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Press Release: Having a Baby Boy? Get Ready for the Circumcision Sellers!

Media Contact:
Jeannie Ashford, Harrison Edwards PR
[email protected]
914.242.0010 x 3 (office) or 914.318.1568 (mobile)
 

A Groundbreaking Intact America Survey Finds Doctors, Nurses,
and Midwives Actively Solicit Moms to Have Their Sons Circumcised

 

78% of Mothers Had Their Sons Circumcised if Health Providers Asked,
Compared to Only 45% of Mothers Who Were Not Asked

 

“Doctors Tell Us They Circumcise Boys Only Because Parents Want It. This Survey Proves Otherwise”— Georganne Chapin, Executive Director, Intact America

 

(Tarrytown, New York—November 16, 2020) — A new study released by Intact America reveals that circumcision of baby boys is routinely and often aggressively pushed by physicians, nurses, and midwives, even if parents have not expressed interest in the procedure. Survey results, tabulated by Qualtrics, a widely used survey provider, show that new mothers are solicited eight times on average by health care professionals, “even though no medical society in the world, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommends surgically removing the foreskin of healthy baby boys,” said Georganne Chapin, executive director of Intact America, the nation’s largest advocacy organization seeking to end routine circumcision in the United States.

The Intact America 2020 survey is the first time researchers have shown the direct correlation between solicitation and an increased circumcision rate. Survey results indicate that solicitation increased circumcisions by 173%. Only 45% of new mothers circumcised their sons without being asked, compared to 78% of new mothers who had been solicited. New mothers agreed to the procedure after only one or two asks. Even a “soft sell,” such as giving the mother a consent form to perform the procedure, increased circumcisions by 137%.

Tellingly, the survey also found that 21% of mothers who agreed to allow their sons to be circumcised wished they had done more research on the topic, and 10% regretted their choice.

“For years, we’ve heard from parents, especially mothers, about having been pressured or coerced by doctors and nurses to circumcise their sons, but the impact and scope of solicitation has never been measured before,” said Chapin. “The survey shows solicitation directly and dramatically drives up the infant circumcision rate. Soliciting this unnecessary surgery has to end.”

Chapin continued, “Doctors tell us they circumcise boys only because parents want it, but this survey proves otherwise. Both doctors and nurses (including nurse midwives) give mothers the impression that circumcision is, if not necessary, ‘normal’ or desirable, so parents agree to permanently alter their sons’ genitals. But they don’t tell parents the whole story: that circumcision is painful, reduces sexual sensitivity for the man the baby will become, and can lead to lifelong trauma.”

About the Survey
Intact America worked with Qualtrics to send the circumcision solicitation survey to a national, random sample of 2,519 mothers who had given birth to a boy in the past four years. The survey defined “solicitation” as every time a physician, midwife, or nurse either verbally asked the mother if she wanted to circumcise her son; recommended she circumcise her son; told her that circumcision was required; handed her a circumcision consent form; or assumed (as perceived by the mother) that she wanted to circumcise her son.

Survey results (with a 3% margin of error) revealed numerous noteworthy facts:

  • 94% of mothers were solicited to have their baby boys circumcised.
  • 78% of mothers who were solicited agreed to have their sons circumcised.
  • 45% of mothers who had not been solicited allowed their sons to be circumcised.
  • “Soft sells,” such as being handed a consent form, increased circumcisions by 137%.
  • The average number of solicitations was 8.
  • Solicitation, in all forms, increased circumcisions by 173%.
  • 71% of mothers said they would have asked about circumcision without prompting.
  • 18% of mothers said they would not have thought to ask about circumcision.
  • 21% of mothers who agreed to having their sons circumcised said that they wish they had done more research.
  • 10% of mothers regretted their choice.
  • Physicians were responsible for 3 out of 5 solicitations; nurses and midwives were responsible for the remainder.

Why This Matters
Each year, an estimated 1.5 million baby boys are circumcised in American medical settings. Intact America estimates that if circumcision solicitations were to cease, 600,000 boys—and the men they will become—would be spared every year from the trauma and lifelong consequences of the procedure.

Chapin, an attorney with broad knowledge of health law and bioethics, believes that medical solicitation of infant male circumcision breaches several well-established ethical boundaries (see link) and the goal of health care equity.

Chapin said that Intact America will use the survey’s findings to mount a major campaign to halt the solicitation of circumcision by U.S. medical professionals, end public and private insurance payments for the procedure, and create an intact-informed society that is foreskin-positive and educated about the male genitalia.

“Instead of handing out consent forms, medical professionals should distribute educational materials on how to care for a baby’s intact penis,” Chapin said. “It’s so easy. Leave it alone and wash his penis like you do his fingers. His foreskin will retract in its own good time, by late puberty, if not before.”

The public is invited to begin its research into circumcision by visiting CircumcisionDebate.org, a companion site of IntactAmerica.org.

About Intact America
Intact America is the largest national advocacy group working to end involuntary child genital cutting in America and to ensure healthy sexual futures for all people. It does this by challenging social and sexual norms and empowering supporters and volunteers through advocacy and education. To learn more about the issues involved in the current conversation about newborn male circumcision, visit IntactAmerica.org and CircumcisionDebate.org, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Voices — Lawn Griffiths

Lawn Griffiths
I crossed the threshold of awareness that I had been circumcised when I was about 12. Running naked on the farm driveway was a second cousin, who was about 6. His penis was remarkably pointed and tubelike, yet somehow covered. I learned he and his brothers were not circumcised. I largely just left it at that until I was in graduate school at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., in 1971 when I came across the Gore Vidal novel, “Myra Breckinridge.”

When I got to chapter 22, I was convicted by words spread across a mere two pages. Myra started out, “Just as I expected, seventy-two per cent of the male students are circumcised. At Clem’s party, I had been reminded of the promiscuous way in which American doctors circumcise males in childhood, a practice I highly disapproved of, agreeing with that publisher who is forever advertising in the New York Times Book Review, a work which proves that circumcision in necessary for only a very few men. For the rest, it constitutes in the advertiser’s phrase, ‘a rape of the penis.’” Myra later states, “Today only the poor Boston Irish, the Midwestern Poles and Appalachian Southerners can be counted upon to be complete.”

There was that word – complete. I was not complete. My penis had been raped. What would I have looked like whole? What would it have felt like? So began years of personal research, saving articles and assuring myself that should I have a son or grandson, they would remain whole.

Years later, while cleaning my parents’ vacant house, I found the Des Moines hospital-issued receipt for my mother’s stay. The entire bill for her hospitalization in 1946 was $83. “Other charges: Twin baby boys – $10.” My foreskin was zipped off for a mere $5! What a rip-off!

So when our son was born in 1975, I made it clear again and again to hospital staff that our son was NOT to be circumcised. We had the same success when both of our children had sons. Our grandsons were spared. And a nephew and his wife took the same route with their two sons. Friends have credited me for the information they needed to keep new sons intact.

I had a 40-year daily newspaper career as a reporter, editor and columnist. In 1987, I interviewed a nurse from the group, “Nurses for the Rights of the Child,” based in Santa Fe, N.M. I wrote an article for my daily paper, but a senior editor “spiked” it (killed it from publication), claiming circumcision was a non-issue and such an article was inappropriate.

A few years later, when I was religion editor, I wrote a column that pointed out that Congress had outlawed female genital mutilation, and asked why the hypocrisy and a double standard? Why was it legal for males’ genitals to be cut, but illegal when done to females? I also wrote an editorial page column regarding Arizona health officials ending Medicare coverage for circumcisions, determining it was not essential medical care. The state became the seventh state in 2002 to do so.

With the arrival of social media, I wrote numerous commentaries and blog posts, and have fired off countless letters to hospitals and doctors. I have given formal talks. I own 40 books on circumcision and have many file drawers filled with materials. I wrote and published a novel in which circumcision is a key topic. In 1998, I joined a Phoenix-area NOCIRC/NORM group, whose men meet on alternate months to discuss circumcision issues and support each other in foreskin restoration. Both my twin and I have completed restoration, but we know we can never recover the specialized tissue long removed. For years, we have tabled at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Day at a Phoenix park where we engage the public about circumcision issues. I have taken part in demonstrations and often carry a sign that says, “Informed Parents Reject Circumcision.”

I have come to know many of the giants in the intactivist movement through writings and attending the International Symposia on Genital Integrity and Children’s Rights – those held in Seattle, Boulder and San Francisco. Intact America, co-sponsor of those gatherings, has given such new energy, resources and force to the cause, under the keen professional leadership of Georganne Chapin. At the 13th Symposium in Boulder in 2014, Marilyn Milos recognized me as one of about 35 “pioneers” of the Intactivist movement, and each of us got to address the conference briefly.

I have an Arizona personalized license plate (NOCIRCM) displayed on the child abuse prevention plate series carrying the words, “It shouldn’t hurt to be a child.” My truck carries six provocative bumper stickers, including one that reads, “Forced Circumcision is Sexual Assault.” When I look in my rear-view mirror, I am heartened by the fingers pointed to those messages. Drivers and passengers behind me then launch into conversations and often take cellphone pictures. It hopefully plants seeds in their minds that forced circumcision is wrong.

Lawn Griffiths

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Voices — Marci Eggers

There are such strong opinions on newborn circumcision. If the topic ever came up, which it did more often than one would think, there was usually negativity about intact boys. I didn’t have reason to worry about such things until I realized that I would someday have to make a decision on whether or not to circumcise.
Marci Eggers
Growing up, my grandmother had told me the story of my dad’s circumcision. She was 16 years old when she had him, and he was born tongue-tied. She scheduled an appointment to have the web of his tongue snipped. My grandmother was asked to sit in the lobby while they did the snip. When she got home, she noticed that there was blood in his diaper. She immediately took him back to the doctor and asked why he would be bleeding. The doctor explained that he had gone ahead and performed the circumcision to get it out of the way. The bleeding wouldn’t stop and my dad nearly died. My grandmother almost lost her baby due to a negligent doctor performing a procedure that wasn’t approved by her. Being young, she didn’t put up a fight, but she told me she never took my dad to that doctor again. Obviously, this story had a huge impact on my view of circumcision.

I found out I was having a boy in January of 2005. He was due to come in July, so we had some time to prepare for our bundle of joy. Right away, I had expressed to my husband that I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do. Thankfully, he didn’t argue. He just told me it was up to me. I decided I didn’t know enough about the procedure and why it was done. I got pamphlets and searched for answers on the internet. To make the research legit, I needed to explore all sides. I looked up websites that are for and websites that are against. Some examples I found of reasons why a person should do newborn circumcision are: it’s cleaner, to be like dad, to prevent penile cancer, to protect future partners from cervical cancer, to prevent UTI’s, and so on. I made sure to deeply research each claim I found. It has been determined that an intact person is not the cause of cervical cancer. It has also been proven that the foreskin is there to protect against UTI’s as long as it is not prematurely retracted. As for any other claim, I concluded they are all absurd! To think we will cut a body part off to be cleaner or look like a parent is unthinkable. In the end, I chose to leave my baby intact.

When I was about seven months along, some family came to help me prepare his nursery. During the decorating, they were telling me stories about when they were expecting, labor and delivery, bringing home newborns, etc. One family member told me that she had decided to get her baby cut because she wanted to protect his future wife from cervical cancer. I’ve heard her tell the story how her dad held the crying baby for hours disgusted that she could do such a thing. It was at this time that she asked what I was going to do. When she found out that I wasn’t planning on getting the procedure done on my baby, she made it her duty to try to change my mind, bombarding me with questions about why I thought it was a good idea. I explained to her that I had done my research and found that there is no medical reason to have this done. I think this may have offended her a little bit because she thought she did a good thing by doing this to her son. She immediately went downstairs, and asked my husband what he thought of the whole thing. Surely he would want the baby circumcised! When he told her he wished it had never been done to him, she couldn’t believe it. I felt bad for her because she truly thought she was doing the right thing, but I really feel sorry for the moms that are still doing this today. So many people just agree to it without ever getting all the details. I’ve advised every expecting mom in my life to at least do the research.

Even though I had been met with a huge amount of opposition to my choice, I stuck with my decision. I kept my baby with me in the hospital and reiterated many times that the procedure was NOT to be done. I had a fear that I would get the third degree, but shockingly enough, not one health official tried to persuade me. In fact, the pediatrician told me it was for the better. It was for the better.

Marci Eggers

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Voices — Sergio Serratto

When my first child was on the way, we met with the doctor for the usual checkups to make sure the pregnancy was going smoothly. In all those months, we never thought about circumcising the baby if it turned out to be a boy. At all. It never came up in our meetings with the doctor. She never asked if we were going to do it. Because it’s something I’d never consider, and I didn’t know it was a nearly-default procedure in this country, I didn’t give it much thought.

The day came to go to the hospital. It was about one in the morning. We were very nervous. I scrambled to get my phone ready to record the moment. The mother was in a lot of pain, and emotions were running high. My son was born around 4 a.m. After the doctor handed him over to the nurse to clean him, she turned to leave. On the way out of the room, she said, “You’re going to circumcise, right?” She didn’t ask me—she told me.

Without even thinking, I said yes. I really didn’t even hear her. She was so nonchalant, and I was so tired and full of emotion. But about two or three seconds later, I suddenly realized what she had asked and I said, “No! Circumcise? No!” She turned around and said, “What?” I held up my fingers like I was cutting the air with scissors. “No cutting!” I wanted to make sure she knew. “No, we’re not cutting, no!”

She said, “Oh, OK.” Her manner was that it was no big deal and everybody does it, but she didn’t try to talk me into it. I repeated myself another two times just to be clear. No, we’re not going to do it.

And they did not cut my son. But how many families who barely speak English might have had a different experience from ours? They go through the entire pregnancy and the checkups and the topic of circumcision never comes up once. Then right after the birth, when everyone is exhausted and overcome with emotion, they ask you if the baby will be circumcised, in a way that presumes the answer is yes. It would be very easy not to understand what is being asked in that moment—especially if you come from a culture where routine medical circumcision is unheard of.

You trust the doctor. You trust that her advice is sound. The moment the baby is born is no time to discuss circumcision for the first time. Perhaps the timing is no coincidence.

Until my son was born, and until I heard about Intact America, I didn’t realize how common circumcision is in this country. I grew up in South America, and circumcisions there are usually for religious reasons. When Georganne Chapin told me how widespread it is here, I couldn’t believe it.

Now I talk about it with basically everybody I know who is expecting a baby. I tell them to be careful because you don’t have to do it. And make sure you tell the doctor that you’re NOT going to do it—multiple times, if you have to.

Not everyone understands the urgency. So I like to use the analogy of fingernails: Why do we cut our fingernails? Because they grow and accumulate dirt. So why, I ask, don’t you pull them out? That way you don’t have to cut them anymore? It’s the same thing with a foreskin. If it gets dirty, wash it. Why would you remove a part of your body that is fine and is there for a reason?

I recently joined Intact America as a program manager after a number of years on Wall Street and then as a New York State Senate staffer. I took the Intact America job because I believe in what Intact America stands for, and what Intact America does. These are challenging times for any nonprofit to get the message out and raise support, but we need more people to be aware of what is happening to baby boys and the men they will grow up to be.

American culture blindly accepts circumcision as just another facet of a boy’s birth. We’re used to it, and most people don’t even think about it. I’m working to change that—so that when the time comes, without any doubt, parents can protect their child’s right to remain intact.

Sergio Serratto
Tarrytown, New York

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Pride 2020

Join Our Intactivist Pride Virtual Event!

Virtual pride event hosted by Intact America
Pride 2020 events have been cancelled around the country, but Intact America is making it easy for you to come out as a Proud Intactivist from the safety of your home. Here’s how:

Download and print your “PROUD INTACTIVIST” button (below). Cut it out and fill in your name. Then – after dressing in your best Pride regalia (or boring everyday outfit) – hold that sign up, smile, shoot a selfie, and send it to us at [email protected].

We’ll assemble the photos into an awesome online Pride celebration later in the Summer.

Remember, nobody ever changed the world by staying anonymous!

Virtual Intactivist Pride Event Button 2020

Click on the image to download the button PDF to print.

 

Voices — James F. Verrees, M.D., FACOG

A number of years ago, I remember delivering a baby boy, and the first thing the father asked me was, “When can he be circumcised”? The father seemed panicked. I’d never seen anything like it before. He truly seemed in an uproar that something was terribly wrong with his baby.

I told him that he would need to talk with the pediatrician.

In retrospect, I think I might have been more effective as a physician if I had replied, “You have a beautiful baby who only wants to love you and his mom. He is perfect.”

January 15, 2020 was a defining moment for me. I started a new Locums tenens (temporary) obstetrics job that day. While seated at the nurses’ station on Labor and Delivery, my body jarred at the sound of a most horrible screaming – a screech followed by the coughing sound of spittle and saliva choking a baby followed by more screaming. It was deafening. I looked at the nurse seated across from me and asked her, “What are they doing in there?” A “treatment” room was right around the corner.

The nurse replied, “They are circumcising him”.

I looked down at the ground and said, “This is just horrible. It is so unnecessary.”

More screaming and choking followed by crescendos of screeching and coughing came from around the corner. I felt sick.

The Nurse replied, “You are right”.

Shortly after that day, I began to hear a baby scream uncontrollably at night in my dreams. A horrible screaming and howling. Sometimes I hear myself say “No.” and at that point my legs jerk together and my arms also move and I wake up. Sometimes I wonder if the screaming that I hear is from the baby who was assaulted on January 15, or … is that me who I hear crying? Sometimes I have the sensation that I see bright lights, and my arms and legs suddenly cannot move. There is muffled talk, I am screaming and I have this sensation of terrific pain and more crying, but I can’t get away.

When I left this last assignment in Nevada, I remember visiting a new couple during postpartum rounds. They had their first baby the day prior. It was a truly enjoyable time as I didn’t have a clinic and could just sit and visit with the parents. They had a beautiful baby girl. I remember the father holding his daughter and seeing her move her hand up towards his face. The baby girl was making happy “cooing” sounds. The mother was looking from her bed at her daughter. Everything seemed right and beautiful. It really is an incredible sight to see, and on days like this I feel very lucky to be an obstetrician. At the same time, I thought to myself, “Why do people focus so much on circumcision when all their baby boys or girls want is to love their parents?” Their baby’s hands just want to touch their mother or father and give the parents love and be loved.

It all makes me very sad.

James F. Verrees, M.D., FACOG
Las Vegas, Nevada

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