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IOTM – Audra “Ms Blu” Berger

Jazz Singer Audra ‘Ms. Blu’ Berger Adds #ForeskinPride to Her Repertoire

She Wowed Crowds at NYC Pride 2016 with Soulful Voice, Foreskin-Friendly Messages; Now, She’s Intact America’s Intactivist of the Month for August 2016

From 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington to ‘Bringing Foreskin Back’ Today

Tarrytown, NY—August 15, 2016

It was impossible to miss Intact America’s latest Intactivist of the Month in all her blue-festooned glory in the 2016 New York City Pride Parade on June 26. There she was, jazz singer, songwriter, and storyteller Ms. Blu, standing atop the Intact America float and singing her own foreskin-friendly lyrics to hit songs. (Watch video.)

With her bold, soulful, sexy voice, Ms. Blu’s words to the Donna Summer hit “Hot Stuff,” became “Looking for some foreskin, baby, this evening!” To Marky Mark’s punchy “Good Vibrations,” she added the lyric: “foreskin—it’s a great sensation!” Justin Timberlake may take credit for “SexyBack,” but Ms. Blu sang, “We’re Intact America, and we’re bringing foreskin back!”

Her brash courage and dedication to advancing human rights, forged in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and blazing now as brightly as ever, earned Ms. Blu (Audra Berger is her off-stage name) recognition as Intactivist of the Month by Intact America, the largest national organization advocating against involuntary circumcision of baby boys and a healthy sexual future for all people.

In 1963, when she was 13, she took her budding activism to the great March on Washington. To this day, she recalls an unforgettable experience.
“I kept singing the freedom songs on the bus and was so happy and free!” she says. “When we got to Washington, I remember it was early and the sun had not come up yet. It seemed like I just blinked and when I opened my eyes, people of every color and race and religion were all around me.”

She felt much of the same exhilaration at NYC Pride. “Throughout my life and career, I’ve never stopped believing in the power of music, lyrics and love to make the world a better place,” she says. Ms. Blu vows to return for the parade next year, and each year after that “for as long as it takes to assure all Americans the rights to an intact body.”
“It’s time for doctors, politicians, the uninformed, and religious leaders to stop trying to circumcise America! ‘We the People’ are all perfectly whole.”

About Intact America
Intact America is the largest national advocacy group working to end involuntary circumcision in America, and to ensure a healthy sexual future for all people. Intact America is based in Tarrytown, New York. For more information, visit Intact America at www.intactamerica.org, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Joint statement in response to the Canadian Paediatric Society

Joint Response from
Georganne Chapin, MPhil, JD
Executive Director, Intact America
and
Marilyn Fayre Milos, RN
Executive Director, National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers
to
The Canadian Paediatric Society’s 2015 Position Statement
on Newborn Male Circumcision1

Tarrytown, NY—October 2, 2015

On September 8, 2015, the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) released its new statement on Newborn Male Circumcision. Appearing three years following the American Academy of Pediatrics’ report on the same subject, and two years after announcing it was forthcoming, the statement’s expressed goal is to give “guidance to health care providers and up-to-date information for the parents of newborn boys, to enable them to make informed decisions regarding circumcision.”

On a positive note (and because to do otherwise would be unconscionable), we admire the CPS for acknowledging that routine circumcision of male infants and children is not medically necessary. The statement’s authors also acknowledge the protective and sensory function of the foreskin, and recognize that it is normal (i.e., not pathological) for the foreskin to be nonretractile in a male infant or child. Further, the CPS states that applicable law and bioethical principles require that medically unnecessary surgery be deferred until a person is old enough to choose for him- or herself. If only the CPS had stopped there.

However, in an obvious effort to appease those Canadian physicians and others who continue to advocate for (and carry out) the routine removal of boys’ genital tissue, the statement’s authors confuse the issue, contradict themselves, and put forth a hodgepodge of irrelevant and even fraudulent citations in the course of their obfuscation. The net effect reveals (1) the extraordinary dilemma in which North American physicians find themselves at a time when many of their European colleagues are calling for an outright ban on the circumcision of children, and (2) the CPS’s lack of a game plan (and courage) to end the practice.

This response, jointly prepared by Intact America (IA) and the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers (NOCIRC), highlights serious methodological and ethical problems in the CPS 2015 statement, and calls for that organization publicly acknowledge the errors, misleading information and outright dishonesty therein; to revoke, correct and reissue the document; and to follow the facts to their logical conclusion – a call for doctors to cease removing functional, protective genital tissue from children who cannot consent.

Full text available upon request.

 

Intact America and Attorneys for the Rights of the Child Respond to CDC’s Proposed Circumcision Guidelines

Tarrytown, NY—January 16, 2015

Joint Comment from Intact America and Attorneys for the Rights of the Child, submitted during the public comment period in Response to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “Recommendations for Providers Counseling Male Patients and Parents Regarding Male Circumcision and the Prevention of HIV Infection, STIs, and other Health Outcomes.”

The following comment was prepared jointly by Intact America and Attorneys for the Rights of the Child – both not-for-profit organizations dedicated to protecting children from medically unnecessary, disfiguring genital surgery to which they cannot consent. It has been slightly edited (for length and format) from the version posted on the CDC’s official comment page.

In compiling its proposed recommendations, the CDC has ignored the considerable and reputable literature from the fields of medicine, medical ethics, law, and human rights that calls into question the legitimacy of foreskin removal (circumcision) as a health care measure.

Recommendation #1 acknowledges that routine circumcision in the United States, though performed “medically,” is primarily a religious, social, cultural and cosmetic procedure. As such, and in the absence of a diagnosable pathology, the circumcision of infants and children, and the circumcision of any individual in the absence of truly informed consent by physicians who understand the normal male genitalia and the function and benefits of the foreskin, is unethical. The CDC fails to mention that numerous medical organizations, legislatures, physicians and ethicists from European and Commonwealth countries with sophisticated medical systems and lower rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, have criticized the American medical establishment for its cultural bias toward circumcision, for exaggerating the procedure’s benefits, and for ignoring and understating its risks and harms. The CDC also fails to acknowledge that even the merest pin prick of a minor girl’s genitals – whether motivated by religion, culture or aesthetic preference – violates federal laws against “female genital mutilation.” The United States Constitution guarantees equal treatment of females and males, and thus the circumcision of non-consenting male minors combined with the protection of female minors constitutes illegal discrimination. It also may constitute establishment of a religion in violation of the United States Constitution.

Recommendation #2 states that all sexually active adolescent and adult males need to use “other” (i.e., other than circumcision) “proven HIV and STI risk-reduction strategies….”

The question must then be asked: Why perform surgery at all?

Recommendation #3 fails to mention that there has been no systematic longitudinal study of the long-term harms and complications from neonatal circumcision – many of which doctors are not taught to recognize and some of which do not appear until later in life. Nor do the recommendations acknowledge that unnecessary surgery in itself causes harm.  As a California Appeals Court has stated, “Even if a surgery is executed flawlessly, if the surgery were unnecessary, the surgery in and of itself constitutes harm. Tortorella v. Castro, 140 Cal.App.4th 1, 43 Cal.Rptr.3d 853, Cal.App. 2 Dist. (2006)

Recommendation #4 fails to mention:

  • Urinary tract infections can be treated in boys, as in girls, with simple antibiotics rather than by the surgical removal of a normal healthy body part.
  • Balanitis and balanoposthitis are easily treatable with topical creams.
  • Penile cancer is extremely rare, and no medical organization (including the American Cancer Society) recommends circumcision as a preventive measure. The CDC’s reference to a “possibility” that circumcised males are less likely to experience prostate cancer is speculative and unproven and therefore its mention by the CDC as an argument for circumcision is inappropriate.
  • The CDC acknowledges that “the risk [of HIV and STIs] for any individual neonate, child or adolescent cannot be definitively defined at the time that a circumcision decision is made.” The CDC also shockingly fails to examine and weigh the immunological, protective, erogenous, and other functions of the tissue that is to be removed. Unknown risks and omitted harms cannot be meaningfully weighed against asserted benefits.Surrogate (i.e., parental) permission for a procedure on a child is only valid in the case of a serious or life-threatening disease or illness. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that the surrogate is limited to providing “informed permission for diagnosis and treatment of children.” American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Bioethics. Informed consent, parental permission, and assent in pediatric practice. Pediatrics 1995;95(2):314–7  Non-therapeutic child circumcision is neither diagnosis nor treatment and thus falls outside parental power to consent. A normal boy with a normal foreskin should never be a candidate for circumcision surgery.
  • Regarding “the timing of male circumcision,” the CDC’s recommendations inexplicably dismiss the important fact that infants are not at risk of STIs. The recommendations also mention the lower cost of neonatal circumcision as justification. This claim is irrelevant as any surgery is too expensive if unnecessary.
  • Regarding “complications,” mounting evidence indicates that both circumcised men and their partners experience sexual problems as a result of the male having had his foreskin permanently removed.
  • The AAP’s 2012 technical report on circumcision has been roundly criticized for reasons also applicable to the CDC recommendations: cultural bias, cherry-picking of evidence, repeatedly stating that benefits of circumcision outweigh its risks without providing evidence of the harms, and omitting information about the functions of the foreskin.

In sum, the CDC exaggerates the benefits of circumcision, minimizes its risks, utterly ignores the function and benefits of the foreskin, and blithely disregards critical ethical and legal questions regarding the rights of all children to enjoy their normal, natural sex organs.

Florida urologists warned not to circumcise four-year-old

INTACT AMERICA SENT LETTERS TO ALL FLORIDA UROLOGISTS
IN RESPONSE TO A RECENT CASE INVOLVING A BOY WHO
MIGHT BE CIRCUMCISED AGAINST HIS MOTHER’S WISHES.

Tarrytown, NY—January 15, 2015

Intact America, an organization that opposes the forced genital cutting of babies and children, sent letters this week to nearly one thousand urologist offices in the state of Florida. Cosigned by the executive directors of California-based Attorneys for the Rights of the Child and Seattle-based Doctors Opposing Circumcision, the letter requested that the urologists not circumcise the four-year-old boy.

The boy was caught in the middle of a dispute between his parents – the father who wants him to be circumcised, and the mother, of Boynton Beach, who opposes the circumcision on the grounds that her son is normal and healthy, and that the circumcision will put him at risk. According to court documents, the 4th District Court of Appeal (Case No. 4D14-1744) ruled against the mother, and allowed the father to pursue circumcision for his son, despite the fact that a pediatric urologist testified in court that the child is healthy and that the circumcision is not medically necessary.

On January 7, Intact America sent a certified letter to Dr. Charles E. Flack, the urologist who testified on behalf of the father, warning him to not circumcise the child. Similar letters were mailed this week in response to this court case to urologists licensed to practice in Florida cautioning them from carrying out this medically unnecessary surgery since the mother has gone on record as opposing the elective surgery.

Georganne Chapin, Executive Director of Intact America, stated: “In the absence of medical necessity, no one has the right to carry out permanently disfiguring medical procedures on a child. There is a groundswell of men protesting the fact that they were forcibly circumcised as children. Parents and doctors should take heed, and keep boys safe from risky surgery that removes healthy, normal sexual tissue and permanently damages their genitals.”

About Intact America:
Intact America is the leading organization dedicated to ending infant and child circumcision. With its membership of over 60,000 intactivists, Intact America works toward creating a world in which all people of all ages are protected from circumcision or any other permanent genital alteration inflicted on them without their informed consent. Its mission is to educate parents, doctors, nurses, and the American public that the foreskin is a normal, natural part of the human body, designed by nature to provide protection and pleasure.

Intact America is based in Tarrytown, N.Y. Visit Intact America at www.intactamerica.org, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Three Cheers for an Intact Future King!

On Monday, the news of England’s newborn male heir to the throne rippled across the world. Naturally, the first thing I thought was, “Thank goodness this boy has a good chance of keeping his foreskin!”

Now, before you launch a tirade against (or for) the British monarchy, let me say this: What you think of the monarchs is irrelevant. But this baby is famous, and if he keeps his foreskin, as we think he will, that’s NEWS!

Royal BabyMSN.com has posted an article on its website titled, “Whether the royal baby is getting the royal snip is our new obsession,” and the question is trending on Twitter, too. I’m thrilled that major media outlets are talking about the royal newborn’s foreskin in the same breath as the news of the birth itself.

Of course, the status of royal genitalia has made the news before. People lauded (and criticized) Diana for breaking with tradition (it is said that Queen Victoria had her boys circumcised) and leaving her two sons William and Harry intact. The paparazzi had a field day when Prince William was caught relieving himself on a soccer match’s sidelines in 2008, inadvertently showing the world he’s holding on to the full monty. (It should go without saying that the photos on that page are NSFW.) And now little Georgie’s genitals are the subject of public concern, in a way that’s far more benign than those of the other guy making the news, Anthony you-know-who.

Keep your fingers crossed, and send all good thoughts and vibes to those new parents. Let’s hope that in this case, “looking like Dad” will work out for all concerned.

Georganne Chapin

Intact America lauds European doctors and ethicists

INTACT AMERICA LAUDS DOCTORS, MEDICAL ETHICISTS FROM 17 COUNTRIES
FOR TELLING AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS TO STOP
CHAMPIONING NEONATAL MALE CIRCUMCISION

AAP REPORT RECEIVES FORMIDABLE TRANSATLANTIC CRITICISM
IN JOURNAL OF MEDICAL ETHICS AND ITS OWN PEDIATRICS JOURNAL

Tarrytown, NY—March 19, 2013

The American Academy of Pediatrics should be reeling today from two independent blasts of criticism from doctors and medical ethicists saying the AAP’s Task Force report last summer, which softened its opposition to routine neonatal male circumcision, is unsupported by scientific data or medical ethics.

Articles in the AAP’s own journal Pediatrics, and in a special issue of the British Journal of Medical Ethics, took the AAP to task for its report issued in August 2012 that stopped short of recommending in favor of circumcision, but called for public and private medical insurance to cover the costs for an unnecessary and inherently risky surgery performed more than a million times a year in the United States.

“It has become clear that the AAP, not those of us in the intactivist movement who have argued for years against the surgery, is an outlier in the discussion about the efficacy and necessity for male circumcision,” said Georganne Chapin, founder and executive director of Intact America (www.intactamerica.org), the leading voice for changing the way America thinks about circumcision.

“The AAP is more interested in its doctors getting paid for performing circumcisions than in protecting the bodily integrity and health of children. The same right to bodily integrity that led to the outlawing of female genital mutilation should extend to baby boys as well.”

The first barrage of criticism came from an article in the AAP’s journal Pediatrics, in which pediatricians and professional associations from 17 countries criticize the AAP Task Force report as riddled with bias and out of step with the increasing awareness among doctors and parents that routine infant circumcision is unnecessary and inherently risky. Circumcision rates in the United States continue to plummet, and have never exceeded 10 percent in most European countries.

“There is growing consensus … that physicians should discourage parents from circumcising their healthy infant boys because non-therapeutic circumcision of underage boys in Western societies has no compelling health benefits, causes postoperative pain, can have serious long-term consequences, constitutes a violation of the United Nations’ Declaration of the Rights of the Child, and conflicts with the Hippocratic oath: primum non nocere: First, do no harm,” wrote the 40 pediatricians, urologists, epidemiologists and other doctors who signed the article.

“Circumcision fails to meet the commonly accepted criteria for the justification of preventive medical procedures in children,” the doctors wrote.

A second flank of criticism came from the prominent British Journal of Medical Ethics, which dedicated a special issue to the ethics of infant and child circumcision.

An article in the ethics journal by Dr. Robert Van Howe, a Michigan medical school professor and pediatrician, and J. Steven Svoboda, head of the Berkeley-based Attorneys for the Rights of the Child, states: “Rather than objectively evaluating all available evidence, the AAP selectively quotes and references highly-contested and controversial studies to attempt to justify an entrenched, yet outmoded, cultural—not medical— practice.”

These authors cite comments by Oxford University ethicist Brian D. Earp, who described last summer’s AAP report as “replete with non-sequiturs, self-contradiction and blatant cherry-picking of essential evidence” in an attempt to justify a call for government-backed medical insurance to cover the surgery.

The multi-authored international article published in the journal Pediatrics systematically considered and rejected the variety of medical reasons the AAP task force attempted to use to justify its position.

  • The AAP report claimed circumcision could cut down on cases of penile cancer, one of the rarest forms of cancer, but the international physicians’ response noted that penile cancer linked to the human papillomaviruses is treatable if diagnosed early, and can be prevented through condom use or prophylactic vaccination. There is “no compelling reason” to remove healthy functioning tissue from the penis of a baby boy to prevent such a rare and treatable disease.
  • The AAP report claimed circumcision can cut down on cases of urinary tract infection. The international physicians note that UTIs can be treated with means far less drastic and risky than the removal of healthy tissue.
  • The AAP report claimed circumcision can cut down on cases of sexually-transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. The international physicians point out that the AAP is relying on findings from disputed African studies of sexually active, adult heterosexual men—“findings … not in line with the fact that the United States combines a high prevalence of STDs and HIV infections with a high percentage of routine circumcisions.” Further, “The situation in most European countries is precisely the reverse: low circumcision rates combined with low HIV and STD rates. Therefore, other factors seem to play a more important role … than circumcision status.”

The international physicians argue repeatedly that boys should be allowed to decide for themselves, when they are of an age to do so, whether to permanently alter their bodies to seek a level of protection against diseases for which there are less drastic, more effective preventive strategies.

In a response to the critique by the international physicians, published in the same issue of Pediatrics, the authors of the AAP Task Force report—which included members already on record as favoring the surgery—repeated their contention that infant circumcision is justifiable from a scientific standpoint and labeled the physicians’ response as biased against circumcision. They go on to restate their position that parental consent is satisfactory for this medically unnecessary intervention.

“It is rather astonishing,” Intact America’s Chapin said, “that a predisposition to the natural male body—a product of millions of years of evolution—should be seen as a ‘bias’; it is equally astonishing that the AAP continues to insist that parents have chattel rights over their male offspring, when the entire framework of international human rights law deems otherwise.”

 

Intact America is based in Tarrytown, N.Y. Visit Intact America at www.intactamerica.org, on Facebook, and on Twitter.