Leaving Baby Boys Alone

Mercifully, the Daily Beast has now run a dissent to its breathless and hysterical piece by a circumcision fanatic arguing that opposition to male genital cutting is somehow in the same category as anti-vaccine denialism. Some key points:

Dr. Morris likens circumcision to vaccination by comparing the risk to others caused by refusing either intervention. But this comparison doesn’t withstand scrutiny. Most of the health risks borne by uncircumcised men fall solely on them, rather than the population at large. Dr. Morris mentions life-threatening illness caused by oncogenic (cancer-causing) HPV infection, but circumcision would only lower risk of transmission on an individual-by-individual basis, and only those engaged in an activity known to entail risk of infection. Contrast that with an unvaccinated individual who can expose everyone who went shopping at the same store within a two-hour window to a possibly deadly infection. Furthermore, though circumcision does lower risk of transmitting herpes or HPV, that risk can be mitigated by safer sex techniques, and there is an effective vaccine against the latter. Implying that declining to circumcise one’s son is as irresponsible a threat to public health as failing to vaccinate him is frankly preposterous.

The alleged health threats to the unmutilated male – extremely rare penile cancer, infant urinary tract infections – are put in some sane context. There are tiny medical risks for cutting the infant male’s genitals, and for not cutting them. In my view, protecting the integrity of a human being’s body – and not permanently altering it without their consent – outweighs all of them on both sides.