Many people believe that parents should be free to make any decision for their children whatsoever. However, there ARE limits to parental decision-making, and many of these are inscribed in law.
· It is illegal to tattoo a child, whether the child’s parent approves or not.
· Parents cannot force their minor children to go to work instead of going to school.
· Parents cannot consent to a neighbor having sexual relations with their minor sons or daughters.
In medicine, parental consent is valid only for the treatment of conditions that threaten the life or health of the child.
· Parents cannot ask a doctor to amputate a healthy finger or leg from their child, so he will “look like” a parent who lost a limb in an accident.
· Parents cannot ask for or consent to the removal of their child’s healthy teeth to prevent dental caries.
· Parents cannot consent to the amputation or reduction of their daughter’s genital labia or clitoris.
Routine male child genital cutting (circumcision), which permanently removes a boy’s healthy, normal foreskin, occupies a strange place in American medicine: Because of the power of both religion and the medical industry, it is allowed to continue with de facto legal status so long as a child’s parents consent to it.
There is growing recognition that this exception makes no sense and violates children’s basic human rights. Feel free to use this information as talking points, or to refute anybody who tells you that “circumcising a baby is the parents’ choice.” Working together, we can change the way America thinks about circumcision.