USA: Anti-Circumcision Activists Rally Today To Demand US Ban Circumcision
12 years ago today, the US passed a law banning female genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision. To mark the anniversary, protesters marched in Washington DC to protest that male circumcision is still legal.
These activists call themselves "intactivists", and are pushing for an end to public funding for circumcision. So far, 16 states, including Washington State, have banned Medicaid funding for the purposes of circumcision. According to the International Coalition for Genital Integrity, state governments can save $1 million a year by cutting public funding for circumcision.
Circumcision is an increasingly controversial topic in the US. In 2006, 56% of male infants were circumcised in the US, meaning the foreskin is removed from the penis in an elective surgery, usually performed in the first 24 hours of life. This rate has been going down in the US. Outside the US, circumcision is not routinely practiced in any other Western industrialized country.
Circumcision is not a medically necessary procedure, and is usually performed because of religious reasons or out of family tradition. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend the procedure, even taking into consideration potential health benefits. Recent research suggesting that circumcision helps protect against HIV has been contradicted by other research, adding to the confusion for parents making decisions about circumcision. For many parents, however, it is remains an important procedure.
The debate is highly charged, not surprising for a very intimate and personal issue. According to Brian J. Morris, a professor of molecular medical sciences in Australia, anti-circumcision activists "are just ignorant do-gooders with a misplaced sence of political correctness, who get sucked into these organizations by believing the rubbish posted on their websites." On the other side, Van Lewis, an "intactivist" told the Washington Post, "We're living in denial as a nation. Of what we've done to ourselves."
Ultimately, the decision on whether to circumcise a child is one parents must make with their doctors and families. It is just the beginning of many difficult choices parents will make over the course of their child's lifetime.
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