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Voices – Cassie Parks

My son Jude is a victim of forced retraction, a terrifying experience that I witnessed and will never forget. It’s taken me almost two years to talk about this, but if I can help even one little boy by telling our story, it’s worth it.

Jude is two years old. When he was about two months old, he was vomiting and had diarrhea, and my mom and I took him to the pediatrician. He was pretty sick and the doctor wanted to rule out anything serious, so he referred us to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta for tests. During the appointment, medical personnel were prepping him for routine tests while I answered questions related to his condition with another staff member across the room.

That’s when I heard him scream. To this day I’ve never heard him scream like that. I went over to him and I will never get that sight out of my head. A nurse had forcibly retracted Jude’s foreskin to get a urine sample, and I could see his entire glans. It was all purple and swollen and there was a little bit of blood. it was so terrifying.

I said, “You’re not supposed to retract him. This is not supposed to be happening.” She said, “No, you’re supposed to be retracting him at every diaper change. “I knew retraction was wrong, but I wasn’t as educated as I am now about how it all worked, and I didn’t have the facts in my head ready to counter their claims.

I knew forced retraction does happen, but it didn’t occur to me that it could happen in a children’s hospital. It wasn’t even in my head space. It’s one of those things you don’t think will ever happen to you or your loved ones.

When they gave him a pacifier with sugar water in it to calm him down, that broke me a little bit. I had never given him a pacifier. I’m supposed to be his comfort, not a pacifier. I started to hyperventilate and had to step out of the room to get myself together. I couldn’t pick him up. I couldn’t do anything for him.

A while later, a nurse supervisor came to talk to me. She was almost judgmental that we hadn’t circumcised Jude. She told me that I should be retracting his foreskin or I would cause him problems. My mom told her they had instead just opened him up to infection. When it was clear our conversation was going nowhere, she asked if I wanted to talk to the doctor about it. I said no, and when he came back in with the test results, he wasn’t at all concerned.

Jude was in pain for a couple of weeks. For a good week after it happened, I had to set him in the sink with water in it when he peed because he cried every time. It was so sad and he was so pitiful. When I put him in the car seat, the pressure from the buckle hurt him. I cried about it for weeks afterwards. It triggered postpartum depression.

When we were at the hospital, I had googled some facts about the dangers of forced retraction. That’s when I found David Llewellyn, an intactivist lawyer in Atlanta, where I live. He has dedicated his career to ending circumcision and forced retraction. It’s not easy to take on these cases here because no one questions these practices.

Through him we filed suit for battery, nursing malpractice and intentional infliction of emotional distress. We proposed a settlement that would, among other things, require the hospital to institute proper protocols for care. To my husband and me, that is the whole point of the suit. The hospital didn’t agree to those terms, so the case will be going to trial.

I’ve found support among new friends in the intactivist movement – in Your Whole Baby and other mom groups on Facebook, and from Intact America. I’m a really introverted person, and speaking out is hard. But I never want another mother to feel like I did. I’m also shocked at how many people have told me they wish they hadn’t had their sons circumcised.

So I’ve started planting seeds in conversations. It’s kind of an internal battle, building up the courage to say something. But it does feel good when people receive the message and open up their minds a bit. Most people say they hadn’t even thought about it. Sometimes they don’t say anything, and that’s OK. Even a few thoughtful words or a passing comment can be powerful, and they’ll remember it later.

I’ve been afraid of being perceived as a “crazy penis mom.” Now I’m at the point of being OK with that. I’m an advocate. It has pushed me out of my comfort zone—but that’s kind of what motherhood is.

—Cassie Parks

Interested in lending your voice? Send an email to [email protected], giving us a brief summary of what you would like to write about, and we will get back to you.



Marilyn Fayre Milos, multiple award winner for her humanitarian work to end routine infant circumcision in the United States and advocating for the rights of infants and children to genital autonomy, has written a warm and compelling memoir of her path to becoming “the founding mother of the intactivist movement.” Needing to support her family as a single mother in the early sixties, Milos taught banjo—having learned to play from Jerry Garcia (later of The Grateful Dead)—and worked as an assistant to comedian and social critic Lenny Bruce, typing out the content of his shows and transcribing court proceedings of his trials for obscenity. After Lenny’s death, she found her voice as an activist as part of the counterculture revolution, living in Haight Ashbury in San Francisco during the 1967 Summer of Love, and honed her organizational skills by creating an alternative education open classroom (still operating) in Marin County. 

After witnessing the pain and trauma of the circumcision of a newborn baby boy when she was a nursing student at Marin College, Milos learned everything she could about why infants were subjected to such brutal surgery. The more she read and discovered, the more convinced she became that circumcision had no medical benefits. As a nurse on the obstetrical unit at Marin General Hospital, she committed to making sure parents understood what circumcision entailed before signing a consent form. Considered an agitator and forced to resign in 1985, she co-founded NOCIRC (National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers) and began organizing international symposia on circumcision, genital autonomy, and human rights. Milos edited and published the proceedings from the above-mentioned symposia and has written numerous articles in her quest to end circumcision and protect children’s bodily integrity. She currently serves on the board of directors of Intact America.


Georganne Chapin is a healthcare expert, attorney, social justice advocate, and founding executive director of Intact America, the nation’s most influential organization opposing the U.S. medical industry’s penchant for surgically altering the genitals of male children (“circumcision”). Under her leadership, Intact America has definitively documented tactics used by U.S. doctors and healthcare facilities to pathologize the male foreskin, pressure parents into circumcising their sons, and forcibly retract the foreskins of intact boys, creating potentially lifelong, iatrogenic harm. 

Chapin holds a BA in Anthropology from Barnard College, and a Master’s degree in Sociomedical Sciences from Columbia University. For 25 years, she served as president and chief executive officer of Hudson Health Plan, a nonprofit Medicaid insurer in New York’s Hudson Valley. Mid-career, she enrolled in an evening law program, where she explored the legal and ethical issues underlying routine male circumcision, a subject that had interested her since witnessing the aftermath of the surgery conducted on her younger brother. She received her Juris Doctor degree from Pace University School of Law in 2003, and was subsequently admitted to the New York Bar. As an adjunct professor, she taught Bioethics and Medicaid and Disability Law at Pace, and Bioethics in Dominican College’s doctoral program for advanced practice nurses.

In 2004, Chapin founded the nonprofit Hudson Center for Health Equity and Quality, a company that designs software and provides consulting services designed to reduce administrative complexities, streamline and integrate data collection and reporting, and enhance access to care for those in need. In 2008, she co-founded Intact America.

Chapin has published many articles and op-ed essays, and has been interviewed on local, national and international television, radio and podcasts about ways the U.S. healthcare system prioritizes profits over people’s basic needs. She cites routine (nontherapeutic) infant circumcision as a prime example of a practice that wastes money and harms boys and the men they will become. This Penis Business: A Memoir is her first book.