Free Willies!

Andrew Sullivan —  Sep 20 2013 @ 10:29am

A boy shouts as he under goes circumcisi

Joseph Stern rants against the anti-circumcision movement, going so far as to compare it to vaccine denialism. It’s an enjoyable piece of hysteria and affront but he fails to address the core point of those, like me, who oppose circumcision. The basic question is a very simple one: Why not leave infant boys alone? The foreskin is the result of aeons of human evolution, and only desert religions, like Judaism and Islam, have embraced it as a way to mark their own particular relationship with their deities. The question, really, is why all infant boys should be subjected to this mutilation at all? The vast majority of the world’s male population is not genitally mutilated – and they have not, over history, shown any serious defect.

What Stern has to address – and, despite fulminations and aspersions and disparagement of those seeking to leave infants alone, he never does – is why on earth are we even talking about this? What could possibly justify a horrible, traumatic procedure removing part of an infant boy’s body? Those who favor doing something seem to me to be the ones who need to make the case. The default doesn’t need to be defended. What has to be defended is such an intervention – which is irreversible and which is done without the consent of the infant. If you are concerned about future health hazards, why not remove the tonsils or the appendix after birth? The only reason this barbaric practice endures is religious fundamentalism.

As it is, more and more American parents are joining those around the rest of the world in choosing not to subject infants to the excruciating pain of mutilation. The following data are from Wikipedia.

Brazil, for example, has a circumcision rate of only 7 percent; Canada 32 percent; China less than 1 percent; Germany 11 percent; Spain 2 percent; in Britain, medical authorities are trying to reduce circumcision rates to below 2 percent.

To read Stern’s rant would require one to believe that somehow, all these countries, representing a huge majority of the world population, are somehow leaving boys open to all sorts of risks that Americans are free from. It’s a preposterous argument – and Americans increasingly see it as such. The genital mutilation rate for American-born boys has been slowly declining for a while, and Medicaid increasingly doesn’t cover it in many states. In the 1970s, 90 percent of infant boys were mutilated. That rate is now, mercifully, 54.7 percent. In the West, the rate is now mercifully down to 25 percent. Let’s hope it keeps declining and more and more boys can grow up with their bodies intact.

(Photo: A boy shouts as he under goes circumcision in Kajang outside Kuala Lumpur on November 20, 2011. By Mohd Rasfan/AFP/Getty Images)