Opinion: Banning Circumcision is Totally Nuts
Filed under: Opinions
Lloyd Schofield wants to stop parents in San Francisco from forcibly cutting their baby boys' genitals.
Yes, that's what Schofield says about circumcision on his website, and he wants to ban parents from doing it to their sons. He's gone so far as to pen a ballot measure in that city that could go to voters in November 2011, if he's able to collect 7,100 signatures in favor of his proposal.
Schofield's ban would outlaw circumcision in San Francisco, even for religious reasons, unless there was a compelling medical need, according to an interview with Schofield published by the San Francisco Chronicle's "City Insider" blog. He is calling for all other foreskin cutting to be deemed a misdemeanor, an offense punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year of jail time.
This guy is -- dare we say it -- totally nuts.
There are a lot of folks out there who are opposed to circumcision, calling it genital mutilation. They even have a catchy name: Intactivists. They're passionate about their cause, and we get that. It's totally A-OK to have strong feelings about parenting and to bond with others who share your philosophies about how children should be raised.
What's not OK is imposing that philosophy on those who disagree. A small band of Intactivists attacked a new mother online recently when her 7-week-old baby died from complications arising after his circumcision.
It's also not OK to legislate what we do or do not do to our bodies or the bodies of our children, as Schofield's ban proposes. And what about the fact that circumcision is a sacred tenet in some religions? We all know where banning religious practices can lead: nowhere good.
Disagree with circumcision all you want. Call it genital mutilation. Be upset and angry. Choose not to circumcise your own son. Gather together to educate others about your point of view on the subject of circumcision and attempt to influence others' thoughts about the practice, which is what plenty of Intactivists already do, in a reasonable way.
What is unreasonable is attempting to legislate it.
Proposing laws that would land parents in jail for making personal -- and medical -- decisions is a slippery slope, indeed. Not only does it open up all other parenting practices to scrutiny (shall we jail new mothers who don't breast-feed or ban co-sleeping?), it sets a precedent for legislating what people do to their own bodies.
Should cities outlaw ear piercing? That's a form of bodily mutilation. How about tattoos? Breast augmentation? Or how about that elephant who lives in the room, Roe vs. Wade?
Maybe Schofield is using this as a publicity stunt, an attempt to generate attention for what the organization Intact America calls "a painful, risky, unethical surgery that deprives over a million boys each year of healthy, functional tissue."
The danger lies in the very real possibility that what may have been intended as a publicity stunt could end up going to the voters. Before anyone signs Schofield's petition, they should remember the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller: "Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up."
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