Intactivists speak for those who cannot speak for themselves in the hope of changing hearts and minds on the issue of routine infant circumcision. I'm not here to accuse or argue. I'm here to inform and discuss. Welcome, and play nice! Find us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/savingbabies.blogspot !

Sunday, November 18, 2012

We need to talk..... about Penile Cancer

Cancer is a scary word. We shudder to think of it happening to ourselves or a loved one. Many of us have already experienced cancer personally or as the friend or family member of someone suffering through it. 

So if you can spare your child from cancer, why wouldn't you, right? 

Except that we don't understand the causes of every cancer, the risk factors, the mitigating factors, the appropriate methods of prevention, the rates of incidence and death. Did you know that if you Google "mammograms" right now that it auto-fills to "mammograms cause cancer?" Even the medical community is still figuring this one out.

But you know what nobody is saying? "Breasts cause cancer. Let's remove them all at birth." Y'know why? Because even though the rate of breast cancer in the U.S. is pretty high, we don't bet on it and we don't preemptively remove currently healthy body parts from our children. 

Then there's the foreskin. Like no other part of our children's bodies, we decide to remove it at birth, and one of the reasons we are given is "it prevents penile cancer." 

Want to learn a little more about penile cancer? Along with other male genital cancers, it's estimated to affect about 1500 men per year, with about 20% of those cases being fatal. That's an estimated 310 deaths per year in the U.S. due to penile cancer.  The fact is "penile cancer is very uncommon in the United States, even among uncircumcised men." 


Not only does breast cancer outnumber penile cancer by more than 225,000 new cases and almost 40,000 deaths per year, but MALE breast cancer occurs more commonly than penile cancer. Your SON is more likely to develop and die from breast cancer than of penile cancer. Almost 2200 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the United States, and approximately 410 men will die of breast cancer each year. 

The American Cancer Society does not recommend circumcision as a preventive measure for penile cancer. They do not have an official policy on circumcision (why should they, when their concern is cancer?), though when the American Academy of Pediatrics was trying to promote it as such in the mid-nineties, it did spark a response from some inside the ACS. 


(click to view larger)
(source)

What does the ACS itself have to say on the issue? 
"Statements about circumcision preventing penile cancer and cervical cancer are cropping up on the Internet. A two-year-old letter being circulated on the Net discussing scientific evidence regarding penile cancer and its relationship to circumcision is personal correspondence reflecting the observations of two former ACS physician staff members. The American Cancer Society does not have a formal guideline statement on circumcision. 
Penile cancer is extremely rare in the United States and accounts for less than one half a percent of cancers diagnosed among men and less than one tenth of a percent of cancer deaths among men. Circumcision is the removal of a part or all of the male foreskin either at birth or later on. This practice has been suggested as giving some protection against cancer of the penis by contributing to improved hygiene. 
However, the penile cancer risk is low in some uncircumcised populations, and the practice of circumcision is strongly associated with socio-ethnic factors, which in turn are associated with lessened risk. The consensus among studies that have taken these other factors into account is circumcision is not of value in preventing cancer of the penis.
Proven penile cancer risk factors include having unprotected sexual relations with multiple partners (increasing the likelihood of human papillomavirus infection), and cigarette smoking."
American Cancer Society. Dispelling Miscommunications: Statement on Penile Cancer. ACS News Today, Atlanta (1998).


So in the same way that you respect your infant daughter's right to keep her breast buds and make her own decisions as an adult when it comes to removal of body parts for cancer prevention, respect that your son's body belongs to HIM. It is only put in your care for safekeeping for a while. Whether or not to remove currently healthy parts for whatever purported health benefits should be his decision. To sacrifice those nerve endings based on such a minuscule risk is not a decision that should be made second hand. Only he can determine how much those nerve endings are worth. 

The likelihood of your son being unhappy with his circumcision is most likely much greater than the chance that you've spared him from cancer by removing his foreskin. 



Friday, June 15, 2012

We need to talk... about looking "like Dad."

So you're having a baby boy and you're thinking of circumcising him so that he'll look like his father? Let's examine that a little deeper.

There are many ways and many reasons a child might not look like his father. If your child's skin tone is darker than his father's, will you seek to lighten his skin? If his nose is a different shape, will you schedule him for a rhinoplasty? What if their eyes are a different color?

Or beyond the typical, what if your son's father was born with one arm and your son has two? I realize this is not the same as something typical like different colored eyes, but think about what circumcision really is - it's the surgical removal of healthy tissue. Would you have healthy tissue surgically removed from your son to make him look more like his father? Why not an arm?

Did dad lose a toe to frost-bite? Should his son have to lose a toe as well? How about dad's appendix? Or his gallbladder? Or his wisdom teeth? Should we surgically alter his son to match?

Look. Either your son is going to look like his father or he isn't. And his penis will be the last place anyone goes to check on the resemblance. I mean really, wouldn't you rather have someone say "Oh, he has your eyes!" than "Oh, he has your penis!" when making father-son comparisons?  I'd frankly be pretty offended. Have you seen the size of an infant penis?


So what are you really worried about?
I've heard expecting parents explain concerns that in the shower or during potty training, your son might notice that his penis is different from his dad or his brother(s) or his cousin(s). If this is your concern, let's talk about it!

Are you worried he'll be confused? That one is easily solved. If one thing is for certain it's that your toddler will ask you about everything. And when he asks you about this, you just tell him, plain and simple "everybody is different, and that's okay." I promise it'll be harder to answer the one about where babies come from, and we don't have a surgery to make THAT question go away.

Are you worried that he'll feel "different?" We've touched on that a bit - different is not bad. But what you should also know is that circumcising him already makes him different from men in almost every country outside of the United States. We are the minority here, and even our rates are dropping. So while he may be different from dad, he won't be alone in his peer group. And again, it's a good thing to talk to your kids about being different, and how there is nothing wrong with that.

And remember, even circumcised penises don't all look alike.


If you really want your son to look like his dad when potty training time comes around, that gives dad two or three years to RESTORE!

But is this about how your son will feel about being different from dad? Or is it about how DAD feels? Don't get me wrong here. Dad's feelings matter. If you are reading this and you are "Dad," I promise that your feelings matter. But why do dads feel this way? Vincent Bach tries to explain in his article, the Vulnerability of Men:
"[P]ut yourself in the shoes of the circumcised man. He asks for very little. All he wants is football on Sunday and to be assured that there is nothing wrong with his package. A nice bonus would be that women actually prefer it the way it is. Then along comes the newly pregnant wife and the issue of circumcision is no more personal to her than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and she starts openly discussing it with him with all the casualness that she would with her gal pals down at the salon. Yikes! Batten down the hatch. Incoming torpedo!!!! At first the strategy is to dismiss her without appearing to be alarmed. He’ll probably toss back the usual "It's not clean" or "That could cause health problems" hoping this will scare her off since he assumes she’s heard those things before. He won’t seem particularly disturbed at first. Its part of being a man to not show vulnerability. 
If this doesn’t work and the wife mentions that she heard otherwise, he’ll be shifting uncomfortably in his chair just a little but still keep his cool. At this point he may try plan B which is to make fun of you for your silly ideas. Maybe make a joke about turtlenecks. If you persist, he’ll bring out the ol’ "I want him to be like me" knowing you women are suckers for us men when we talk of bonding and emotional attachment - any kind."
My concern is that a father thinks that if mom doesn't want to circumcise their son, that means mom thinks something is wrong with dad's penis. THIS IS NOT THE CASE. I promise you, dads, your son's mother is not thinking about what's wrong with your penis when she considers not circumcising your son. It's not about you. I promise. It may well be about something as simple as acknowledging that your son is perfect the way he was born, no matter who he looks like. He is 50% you and 50% her and 100% wonderful. You don't need to make him "look like dad" to love him more than anything.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

We need to talk... about HIV

So you're having a baby boy, and you're considering circumcision because you've heard that it helps prevent HIV? We need to talk.


HIV is a scary, scary thing to think about when you're becoming a parent. It's understandable that you'd want to protect your child in every way you can. But you can't believe every rumor you hear. Not even if you hear it from your doctor. Not even if you hear it from 2 doctors or 3 doctors in your area. I'm not suggesting that Google can replace an MD, but you owe it to your son to research ANY irreversible alteration to his genitals.


We need to talk about the reasons people think circumcision prevents HIV and why those reasons are both fatally flawed and also simply not justification enough for the risk you take when putting your son's future favorite body part under the knife.


I'm going to tell you what I've learned, but I'm also going to link you to where I learned it. If you see text that is a different color, it's a link, and it will open in a new window. If any of them require you to register with the website to see the full text of the medical study and for some reason you are unable or unwilling to do so, you are free to instead e-mail me for the PDF. You can find my e-mail address at the bottom of the blog or on our Facebook page. You can take my word for it, but I don't want you to HAVE to, because that's how we end up with these kinds or problems in the first place - you hear something and you don't do the independent research to verify it. I'm going to give you what tools I can to help you independently verify, because your son is worth it.


African Studies
The claims that circumcision prevents HIV are based on studies coming out of Africa. The validity of these studies is questionable, and the ethical implications are disturbing. What's more, these studies are being done with adult men in Africa. Not infants in developed nations. This article from the Journal of Public Health in Africa "explores, in detail, the data on which this recommendation [circumcision as HIV prevention] is based, the difficulty in translating results from high risk adults in a research setting to the general public... and how circumcision compares to existing alternatives. Based on our analysis it is concluded that the circumcision solution is a wasteful distraction that takes resources away from more effective, less expensive, less invasive alternatives. By diverting attention away from more effective interventions, circumcision programs will likely increase the number of HIV infections."


 The December 2011 issue of the Journal of Law and Medicine cites numerous flaws in three African studies that make claims about circumcision reducing the risk of HIV transmission. You can read the full article here, but of course, I'll share some bits and pieces here:


"...the African trials suffered design and sampling problems, including problematic randomisation and selection bias, inadequate blinding, lack of placebo-control, inadequate equipoise, experimenter bias, attrition (673 drop-outs in female-to-male trials), not investigating male circumcision as a vector for HIV transmission, not investigating non-sexual HIV transmission, as well as lead-time bias, supportive bias (circumcised men received additional counselling sessions), participant expectation bias, and time-out discrepancy (restraint from sexual activity only by circumcised men).
The Ugandan trial which tested whether male circumcision could reduce male-to-female transmission of HIV was stopped early because 25 previously uninfected women became HIV-positive. It appears that male circumcision was associated with a 61% increase in HIV transmissions, leading Wawer et al to caution that "Condom use after male circumcision is essential for HIV prevention."
Wait a second, WHAT? "Condom use after male circumcision is essential for HIV protection." So it is CONDOMS, and NOT circumcisions, that are essential for HIV prevention.
Furthermore, there has been problematic reporting of the trials in the medical literature. Fox and Thomson stated: "Our concern is that such partial reporting of the trials will impact on the role that circumcision is perceived to play in HIV prevention... in perpetuating erroneous beliefs... that circumcision offers immunity to AIDS... If the contexts of the African trials can be so poorly represented in the medical literature, it is no surprise that accounts in the popular press are still more misleading."
Participants in the immediate male circumcision groups also received two years of free medical treatment plus supportive counselling and safe-sex advice, difficult to provide in any large-scale "roll out" of male circumcision in sub-Saharan Africa. WHO [World Health Organization] had specifically cautioned that the female-to-male Kenyan and Ugandan findings might not generalise to real-world settings.
It's important that we remember, also, that these studies were only conducted about adult heterosexual activity in Africa. In the U.S., according to this report, the primary mode of sexual transmission of HIV is male-to-male sexual activity. With that in mind, I'd like to bring up an article regarding a CDC study of HIV transmission in U.S. Men.
 "Overall, we found no association between circumcision status and HIV infection status among black or Latino (men who have sex with men)," said Millett, who presented his findings to the CDC's National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta.

Experts knew circumcision would not protect a female sex partner, nor the male sex partner being penetrated.

But Millett's study found no benefit of circumcision to any of the men. "We also found no protective benefit of circumcision among those men reporting recent unprotected sex with a male partner in which they were exclusively the insertive male partner," he said.
You can also read more here about a study by the U.S. Navy that found circumcision does NOT prevent the transmission of HIV or other sexually transmitted infections.


In the following video, Dr. Dean Edell outlines the many flaws in the studies coming out of Africa, as well as his sound opinion on the naivety and desperation of anyone who thinks we can walk into such an enormous continent and, instead of giving food, water, or medicine, we can give them all genital surgery. He makes some excellent points and I highly recommend you watch the video. It is well worth your time.




So here's what we've learned so far:

  1. Circumcision can actually INCREASE a woman's risk of contracting HIV from her partner,
  2. Supplying fresh water and soap to men will bring down AIDS infection as much as these studies claim circumcision will,
  3. The U.S. has the highest rate of circumcision and the highest rate of HIV,
  4. The studies that claim circumcision reduces HIV transmission are completely irrelevant to those most at risk in the U.S., and
  5. You still have to wear a condom. 
Not only is circumcision clearly not a viable means of HIV prevention, it may actually impede your son's ability to fight off invading HIV. There are specialized cells produced in the mucosal lining of the human genitals - that lining is largely removed by circumcision and what is left dries up. These cells are called Langerhans cells, and their function is outlined in an Washington Post article

Researchers have discovered that cells in the mucosal lining of human genitalia produce a protein that "eats up" invading HIV -- possibly keeping the spread of the AIDS more contained than it might otherwise be.
Even more important, enhancing the activity of this protein, called Langerin, could be a potent new way to curtail the transmission of the virus that causes AIDS, the Dutch scientists added.
Langerin is produced by Langerhans cells, which form a web-like network in skin and mucosa. This network is one of the first structures HIV confronts as it attempts to infect its host.
However, "we observed that Langerin is able to scavenge viruses from the surrounding environment, thereby preventing infection," said lead researcher Teunis Geijtenbeek, an immunologist researcher at Vrije University Medical Center in Amsterdam.
So it stands to reason that if you want to protect your son from HIV, you'll leave his natural body as it is so that it can fight off infection properly, and you'll teach him the importance of using condoms. And remember, infants do not engage in risky sexual practices. This is not the time to be making decisions about your son's future sex life. It could be argued that there is never a time for you to make your son's sexual decisions. And let's face it, the best prevention of HIV is education and condom use. 


Even those promoting circumcision propaganda are aware of this fact. The following is a poster from the Uganda Ministry of Health. An advisory at the bottom, in incredibly small print, reads "Even with circumcision, having sex without condoms puts you at great risk of contracting HIV/AIDS."



So there you have it. HIV prevention is in no way a legitimate justification for infant circumcision. I'm glad we had this talk. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

We need to talk....

The next project at Saving Babies is to put together an educational series about individual concerns parents have that may lead them toward circumcision. It's time to take on each of these issues with a little more depth to provide parents with reputable studies and real discussion instead of just one or two sentences addressing each issue.

So far, six posts are in the planning stages. In no particular order,

We need to talk....
  • About HIV
  • About Penile Cancer
  • About Urinary Tract Infections
  • About Hygiene
  • About Sex; and
  • About the Locker Room

What I'm asking of YOU is that you read this list and tell me what YOU want me to add. Is there another issue that would have changed your mind if only you'd learned about it sooner? Anything that you make sure to tell the expecting parents in your life?

I'm not asking you to write my material for me, but we're all working toward the same goal and I'd love to have your input.

You can leave your comments and suggestions here, you can post them on our Facebook page, or you can send an e-mail to SavingBabies.blog@gmail.com.
Thank you for your time, and thanks for saving babies!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Great Debate

I recently found myself the unintended opponent in a debate with a total stranger. A mutual Facebook friend made a post referring to the ripping involved in circumcision, I made a supportive comment, and was then bombarded with anger from a young mother who had opted to have her son circumcised. After concluding the discussion, it was suggested that I share the conversation with all of you.

You may find my points useful in your own debates. You may see your own arguments, either for or against circumcision. You may see a question answered. You may find a new question to ask. You may just feel a little less alone in your own efforts to spread accurate information.

I hope you'll forgive me for the misspellings - for the sake of authenticity, I did not correct any spelling or grammatical errors. Here’s what went down:
Mom: Circ' isn't "ripping" anything. They're numbed and it's cut. If its not your kid, keep your mouth shut. It's none of your buisness. Don't wanna circ' your sons? Fine, then don't. But leave other mothers and THEIR (yeah, THEIRS. NOT YOUR) son out of it.
Poster: It's not the mother's body it is the sons body. His Body His Choice, not His body mommys choice
Saving Babies: There is ripping. The foreskin and the glans are fused in infants, so to remove the foreskin, you have to forcefully rip it away from the glans (head) of the penis.
Mom: Oh really? That logic is RIDICULOUS! Using YOUR logic, guess I shouldn't dress my son right?! Because it's not my body.. So I don't know what he wants to wear! And it's not my body! Oh well, what about feeding him? I don't know if he'd think sucking on my breast was weird, so should I just formula feed him? Oh, and whats the answer? HELL NO! Why? Because as a mother, it's my RESPONSIBLITY to choose what I feel is best for him. I chose breastfeeding, why? Because I feel thats whats best. I dress him, why? Because I know what he needs to wear. Or if a mother chooses to feed their child only a vegitarian lifestyle.. Because that is what they feel is best for their child. While I feel thats ridiculous, it's not my place to judge, or bash her for doing what she feels is best. Just because I don't agree with it, doesn't mean its wrong. You don't agree with circ'? Fine, don't do it. But theres no way in hell you have ANY RIGHT to judge me for my choices. Any mother who circ'd their son, did it with full intention of doing whats best for their child, just because you don't feel it's whats best.. Doesn't mean you need to bash their choice.
Saving Babies: Circumcision is not reversible. It's also not required, recommended, or right.
Saving Babies: You also need to understand that there is a BIG difference between condemning a practice and condemning a parent. I'm sure [Poster] is doing the first, not the second.
Mom: In your opinion [Saving Babies]. It's not right IN YOUR OPINION. and everyone is different. It's not right for your son, but it was for mine. Oh, and do you care to ask if there were or are medical REQUIREMENTS for circ? Nope. You just stand there on your high horse, and judge. When you have NO RIGHT.
Poster: No medical organization recommends circumcision, you can change his clothes, and it's proven that the breast is best but circumcision has no pro's, just the lies we have been told.
Saving Babies: [Mom], I wasn’t judging you.
Poster: We weren't judging you, we're stating facts.
Saving Babies: I don't understand why you're angry. No one is accusing you of anything, and you're being offered information that will help you protect future children if you choose to open yourself to new ideas. I'm not judging you, I'm not saying anyone should or that there is anything wrong with your son or your relationship with him. I would never make such a claim.
Mom: I'm not angry. But saying that my choice was wrong and claiming it's not my choice and I shouldn't have done it "because it's not right" is judgeing. Saying "It's not required, recommended, or right" is not fact. My son's pediatrician, DID recommend it. So did my family, and people I trust. In some cases it IS required, and it's not right in your opinion. Thats not fact. And I only seemed angry because people who are anticirc have the mindset that they're right and everyone else is wrong. Period. Why is it that all anticirc' people are "I'm right. And how dare you circ?! You mutilated and ripped your child!" When people who are procirc, accept your choice not to circ? I was very informed about circ' & made the choice I felt was right for my son. It IS my choice, because until he is able to make choices for himself, it is MY JOB. I did what I felt was best for him. Period.
Saving Babies: It is not recommended by any major medical organization in the world. The word of an American doctor means very little to me, since the only thing they learn about foreskin in med school is how to remove it.
The incidence of medically necessary circumcision is 0.006%, so I think it's a safe bet that it's NOT required.

Saying that you did it because it's your job to make choices for your son until he can make choices for himself glosses over the fact that there is no pressing need to circumcise - there is no rush on this one - it can be done later. What it cannot be is reversed.

The choice NOT to circumcise isn't even a choice - it's the absence of choice, it's the recognition that the choice is not yours to make. The thing about anti-circ people is that they understand this decision cannot be reversed, and since there is no medical indication for it that is significant enough to take the risk, the choice should be left up to the boy himself.

As to whether or not it's right, I suppose that all depends on how you feel about human rights and whether or not you recognize that a baby has human rights.

I know that you did what you thought was best for your son. Of COURSE you did what you thought was best for your son - that's what good parents do. That doesn't mean that there isn't evidence suggesting that you should leave it up to your future sons to make their own choice on this one.

I'm not here to judge YOU. I judge the American practice of routine infant circumcision for cultural and aesthetic purposes instead of as a treatment for a genuine illness or injury. Circumcision is a cure looking for a disease.
Additional Discussion Participant: It's your job to make decisions for him. Not to remove a healthy functioning part of his body. By THAT logic we can tattoo our children and pierce them up. They're our kids, not our slaves. We don't OWN them. I understand you were clearly misinformed by your pediatrician and those around you who likely know nothing of a natural penis except the myths that society perpetuates to us all. I used to be pro circ too until I took the time to actually learn. I beg you to at least take a few minutes out of your day to learn this stuff. It can't hurt. http://www.thewholenetwork.org/ and click library there are legitimate medical articles.
Mom: Lol, see what I mean? You're right and I'm wrong. And you refuse to even see what I'm saying.. RIC is a parent's choice. In your opinion, it's wrong. So don't do it. But it's none of your buisness what my choice is. You have some valid points & so do I. (Although, of course.. Ya'll [antiRIC in general.. Not you personally] refuse to see any of those. Which is fine, be judgemental. I refuse to judge anyone for their own personal parenting choices. Honestly, what someone else's son's penis looks like is frankly none of my buisness.
Saving Babies: Human rights are everyone's business, and I believe that babies are entitled to the same human rights as the rest of us, and that baby boys have the same human rights as baby girls, who are legally protected from circumcision.

I started out supporting circumcision. Then I tried to find information to back up my opinion, and I couldn't find evidence from a reputable source.
Poster: I used to think the same way as you [Mom] but then a friend of mine told me the truth about circumcision and i did my own research. There are no pro's to circumcision and no medical organization recommends it. My wife is now against it after finding out what circ really does to a child.
Saving Babies: If you think I'm not listening to you, be the bigger person and check out the link [Additional Discussion Participant] provided. Read a few articles from the Whole Network. You might surprise yourself.

It's not about judgment, and it's not about being right. It's about doing right.

Please know this comes out of a place of love. One human being to another.
 
I did my very best to keep my cool. Staying calm is part of how I do things. If you demean or insult or accuse, I believe people will shut their ears and their minds. Remember that every parent wants to do what is best for their child, but some people have a lot of trouble looking past their pride and admitting there was a better way to do things.

I am not 100% sure what I hoped to get out of this post, but I hope you found it useful. Keep fighting the good fight, folks.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Circumcision: Rated M for Mature

For the first fifteen years or so of a boy’s life, he typically only uses his penis for two main things: he will pee with it, and he will play with it.
Neither of these activities will increase his likelihood of contracting HIV or other STIs.

The reasons many parents these days are giving for selecting circumcision for their infant sons are:

  1. Aesthetics
  2. HIV and STD protection
Not only are these concerns invalid, but they are also entirely irrelevant.

Did your baby complain that his penis “looks funny,” or that the girls in the nursery wouldn’t climb into his bassinet because they thought it looked like an anteater?

Is your infant son likely to be having unprotected sex?

No! So why would you elect genital surgery on his behalf!? You’re not keeping your son from being made fun of in the locker room. If that was going to happen, it would have nothing to do with his circumcision status. You’re not keeping your son from contracting STDs – people get STDs from unprotected sex, NOT from foreskin.

So why not leave this decision up to your son when he is old enough to actually have this superficial and dangerous sex life you think you’re preparing him for?

If you think “well, if I leave it up to him, he won’t want to get it done,” you are probably right. Who would sign themselves up for unnecessary genital surgery?  That doesn’t mean you should do it when he is a baby so he can’t say no.

Infant circumcision is done at a time in a boy’s life where his foreskin is still fused to the sensitive head (glans) of his penis. That means that in order to remove the foreskin, doctors must first rip it away from the glans, causing a great deal of pain; pain that cannot be managed medically because a newborn is too small to give pain medication.

Some doctors use a topical anesthetic, such as EMLA cream. These creams do not prevent circumcision pain. “Furthermore, they carry the risk of methemoglobinemia (when blood cannot carry oxygen) and are not approved for use on children under one month old.”

The other option is painful injections into the boy’s penis, which is only minimally effective. There is no such thing as a pain free infant circumcision. See for  yourself.

 


Conversely, when an adult chooses circumcision, for whatever reason, his foreskin has had the chance to go through the natural and gradual separation process in puberty and the choice to remove the foreskin does not mean he will have his foreskin forcefully ripped away from his glans, leaving it red and raw and painful. He also has the benefit of general anesthesia for the surgery itself, preventing him from feeling pain as his flesh is manipulated and cut from his penis. He can take strong pain medications after the surgery that an infant can’t.

As for post surgical erections, did you know that baby boys get erections too? It’s even been known to occur IN THE WOMB. A boy is never too young for an erection, so a newborn boy who has been circumcised not only has to have a bandaged penis in a diaper, but has to suffer through painful erections during the recovery time without the benefit of pain medication.

So the question stands: Why would you select this for an infant? There is no health concern in infancy that would be remedied by circumcision. We already know how to treat the rare urinary tract infection – with antibiotics, just like we would treat a girl.

And aesthetics? If you think an intact, normal penis is so terrible, check out this gallery of intact men. Regardless, your sexual preference has no business being carved into your son. You wouldn't surgically alter your daughter's genitals to suit your personal sexual preference, would you?

So each and every proposed benefit of circumcision is strictly an adult concern.

Don’t meddle in your son’s sex life. Leave his penis alone.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Burden of Proof

I’ve noticed a trend – one that makes no sense to me. Allow me to set the stage.

You’ve made a new friend who is expecting her first child. She asks you about baby names, the best pediatrician in town, where to get prenatal vitamins. She asks you how long she should expect the healing process to be after circumcision. She talks about how bad she feels for her poor little baby, but she knows she is doing what is best.

You tell her what you’ve learned – that circumcision is not what is best; that foreskin is a healthy body part; that genital cutting violates a child’s human rights.

You expect a sigh of relief. You expect your friend to be overjoyed that she doesn’t have to put her poor little baby through surgery on his genitals when he is born.

What you get instead is anger and argument. You say circumcision is harmful? Prove it. It is unnecessary? Prove it. Painful? Prove it.

This. Makes. No. Sense.

Which brings me back to our title: the Burden of Proof. The philosophical burden of proof is the obligation of one party in a dispute to “provide sufficient warrant for their position.” Simply stated, one side of the argument has to prove their case.

The burden is generally placed on the person asserting a claim, and in one sense, you could say the anti-circumcision camp is also asserting a claim, but really, consider this: the anti-circumcision side of the debate is “don’t do anything,” whereas the circumcision advocates are telling you to do something that is irreversible. Let’s look at that a little closer.

Did it take a lot of convincing or a bunch of research when you decided whether or not to sign your infant up for rhinoplasty?

If your doctor thought your daughter’s labia “looked funny,” how much would it take him to convince you to sign her up for labiaplasty?

Did someone have to convince you not to have your baby’s ears pinned back (otoplasty) to prevent them from sticking out when he gets older?

In all cases but circumcision, one does not need to be talked OUT OF elective cosmetic surgery for their healthy child. Why is it, in this one case, the burden of proof is being placed on the shoulders of the people advocating a hands off approach?

To place the burden of proof on the side of inaction is to place it on the wrong side. In all other medical procedures, we require evidence be provided to prove the safety, effectiveness, and necessity of the procedure.


“The burden of proof is always on the person making an assertion or proposition [e.g. those advocating surgery on a healthy child]… argumentum ad ignorantium is the fallacy of putting the burden of proof on the person who denies or questions the assertion being made. The source of the fallacy is the assumption that something is true unless proven otherwise.”

To further illustrate this point, I put together this lovely graphic for you [click to view larger]:


See what I mean? It makes no sense.


Let us place the burden of proof back where it belongs. One should not need to be talked OUT of amputating healthy tissue from a healthy child. Remember that your body (or your wife's or your sister's or mother's or friend's body) spent months building that perfect little boy, and ask yourself this question:

If every boy is born with foreskin, can it really be a mistake?


Mother nature knew what she was doing.