INTACT AMERICA PUBLISHES AD IN WASHINGTON POST TO URGE PEDIATRICIANS TO PROTECT THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF ALL BABIES
– BOYS AND GIRLS ALIKE – FROM UNNECESSARY GENITAL SURGERY
OPEN LETTER TO TASK FORCE MEMBERS SAYS FAILING TO GIVE SAME PROTECTIONS TO BOYS AND GIRLS IS
“EXTRAORDINARY BETRAYAL” OF MEDICAL ETHICS, HUMAN RIGHTS
Tarrytown, NY—July 1, 2010
In the wake of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) short-lived call to amend the national ban on female genital cutting, Intact America – the largest organization championing all children’s human right to an intact body – published an open letter to an AAP Task Force on Circumcision calling on the medical organization to extend its protection to all children, including baby boys.
The AAP issued a new policy statement in April calling for a relaxation in the federal law banning all forms of female genital cutting to allow doctors to perform a “ritual nick” on the clitoris of young girls whose parents, for cultural reasons, might otherwise send them overseas for a more extensive and dangerous form of the surgery. Under pressure from Intact America and others, and in the face of proposed federal legislation (The Girls Protection Act, H.R. 5137) banning the taking of girls outside the country for the purpose of female genital cutting, the AAP withdrew its statement.
Georganne Chapin, founder and executive director of Intact America, welcomed the AAP’s retraction of its policy, but she noted that the Academy recognized that “many forms of female genital cutting are less extensive than the newborn male circumcision commonly practiced in the West.”
“Ultimately this is a gender equity issue – and therefore one of human rights,” reads the open letter to members of the AAP Task Force published as an ad in the July 1 issue of the Washington Post.
Intact America was formed to change the way America thinks and talks about neonatal male circumcision, an unnecessary surgery performed more than a million times a year for cultural or other non-medical reasons. The open letter says it is “an extraordinary betrayal” for the AAP to limit protection from genital cutting to girls only, despite its avowed commitment to “protect the health and well-being of all children.”
“At Intact America, we have focused our efforts on male circumcision, because we had felt there was consensus in law and common sense that female genital cutting was unacceptable in this country,” said Chapin. ”The AAP’s recent flip-flop on this issue shows us we were wrong. We are grateful that the AAP rescinded its call to allow a ‘ritual nick,’ but what were they thinking in the first place? We now call on them to apply the same concern for human rights to baby boys.”
At the same time it proposed, and then rescinded, a call to allow some forms of female genital cutting, an AAP task force is considering shifting its current neutral recommendation on neonatal male circumcision to one in favor of the surgery. This consideration comes despite the fact that no major medical authority in the world – not the AAP, not the Centers for Disease Control and not the American Medical Association, which currently describes the surgery as “non-therapeutic” – today recommends neonatal male circumcision.
The Task Force’s charge apparently arose after African studies of consenting adult men purportedly showed that circumcision may play a role in mitigating HIV transmission from women to men, but not men to women, and not men to men (still the most prevalent modality for sexual transmission of HIV in this country). Chapin noted that even if these studies’ results are valid for adults in poor countries with very high HIV prevalence, this has nothing to do with babies in the United States.
Because a principle of bioethics requires medical necessity and informed consent to justify something as invasive as surgery – and because neither can be present in neonatal male circumcision – the AAP has a high hill to climb to answer a simple question; Chapin said: “If it’s not right to cut the normal genitals of baby girls, how can it possibly be right to cut the normal genitals of baby boys?”