Bad Science Doesn't Justify Male Circumcision

Published: October 17, 2011

There are various reasons:

Among the medical community, one is profit. Circumcising infants is a cash cow. The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates the annual income from circumcision at between $150 – $270 million each year. Circumcision opponents argue that this figure is wildly conservative; and circumcision actually adds over a billion dollars to the medical industry’s bottom line every year.

Another reason is habit. Circumcision has been the norm in America for over a century, and most parents are keen for their little boys to “look the same as daddy.”

Yet another reason is parents and doctors unfamiliar with the “challenges” of looking after an uncircumcised penis. This is why most parents have heard horror stories of an uncircumcised boy having to undergo the procedure “for medical reasons” later in life.

Sometimes those “medical reasons” are minor issues, or even normal development (for example, bubbles occur as the foreskin separates from the glans, which some parents and doctors misidentify as an infection).

Other times, parents actually cause problems themselves — like mothers who try to “wash under the foreskin” of a little boy, unaware that the foreskin and glans are attached until they’re seven or eight years old, and separating them by force can cause permanent scarring and damage.

Like with the HIV rates, it’s worth pointing out that these common “emergency circumcisions” don’t occur in Europe, where almost all kids are uncircumcised.

Perhaps the major reason why parents and doctors still advocate infant circumcision is because doing otherwise forces them to address a serious issue: That they’ve spent decades doing something medically and morally wrong.

It’s tough to criticize circumcision without criticizing parents who’ve circumcised their kids. The anti-circumcision message often makes those parents feel guilty and ashamed.

Anti-circumcision activists shouldn’t make parents feel that way. Moms and dads who’ve circumcised their kids wanted to make the best choice for their little boy — and decades of misinformation meant they believed, at the time, that circumcision was that choice.

And while they were ultimately wrong; you can’t criticize them making that choice for the right reasons.

Ultimately, “choice” is at the crux of the circumcision debate. For little boys having their genitalia cut, ripped and torn, there’s no “choice” at all.

For all the reasons why circumcision is wrong, the most convincing is the moral one: Circumcision is altering (some would say mutilating) the genitals of an infant who can’t consent; and will have to live with the results for the rest of their lives (if they’re not among the hundred who die from botched circumcisions every year).

Looking at it that way, it’s clear infant circumcision should be illegal.

Some would say it already is. According to the Federal Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act of 1995, even a pinprick on a little girl’s genitals, simply to draw blood in a ritualistic fashion, can land somebody five years in a federal penitentiary.

Do your little boys a favor. Give them the choice to be circumcised or not, when they’re old enough to make that decision for themselves.

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