Healthy Beginnings

Nurture: Reconsidering Circumcision

Circumcism-baby-boyThere is a lot of misinformation out there designed to pressure parents into choosing to cut the genitals of their newborn sons. Many of the arguments in favor of circumcision imply that there are many health benefits to be gained from this procedure, and that risks are few. There is a lot of reason to reconsider whether this is really true. Below are ten reasons to choose not to circumcise your baby boy. (I’ve also included a video link in the references below to a discussion by Ryan McAllister Ph.D. called “Child Circumcision: An Elephant in the Hospital” that gives many compelling reasons to refuse circumcision.)

10 Reasons NOT to Circumcise Your Baby Boy

10.) There is no medical reason for “routine” circumcision of baby boys. No professional medical association in the United States or the rest of the world recommends routine neonatal circumcision. The American Medical Association calls it “non-therapeutic.” At no time in its 75 years has the American Academy of Pediatrics ever recommended infant circumcision.

9.) Foreskin is not a birth defect. It is a normal, sensitive, functional part of the body. In infant boys, the foreskin is attached to the head of the penis (glans) for a reason. It is designed to protect it from urine, feces and irritation, and to keep contaminants from entering the urinary tract. The foreskin also has an important role in sexual pleasure, due to its specialized, erogenous nerve endings and its natural gliding and lubricating functions. Removal of the foreskin drastically reduces the sensitivity and sexual pleasure your son will be able to experience as an adult.

8.) You wouldn’t circumcise your baby girl. In the United States, girls of all ages are protected by federal and state laws from forced genital surgery, whether practiced in medical or non-medical settings, and regardless of the religious or cultural preferences of their parents. There is no ethical rationale for distinguishing between female and male genital alteration. If it is wrong to remove part of a baby girl’s healthy genitals, then it is wrong to do the same to those of a baby boy.

7.) Your baby boy is not able to give his informed consent. Circumcision painfully and permanently alters a baby boy’s genitals, removing healthy, protective, functional tissue from the penis and exposing the child to unnecessary pain and medical risks–for no medical benefit. Your son is the one who will have to live with consequences of having his foreskin removed, he deserves respect enough to be old enough to consent to this procedure of his own free will and choice.

6.) Removing part of a baby’s penis is painful, risky and harmful. Babies are extremely sensitive to pain. Many circumcisions are performed with no analgesic, but even when pain control is employed, the pain is not eliminated. As with any surgery, complications can and do occur with circumcision. These include infection, abnormal bleeding, removal of too much skin, loss of all or part of the glans, urinary problems, and even death. All circumcisions result in the loss of the foreskin and its functions, and leave a penile scar.

5.) Times and attitudes have changed. The circumcision rate in the United States is now below 40 percent (and much lower in some parts of the country), down from 81 percent in 1981. More than 60 percent of all baby boys in the U.S. leave the hospital intact, as more and more parents realize that circumcision is unnecessary and wrong.

4.) Most medically advanced nations do not circumcise baby boys. People in Europe, Asia and Latin America are often appalled to hear that American doctors and hospitals remove part of a boy’s penis shortly after birth. Approximately 75 percent of the men in the world are not circumcised and remain intact throughout their lives.

3.) Caring for and cleaning the foreskin is easy. A natural, intact penis requires no special care, beyond gentle washing while bathing. Later, when the foreskin can be retracted (something that can occur as early as age five, but often does not occur until adolescence), a boy can be taught to pull back his foreskin to wash his penis. Forcible retraction of the foreskin results in pain and injury, and should not be done.

2.) Circumcision does not prevent contracting or spreading HIV or other diseases. Over the years, claims that circumcision prevents various diseases have repeatedly been proven to be exaggerated or outright fabrications. Most men in the United States are circumcised, but our STD rates are as high as, or higher, than those in countries where circumcision is rare. The fact that certain parenting and health related publications continue to publish and support this myth is frankly despicable and dangerous.

1.) Children should have the right to be protected from permanent bodily alteration inflicted on them without their consent in the name of culture, religion, profit or parental preference. Most people would be horrified at the suggestion that a parent tattoo their three-day-old child, or engage in some other non-medically necessary form of body modification, such as the removal of earlobes. Under accepted bioethical principles, parents can consent to surgery on behalf of a child only if it is necessary to protect the child’s life or health. “Routine” circumcision fails this test because it painfully and permanently removes a normal and healthy part of a boy’s penis and does not protect the child’s life or health; in fact, it creates new risks.