Seven Ways to Reduce Unwanted and Unnecessary Circumcisions

September 28th, 2010 by Dionna | 20 Comments
Posted in Circumcision/Intactivism, Compassionate Advocacy, Healthy Living, natural parenting, Pregnancy and Birth

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You have probably heard about Baby Mario Viera, who was circumcised against his parent’s wishes in a Miami Hospital. The Vieras’ attorney, Spencer Aronfeld, recently published a short response to the many inquiries he’s gotten from concerned parents, all of whom are asking “how can I prevent this from happening to my own son?”

What happened to Baby Mario was a tragedy. The larger tragedy is that Aronfeld’s list is necessary. That a parent would ever have to consider writing on her newborn son’s stomach with a Sharpie to tell persistent doctors

DO NOT CIRCUMCISE

is horrifying. But such is the case in our country where only forty short years ago, over 80% of our newborn sons were routinely circumcised.1

To this day, many parents agree to circumcise their sons when it is not medically necessary - but they are not making fully informed decisions. Instead, their decisions are based on cultural pressures, family or religious traditions, or misinformation about the supposed “benefits” of circumcision.

Fortunately, circumcision rates are falling as more parents are realizing the many benefits of leaving their sons intact.2 But our work is not done.

If you believe that every person, male and female, has the right to genital integrity, if you believe that every person should be able to make a fully informed choice about whether he or she wants to amputate part of his or her normal, healthy, fully-functioning genitalia, if you are willing to speak out for what you believe in, please help with at least one of the things listed below. It may take a few minutes of your time, but you could make a tremendous difference in the life of many.

newborn baby with "do not circumcise" written on his stomach

Photo courtesy of The Leaky B@@b

1) Share Information: Set a monthly reminder on your calendar to share a resource on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, etc. You don’t have to be in-your-face, threatening, or antagonistic, just share a link and say “Hey! Here’s some information you might not know about routine infant circumcision.” Many people circumcise because they aren’t aware that there is a healthier alternative. Here are some links to get you started:

Researching Circumcision, Part 1: What Is the Foreskin?
Researching Circumcision, Part 2: What is Circumcision?
Researching Circumcision, Part 3: Common Concerns
10 Reasons Not to Circumcise Your Baby Boy
Are You Fully Informed?
Babies Do Feel Pain
The Case Against Circumcision
Cut versus Intact Outcome Statistics
New Meta-Analysis Study Concludes Circumcision Does Much Harm, No Good

2) Electronically Sign the Ashley Montagu Resolution and Petition: The Ashley Montagu Resolution and Petition requests three things:

that all national governments petition THE WORLD COURT, THE HAGUE, to have THE WORLD COURT declare that the genital mutilations of children are in violation of [certain] Articles of the UNITED NATIONS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS and the U.N. CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD; and

that all national governments pass legislation prohibiting the practice of torture, cruelty, inhuman and degrading treatment of children which is inherent in the genital mutilations of children that are conducted as a matter of socio-cultural and religious customs and are de facto violations of the UNITED NATIONS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS and the U.N. CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD; and

that all national governments and their associated agencies educate health professionals, parents and the people on these issues, specifically, the medical, psychological, sexual and mental health hazards inherent in the genital mutilations of children, and to dispel the myths and superstitions which encourage the genital mutilations of children.

You can sign the petition electronically to add your support to the resolution.

3) Send a Letter (Electronically!) to the AAP Task Force on Circumcision: Intact America, an organization dedicated to ending medically unnecessary genital alteration, has created a way for you to send a letter to the AAP. From Intact America’s site:

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Task Force on Circumcision has been meeting to finalize its policy on routine male circumcision. Having recently retracted its policy statement calling for a lift of the Federal ban on female genital cutting, the AAP must now stand up and protect the rights of ALL children to an intact body.

While the AAP prepares to go public with its statement, it’s critical that it hear directly from people who oppose circumcision. Remind the AAP that it’s wrong – morally, medically, and ethically – and that doctors took an oath to “do no harm.”

So click over to Intact America, personalize the available form letter, and send it electronically.

4) Urge Your Local Hospitals to Require Fully Informed Consent: Many doctors do not fully inform parents of the host of risks associated with circumcision (both immediate and long-term risks). This should not be acceptable in any hospital. NOCIRC, an organization committed to securing the right of all children to keep their sex organs intact, has a model consent form available.

Write a short letter to your local hospitals asking that they require all doctors to fully inform parents of the risks of circumcision. Include a copy of the Model Consent Form, and please be sure to credit Dr. Van Howe and NOCIRC.

Please stop by Code Name: Mama tomorrow for a sample letter you can modify and send to your local hospitals.

5) Display a FREE Pro-Intact Window/Bumper Sticker: You can request up to two free window/bumper stickers from TLC Tugger with sayings like

A foreskin is NOT a birth defect.

Bring home your WHOLE baby, say no to circumcision.

Circumcision? HIS body, HIS decision.

Of course, you can also support TLC Tugger’s efforts by making a donation to NOCIRC!

6) Sign up for Newsletters, Make a Donation, and/or Volunteer: There are several organizations that are working to reduce the rate of routine, medically unnecessary circumcisions. Please sign up to receive newsletters – they will often give you ideas for how to show your support by writing letters, sharing information with friends, etc. If you are in a financial situation to donate a few dollars, please support these organizations financially as well. Even small donations help – just think of how we could support their advocacy efforts if everyone donated just $5! Other organizations are looking for people to volunteer in various capacities.

Here are a few organizations you may consider supporting:

Circumcision Resource Center
Volunteer
Donate

Intact America
Sign up for IA’s Newsletter
Donate

mgmbill.org
Volunteer
Donate

NOCIRC
Donate

Saving Penises
Donate

7) Write to Your Elected Officials: A group has developed a Male Genital Mutilation Bill, which has been submitted to Congress and 14 different state legislatures. The bill is modeled in part after the U.S. Female Genital Mutilation Act of 1996. You can help advocate for the passage of this bill at the state and national level by writing to your elected officials. There are several different sample letters available on mgmbill.org. Here are some links to get you started:

National Level: Write your local House and Senate congressional members along with President Obama and ask them to sponsor the MGM Bill proposal (you can use one of the sample letters to help get you started). Be sure to enclose a printed copy of the MGM Bill proposal with each letter for reference (or copy and paste the bill text if you are writing via email).

State Level: Write similar letters of support to your local  state legislators and governor, (again, feel free to use one of the sample letters, and enclose a printed copy or link to your state’s MGM Bill proposal with each letter).

Once you receive a response to your letters, let the people at mgmbill.org know: Scan and forward the reply letters from your elected leaders to mgmbill.org so they can post them to the Government Responses page  (if you don’t have access to a scanner, contact them to send a copy to their postal mailing address). For government response letters in email format, just forward the entire message to comments@mgmbill.org as an attachment. It is important that we hold our government leaders publicly accountable for the actions they take while in office, and you can help do that by letting the world know what your elected officials are telling you.

20 Responses to:
"Seven Ways to Reduce Unwanted and Unnecessary Circumcisions"

  1. The Leaky B@@b   TheLeakyBoob

    Love this, very practical and informative. I really appreciate it and one of the ways I’ll share something is to share this link.

    I do have a concern though, and I’m just musing here. I’m very much for keeping babies, all babies, whole. Not having boys of my own I’ve talked with parents expecting boys and educated where I can. My girls have heard about it and understand how we value genital integrity. Here comes the “concern” I have: they have talked about it. I didn’t expect that and we’ve taught our girls appropriate conversation and settings but they are also more educated than a lot of their peers regarding human anatomy, birth, sex, etc. One of my girls (older, my 3 big ones are between 7-11) said something to one of their male friend something like “can you believe some people have the doctor cut a baby boy’s penis? Isn’t that mean!” Yeah, you can see where this is going. The boy’s mom called me upset because her boy was sad to learn that he had been circumcised and what that meant. The parent is one thing but the boy I am very concerned about and boys everywhere. At this point I couldn’t put a decal on my car because of these boys that are too young to understand advocacy and may feel shamed by something like that. I’m not sure I’m saying this well. I guess what I’m trying to say is how do we educate, advocate, inform, raise awareness and take care of the boys that have already been cut particularly when they are young? What are your thoughts on this?

    • Sara

      In reply to The Leaky Boob – I think this is a great opportunity to raise awareness. Why was the mom upset? Was she upset simply because the boy was sad or was she upset with her decision and therefore upset with you/your girls because of bringing out those feelings? The important thing is to take care of those who already circumcised and not shaming them since this wasn’t their decision and what’s done is done.

      Personally, I’d take a second talk to your girls about how they reference circumcision. Yes, it is a “mean” procedure but the boy’s parent didn’t do it to harm him or be “mean” to him like the girls were implying (at least, let’s hope). Let them know that yes, this is a “mean” procedure but parents sometimes choose to do it without becoming educated because of lack of resources or because they simply listened to their doctor mindlessly. It’s a great opportunity to teach empathy. “You know, [girls] when you were talking to [boy] the other day you said “Can you believe some people have the doctor cut a baby boy’s penis? Isn’t that mean!” but not everyone knows as much about circumcision as you. It’s important to remember that some parents think that this procedure is normal and ok, not “mean”. [Boy] was circumcised and when you told him the other day that circumcision was mean he thought his parents hurt him on purpose but they didn’t know better…how can we teach others why circumcision is a bad procedure for babies without being mean to *them*?” See what they come up with… they might come up with something really good.

      • The Leaky B@@b   TheLeakyBoob

        Great idea Sarah, I bet they would come up with something really good. We did talk about sometimes how we say things communicates something else than we intend depending on the experience (filters) of the one listening. That led to some pretty interesting conversation. They are smart and sensitive.

        I think the mom was upset because her son knew he was circumsised but didn’t actually know what that meant. Which means he learned it from my girls and he was upset that his parents let him be cut. She felt like it was inappropriate for us to talk about it at all with our kids at this age. Not that we were ever talking about anyone in particular but she didn’t feel it was right to talk about it at all. She and I have a difference of opinion on a lot of things, particularly those relating to sexuality, educating children and sex education so this isn’t a big surprise.

  2. Sara

    For those who love Facebook there is The Whole Network on Facebook: http://www.thewholenetwork.org/locations.html

    I’m the admin for the WI page hoping to spread more useful information on this topic.

  3. Happily Devout Mamma

    Um, so are you saying that if I believe in my religion and my religion says to circumcise, I am giving into religious “pressure”?! What about the possibility that I am informed and simply have different, but perfectly legitimate, values?! I am sad to read your post, which takes a very inflexible stance on a many-sided issue. Perhaps you should become informed on the viewpoint of *others* before you suggest that they become informed about your beliefs.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      I do take an inflexible stance, because circumcision is the amputation of a healthy, normal, and necessary body part.
      Let’s flip your argument – for the religions that believe in and practice the genital mutilation of girls, do you find that perfectly acceptable? I imagine not. If it’s not acceptable for our baby girls, why then is it acceptable for our baby boys?

      As far as religions requiring circumcision, while I am not an expert on the subject, I have done some research. If you are referring to Judaism, today’s circumcision is far different from that practiced in Biblical times. (See http://www.noharmm.org/pollack.htm) Furthermore, a growing number of Jewish families choose a more peaceful ceremony to fulfill their spiritual obligations rather than subject their newborn son to a traumatic procedure. (See http://www.cirp.org/pages/cultural/bris_shalom.html (“Bris B’lee Milah”)
      There are other considerations Jewish parents may be interested in researching. For example, “‘the Torah prohibits the torture or causing of pain to any living creature.’” Further, if you do not keep an Orthodox lifestyle, it makes little sense to cling to the law of circumcision when you don’t adhere to the law that meat may not be eaten with dairy (for example). (See citations in http://codenamemama.com/2009/10/03/our-perfect-son/)

      If you are referring to Muslims, the Qur’an does not mention circumcision. Instead, it appears that the culture subscribes to the myth of “cleanliness” as the main reason for circumcising their sons. (See http://www.circumstitions.com/Islam.html)

      The bottom line for me is this: to amputate a body part in the name of religion would be a symbol of faith and devotion if the body part was one’s own. Would you support a religion that cut off healthy skin from an adult man or woman’s genitalia – against his or her will – as a mark of faith?

      • Dionna,

        Thank you for your thoughtful and well reasoned reply to Happily Devout Mama. I was going to respond but you pretty much said it all. The only thing I can add to this is my penis was surgically reduced by a Jewish Canadian doctor, Harry Medovy. I have no religious ties to Medovy, my parents were not Jewish. This was done in the 1950 when many children were circumcised for bogus “health and hygiene” excuses.

        There is no legitimate reason to circumcise any child. For me circumcision stands as very clear evidence that people are brainwashed and coerced into doing unthinkable things in the name of religion. The Jewish doctor who cut me stepped outside of his Hippocaratic Oath and caused damage to human children without need or consent. I wish Medovey was still alive because I would visit him and tell him personally that what what he did to me was a sexual violation.

        Currently here in Vancouver is a circumciser who advertises prolifically, he is Jewish. His excuses for circumcision are many and varied, he is deceitful in his advertising and disgruntled patients report about how he cares only for the money.

        I suggest to Happily Devout Mama to take off her religious goggles for a while and look at this issue honestly. There are many people very disgusted and unhappy with what Jewish doctors did to them for all manner of specious reasons. If you think circumcision is so great then go and have your clitoral hood surgically amputated. And while you’re at the doctor’s tell him to keep his hands off children’s genitals.

  4. Jeff Brown

    Thanks for the great suggestions.

    Regarding “Write to Your Elected Officials” – If you live in a state where Medicaid still pays for non-therapeutic circumcision, in my opinion it is a higher priority to write to your elected officials asking them to end Medicaid funding of circumcision. That is the first step we should take. It is best not to mix ending Medicaid payments for circumcision with the MGM Bill.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      That’s a great idea, Jeff – thank you! Do you know of a sample letter online that I could point to?

      • Jeff Brown

        Thanks for asking about a sample letter. Here’s one you can use.

        Dear :

        In light of the current Medicaid budget crisis please consider supporting an end to Medicaid payments for medically unnecessary circumcisions.

        The consensus of professional medical organizations is that infant circumcision is not medically necessary. The American Academy of Pediatrics said in its most recent policy statement on circumcision, “the procedure is not essential to the child’s current well-being”. Scarce Medicaid dollars should only be spent on medically necessary procedures.

        Since infant circumcision is not medically necessary, I encourage you to support legislation to end Medicaid funding of non-therapeutic circumcisions.

        Thank you for your attention.

        Sincerely,

        Also there is a End Medicaid Funding of Infant Circumcisions page on Facebook.

        http://www.facebook.com/pages/End-Medicaid-Funding-of-Infant-Circumcisions/108198325884370

      • Jeff Brown

        Part of the salutation of the letter got lost when I posted it. Here’s what it should be.

        Dear (Title) (Last_Name):

        For example… Dear Senator Jones:

  5. Marilyn (A Lot of Loves)   ALotofLoves

    Wow that’s a horrifying story. I hadn’t heard of Baby Mario (but then I’m in Canada and I also try to avoid a lot of news because I find it causes me to become mildly depressed – yes I’m an ostrich). Where I live, hospitals do not offer circumcision and parents who want circumcision are required to pay for it (it’s not covered by our universal health care) and go to a private clinic. When I had my son, not one health care provider talked to me about circumcision and for that I am glad. I’m glad my fellow Canadians are forced to seek out circumcision rather than having access to it easily. I wish that was true for everyone.

  6. kelly @kellynaturally   kellynaturally

    Thank you Dionna, this is great information!
    Where my daughter was born (in Maine) routine circumcision was not done in the hospital – there were signs in the hospital & my MW/OB office that said it was not a recommended procedure, not covered by insurance, and if you wanted it done, had to be done with your own Dr, separate from the hospital. That was in 2004. In 2007, in NJ, with my son, we had a card inserted in his chart (though, we were still asked REPEATEDLY when he was scheduled for his circ), and, perhaps **MOST IMPORTANTLY** we refused to have him removed from the room for any reason. All tests & checks we requested be done IN ROOM, and he basically stayed in my arms, or my husbands, from the point of c-section, to the point of us leaving. The couple of things that were unable to be done in-room, my husband accompanied him – regardless of “policy”.

    Parents need to advocate for their children’s safety – even in a hospital – which seems like it would be a safe place for babies!

  7. Yesterday at MontaguNoCircPetition.org we had an explosion of endorsement signatures. We think this was due largely to your fine work informing parents about the fact that baby boys are almost always born anatomically correct, at least in the sex organ department. Many thanks, MAMA! Keep up the good work!
    Van Lewis, Administrator
    Ashley Montagu Campaign Against the Torture and Mutilation of Children

  8. Rachel

    I had a depressing conversation with my Mother in law. Apparently, my hubby’s has 13 cousins and 1 cousin was the only intact among them. He decided to get circ’ed when he was 10 years old.
    My son is the first intact out of both families, but all of his friends are intact except one. It has just been pinned to my brain the last couple of days.

  9. Kim Lenderts

    Have a homebirth.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      I agree, for people who are comfortable with it. I think we’re actually farther along on the circumcision issue though!

  10. Ben Edmore

    My friend wrote up a hilarious (yet accurate) argument about circumcision. Read it at his blog: http://thingsthatshouldntstillexist.wordpress.com/2010/09/23/03-circumcision/

    • I appreciate your friend’s post against circumcision. It was however not accuarte, so I posted the following comment:

      Thanks for questioning circumcision. The fact that this sexual assault is forced upon children is the main reason to question it, speak out against it and help abolish it.

      One big quibble though. Circumcision did not start because people got sand in their genitals! That is a myth that is quickly dispelled the minute you think about it. The genitals are the last place you get sand if you are in a sandy environment. You are more likely to get sand in you eyes. What then? Cut off your eyelids? Secondly if men got sand under their foreskins and cut them off to prevent this what about women getting sand in their genitals?

      Circumcision is an attack on the pleasure centres of children. The main reason is to permanently diminish sexual response. This is the underlying motive and it is always enforced by adults who had this same abuse forced upon them. This is the same dynamic behind most child abuse.

  11. Jessica - This is Worthwhile   tisworthwhile

    So informative and thorough. My best friend circumcised her preemie and I was left speechless. After ALL my ranting about it, I think she gave in to the father’s wishes and it made my gut hurt. This baby had been through so much already and then he had his penis cut. God, makes me sick thinking about it.

    I wish I’d done something more… I feel like I let one slip through the cracks.

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