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Could there be a third option in San Francisco’s circumcision debate?

For several decades, opposition to circumcision has been building in the United States and within the American Jewish community. This year, the people of San Francisco will see on their ballots a proposed ordinance banning circumcision entirely, with no exception for religious Jews or Muslims. As others have written in these pages already, this measure is offensive and overbroad, and at least some of its proponents are clearly guilty of anti-Semitism. (It is also, in my view, unconstitutional.) Civil liberties groups and Jewish organizations have roundly condemned it, and defeat seems likely.

But San Francisco is a harbinger of things to come, and critiques of circumcision are not limited to the lunatic fringe. Opponents say that circumcision is a brutal, nonconsensual mutilation of a child that results in a permanent loss of sensitivity. Our society doesn’t allow parents to abuse their children, this argument runs, so why should we allow this particular form of violence, which is irrevocable and damaging? Proponents counter that circumcision reduces the risk of HIV transmission and of some STDs, that the “mutilation” in question is relatively minor, and that, in the case of religious communities, it is time honored and religiously mandated.

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment pagansister

    Interesting alternative, which I had never heard of. However one feels about the subject of circumcision, I don’t think the law should be forbiding parents of male children to do what they feel is necessary—to cut or not to cut, either for religious reasons or medical reasons.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment David

    Good grief. How is protecting little boys from penis cutting offensive? What is more important,a right of a boy to not be injured or the desire of others to cut him up without his permission? I will side the defenceless boy and this is the moral high ground.

    The bill as is, is moderate. It protects every individuals rights to choose for themselves. Religious freedom is your right to decide yourself what your religion will be. Not force it on others. The innocent and helpless deserve more protection, not less, from violent acts.

    If a jew or muslim wants to be circumcised, they can make that choice for themselves when they are capable of doing so. Some jews and muslims do not want to be circumcised. Some who are born into jewish or muslim families do not want to remain jews or muslims. If circumcision is forced on them as children their right to opt out of these religions is deprived.

    Circumcision of children takes away religious freedom.

    The notion that circumcision of boys being banned is unconstitutional is also nonsense.If circumcision of boys cannot be prohibited, neither can female circumcision. If it is illegal to destroy a boys foreskin it is also legal to destroy an equal amount of skin from a girls genitals. If it is illegal to even pierce a girls genitals, then it is illegal to do the same or greater to the boys. This is required by equal protection of the laws.

    the fact is as well that there are forms of female circumcision less damaging than common male circumcision, such as removal of part of the clitoral hood is less damaging than male circumcision is. The notion that prohibited forms of female circumcision are more severe than male circumcision is wrong. Female circumcision has been prohibited even though it is required of peoples religious beliefs. This has established that religious beliefs do not prohibit bodily cutting of children and therefore that boys must be granted equal protection of the laws.

    Protecting boys from circumcision upholds boys religious freedom. Circumcision of boys takes it away. I find it appalling and shocking to say that forcing a religious body alteration on children taking away their right to make their own religious freedom choices is suggested to be religious freedom, this is Orwellian nonsense. We have no right to force our religions on other human beings. All human beings have independant rights including children.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment pagansister

    So David, don’t do it to your son already! Geeze.

  • Hugh7

    I’m not sure that Michaelson is right about what milah and periah entail. The “tearing” is of the foreskin away from the glans (head).

    In these videos, it seems to be done first (as it usually is) Doctors insert a blunt probe and twirl it, but this mohel procures an erection by squeezing the base of the penis or rolling the skin (see No8 0:05), then grasps the end of the foreskin firmly and pulls forward.

    It is possible to slice the end off without doing that but it takes much less. That may be the method of antiquity. (It still takes the ridged band near the tip, where the more than 20,000 specialised nerves are concentrated.)

    “Tearing” afterward involves stripping the inner foreskin remnant away from the glans and smoothing it over the shaft remnant to leave no overlap. The mohel in the videos then performs metzitzah – but not b’peh.

    It may be that circumcision will end, not by law or words, but by people seeing detailed closeups on YouTube.

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