penis’s opening, is one of the most common complications of circumcision. It can occur years or even decades later, because cutting off the foreskin disrupts the normal blood flow in the penis, causing it to atrophy and scar over time.Do we think that a well-informed guy like Kimmel didn’t do some research on what caused his ailment? If you Google “meatal stenosis,” you’ll see source after source confirming that the condition virtually never occurs in intact (i.e., “uncircumcised”) guys.
So I think Kimmel does know, and I think he’s sent us a sly thumbs-down message about circumcision. Check out the coincidental March 15 release of his special Obama edition of “Lie Witness News,” in which, after she supposedly fails to spot the lie about “the President’s newborn son Marcus,” a pretty young woman boldly tells parents: ”You don’t have to circumcise if you don’t want to.”
You go, girl! And, Jimmy, thanks for giving us a heads-up!