Everything about my son’s birth was great. Except for one thing that keeps bugging me. Even though we knew early on that we’d keep him intact, people kept asking us if we wanted to circumcise him. I told my OB/GYN we didn’t want to, but on the next visit she asked. In the hospital, just about every nurse asked me even though our choice was written on my chart. This happened over and over before and after the birth. I was so angry I wanted to scream. Why do they keep asking? It made me begin to question our decision. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we didn’t, but geez, why weren’t they listening?
—Alice, Fort Myers, FL
Congratulations for having the strength to protect your son’s right to his own body and withstanding the pressure of those who tried to coerced you to cut off the most sensitive part of his genitals. Circumcision is BIG business—a $2 billion-dollar-a-year industry for an unnecessary and harmful amputation, which is why doctors and nurses “sell” it so hard.
Doctors and nurses won’t admit it, but they know that circumcision is excruciatingly painful and traumatic. That’s why they do their genital cutting behind closed doors and prevent parents from hearing the screams or watching their babies suffer.
By keeping parents in the dark, health professionals can convince vulnerable and exhausted parents, right after their child is born, to circumcise their baby. If more parents knew what circumcision involves, they could stand strong and resist the pressure.
For example, a colleague and I videotaped a circumcision at the hospital where we worked. A childbirth educator showed the circumcision video to her class, and not one of the mothers circumcised their sons as a result. The educator showed it again to a second class of mothers. They didn’t circumcise their babies either—except for one doctor who was taking the class. Even worse, the doctor insisted that our video be censored. That’s how much doctors dread letting the truth slip out.
Fortunately, several anti-circumcision movies are available now that include actual circumcisions. I suggest watching The Circumcision Movie. Not only will you see that you and your husband were correct to protect your son, you’ll also learn that you are not alone in denouncing this anachronistic blood ritual.
Last week, Intact America launched a petition to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The petition demands that the AAP follow the recommendations from its own research about infant pain, and tell its doctors to END THE PAIN and stop circumcising baby boys. Our goal is 29,000 signatures by February 29. We need your help! Please sign this petition, and share it with your friends. Ask them to sign and share it, too!
Intact America insists that the American Academy of Pediatrics issue a new circumcision policy—one that honors and protects baby boys from harm.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently said that babies shouldn’t be subjected to unnecessary pain. But the AAP continues to promote “routine” infant circumcision, a painful, medically unnecessary surgery that removes a normal part of a baby’s penis.
Last month, the AAP published research showing that common medical procedures carried out on newborn babies are very painful, and that the effects of the pain can last many years. The procedures mentioned included heel sticks, insertion of IV needles, and circumcision. The AAP report also found that commonly used pain relievers are neither effective nor safe.
Infant circumcision differs from the other procedures discussed in the report in that it is an invasive surgery that neither tests for nor treats any illness, and permanently removes a natural and valuable part of a boy’s sexual anatomy – the foreskin. The pain from circumcision is intense and continues for days or weeks after the surgery.
Circumcision, originally promoted in the 19th century as a way to prevent masturbation, has become part of American medical culture. Every year, a million baby boys in the United States are subjected to this surgery, although no medical association in the world recommends it.
Some of the falsehoods currently used to support circumcision include hygiene, disease prevention, and aesthetics.
The truth is:
- The intact penis is easily cleaned throughout a boy’s and man’s lifetime.
- Circumcision does NOT prevent sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. European countries where fewer than ten percent of all men are circumcised have about the same STD rates as the United States, where circumcision is common.
- Any preference expressed by men or women for the circumcised penis is a result of cultural conditioning. Besides, as the U.S. circumcision rate declines, and the number of intact boys and men grow, the intact penis will no longer seem strange or unattractive.
Many Americans also believe that circumcision is “just a snip” – a minor, brief, and painless procedure that babies will not remember. This is FALSE, and the new AAP article on pain proves it.
Because circumcision is NOT medically necessary, and because the pain it causes is unmanageable and harmful over the long term, Intact America demands that the American Academy of Pediatrics tell its doctors to end the pain and stop circumcising baby boys.
Help us reach 29,000 signatures by February 29, 2016.
Please sign our petition TODAY.
The media overlooked an important story late last month that should dramatically change how doctors and hospitals treat newborn babies. On January 25, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) announced a study updating its recommendations on avoiding, minimizing, or treating pain in infants. The AAP statement cites research showing that many “routine” interventions are extremely painful and that there are both short- and long-term consequences of babies’ exposure to painful stimuli.
Now that the AAP is asking health facilities to implement “a pain-prevention program … minimizing the number of painful procedures performed” on newborns, we need to ask again why doctors continue to circumcise nearly a million baby boys a year in the United States. Unlike other painful stimuli the AAP cites, including heel punctures or IV insertion, circumcision is a protracted surgery that does not diagnose or treat any illness, but rather subjects tiny boys to extreme pain for a medically unnecessary procedure.
Until recently, circumcisions have been carried out with no pain relief at all. Instead, practitioners used only physical restraints. Even today, it’s estimated that as many as half of circumcising doctors do not employ analgesia, and that the methods used the rest of the time are only partially effective, if not outright dangerous. (“EMLA,” a topical anesthetic cream widely used in U.S. hospitals, is specifically contraindicated for use “on the genitals of children” in the United Kingdom.
Unfortunately, as the AAP statement acknowledges, it’s nearly impossible to manage pain in infants, given their small size and vulnerability to chemical interventions – even the questionably effective and widely used sugar pacifiers. Implicit throughout the AAP statement is the fact that the safer the analgesic, the less effective it is in eliminating pain.
The next step
Now that the AAP has gone on record to affirm that babies feel and suffer the consequences of pain, and should not be subjected to painful procedures if they can be avoided, the logical next step is for the AAP to call unequivocally for doctors to stop circumcising babies. In its 86-year history, the AAP has never recommended circumcision and has always held that it’s not medically necessary. But, recently, as more and more parents opt out of the procedure for their boys, the trade association’s enthusiasm for circumcision has only increased. In 2012, while admitting that the complications and risks of infant circumcision have never been studied systematically, the AAP took the regrettable position that the operation’s benefits outweigh the risks.
Medical experts from around the world disagree. In response to the AAP’s 2012 statement, a large group of European physicians and ethicists wrote, “Cultural bias reflecting the normality of nontherapeutic male circumcision in the United States seems obvious, and the report’s conclusions are different from those reached by physicians in other parts of the Western world… [Their claims of] health benefits… are questionable, weak, and likely to have little public health relevance in a Western context.”
Notably, far fewer than 10% of adult men in Europe are circumcised, compared to 75% of the adult male population in the United States.
Now we have a systematic study about the short- and long-term risks of pain inflicted upon infants. This is all we need to know in order for the AAP to stand up and say to its members: “Removing a boy’s foreskin is not medically necessary, it is painful, and the pain may compromise his neurological development for years hence. The AAP recommends that the circumcision of male infants cease.”
In my experience, the more you know about circumcision, the more you oppose it. One important fact is that the foreskin is not “extra skin,” but a natural, necessary part of the male anatomy that protects the head of the penis, provides natural lubrication, and enhances sexual pleasure for men and their partners. In 2011, a study published in the International Journal of Men’s Health found that circumcised men have a 4.5 times greater chance of suffering from erectile dysfunction than intact men.
As an activist, bioethicist, attorney and, most importantly, a mother, I feel a glimmer of hope when I read the AAP’s new policy statement. I see a medical organization increasingly boxed into a corner as it tries to escape the inevitable: infant circumcision is not medically necessary, it is unethical, and it has no place in legitimate medical practice. The organization, which pledges its commitment to “the optimal physical, mental, and social health and well-being for all infants, children, adolescents, and young adults,” thus has no legitimate path other than to tell its physician members to stop circumcising baby boys.
February 13, 2016
His Body His Rights Button
With another Thanksgiving upon us, I have a long list of people and organizations that I want to thank. Here goes.
To Amy, Jennifer and Ted – your day to day support means more to me than you’ll ever know.
To Marilyn – my humble thanks for trusting me to carry on the work you and others began.
To the informal but dynamite Intact America steering committee, whose members contribute their expertise, opinions, criticism, labor and love to this movement – I am sure you know I use you all for brains and strength.
To the kick-ass intactivist community, growing in number, depth, insight and commitment – you know we’re winning, right?
To Intact America’s donors and action-takers – keep it up!
To Dean Pisani – on behalf of the boys and men you are helping, thank you for your generosity. And thank you for your trust in me.
To the American Academy of Pediatrics – thank you for issuing a report so blatantly self-interested and unethical as to reveal your true colors as a money-grubbing trade association that wants to ensure that its members continue to get paid for carrying out painful, risky surgery on children who do not need it and cannot consent.
To the New Orleans Police Department – thank you for the respect. discipline, and guidance you showed with regard to Intact America’s demonstration in front of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, during the AAP convention. Thank you for telling the AAP representatives who asked you to make us go away that we were within our rights to protest, and that we were not breaking any laws. And thank you for your interest in our message; we were so privileged to share it with you.
To members of the press whom I will NOT name here, but who have moved from the “skeptical” or even “hostile” column to the “hmm, maybe they’ve got a point column,” and now to the “intactivist sympathizer” if not the “flat out intactivist” column – thank you for being open-minded, and for listening.
To my immediate family – Pablo, Ernesto, Hank, Julia, Chip, Nick and Paul – and to my extended family and friends who have inspired, in one way or another, my passion for this all-important human rights issue.
Above all: To the men who are speaking out, claiming the stage to express their pain and outrage at having been violated as children – it takes a brave man to defy the cultural bias that, first, applies a sexist double standard to genital mutilation and, second, denies the legitimacy of boys’ and men’s protests. I am honored to be at your side.
Thank you all. Again, you know we are winning, right?
I need your help.
Last week, the Huffington Post published “First, Do No Harm,” an article I wrote in response to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recent endorsement of routine infant circumcision. I am so grateful for the supportive and heartfelt feedback I’ve received from so many.
Judging from the dozens of comments posted publicly and sent to me privately, it seems that my statement calling circumcision a “human rights violation on a massive scale” was a consciousness-raising tipping point for both readers new to the issue, and those already familiar with it.
I want to ask all of you— if you haven’t already done so—to share your thoughts directly on the Huffington Post’s website, which reaches millions of readers. In addition to me wanting to know what’s on your mind, it’s really important for the media, Huffington Post in this case, to see firsthand the breadth of conviction and the diversity of support that exists for keeping baby boys intact. Of course, your positive comments also serve as important information and validation for casual readers who are newcomers to the intactivist cause.
After you’ve commented, I’m hoping you’ll show your support in another way: by donating to Intact America. On October 20, I will be flying to New Orleans with Intact America staff members Amy Callan and Joe Jensen to join other intactivists for the AAP’s annual conference.
We’re working on an Open Letter for the New Orleans Times Picayune, which costs beaucoup bucks, as well as educational handouts and fliers, banners, and much more.
We need your help to carry all of this off. Thanks to a matching pledge from a prominent intactivist, all gifts will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $10,000. This means your donation will have twice the impact. I know money is tight—but it is really critical that we have a strong presence in New Orleans.
Both the Intact America booth inside the Convention Center and the activities taking place outside promote the intactivist message in a whole new way, featuring the photos and stories of brave men who are speaking from their hearts about how circumcision has affected them. Here is the awesome, 10-foot banner that doctors will see when they walk by our booth. To those men who sent photos for this (ongoing) project: thank you, thank you, thank you!
This is why we have to be in New Orleans—to give voice to all the babies who are at risk of being cut, and to protect the bodies and rights of these babies and the men they will become.
Thank you so much.