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State Senate cuts bill to ban circumcision

State Sen. Cynthia Stone Creem, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, reports the Senate has killed a bill that would have barred all childhood circumcisions without exception.

In a letter to the Jewish Boston mailing list, an aide to Creem (who represents Newton and Brookline), wrote:

As you know, Senator Creem, as chair of the Judiciary Committee, made sure the Committee voted on this bill with an "ought not to pass" recommendation. Although there are literally hundreds of bills that the Committee declines to take favorable action on each session, it is highly unusual for a bill to get this unfavorable designation; in fact, so far this session S. 1777 is the only such bill. Most recently, on Tuesday, April 20th, the full Senate accepted this adverse report. Now, nothing more can happen this session, and Sen. Creem will continue to monitor any attempt to move such a bill in the future.

State Sen. Michael Morrissey of Quincy had introduced the "Massachusetts State Prohibition of Genital Mutilation Act" at the request of a constituent. As you might expect, the proposal drew a hail of criticism from Jewish groups, who argued the measure would violate their freedom of religion.

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Comments

I wonder what body parts you'd need to want to remove from children before the childs "freedom to not have parts of my body removed" outweighed the "freedom of religion".

What about earlobes? If my religion says my kid needs to lose the earlobes, does that fly?

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Now let me see if i have this right...
the US has achieved separation of church & state,
but it has yet to achieve separation of synagogue and state?
Do we need to address that?

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Read the beginning part of the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ...

In this case, substitute "State Legislature" for "Congress." Whether you like it or not, Jews consider circumcision a fundamental part of their religion; it's part of of their covenant with God. In this case, the state Senate decided against "prohibiting the free exercise" of a religion. In other words, they were obeying the First Amendment.

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If the exercising of one's religion involves something that's deemed seriously harmful, the state can and should forbid it. The state has ruled that parents can't deny their children necessary medical treatment on religious grounds -- they can forgo things like vaccines and well-child visits, but they can't decide that a diabetic child or a child who's been seriously injured is just going to be left to die.

Many religious/cultural practices are illegal, such as female genital mutilation, footbinding, leaving children out in the woods to fend for themselves as a rite of passage, etc. I can't just decide I'm going to go sacrifice someone as a religious practice and expect the law to be ignored because I'm doing it for religious reasons.

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This procedure is one of those grey areas where there's no proof it's medically useful or medically harmful...which leads to all of the holier-than-thou and how-dare-you confrontations on the matter. For my money, if it's not harmful and can be accomplished safely, then I say it stays unrestricted. Medicine has followed religion long enough (ironically, this is a case of it following religion...the other way). Decide the issue on the science. Don't like the result? Do more science to reach the medical truth. I have a feeling you're going to find that there's nothing medically wrong with the procedure (just like some people pierce their kid's ears). This will make it a choice of the parents and that means nobody else's opinion is going to matter so you can all go back to dealing with your own problems instead of everyone else's.

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Should I be able to have my children's fingertips removed if done by a qualified surgeon? It would have about the same 2-3% risk of infection/complication as having the foreskin removed by a surgeon.

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Can you let me know what qualified surgeon does fingertip removals as elective surgery first?

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This article discusses a couple of surgeons who have amputated healthy body parts:
http://www.infowars.com/articles/science/at_war_wi...

Google "elective amputation" if you want more info on the subject. There are definitely surgeons who will do so, even though there is also mention in the ethics codes that removal of healthy body parts amounts to assault/battery even if the individual consents. Personally, I think the removal of a healthy foreskin is no different than wanting a fingertip or an earlobe or a leg removed for no reason. And I think it's safe to ascertain that people who've had a leg amputated have less incidence of plantar warts, athlete's foot, ingrown toenails, bursitis. Great reason to cut it off!

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First, there's only 1 surgeon in that article who had done elective amputations twice. His hospital prevented him from doing any further and he did those two only after consulting with the patient's psychiatrists regarding it as a correction to a mental illness. So, your example doesn't hold water for suggesting the guy would do it because someone wanted their kid to lose their fingertips.

Also, the article raises a valid counterpoint. Is sex reassignment surgery unallowed in your view? Talk about going for more than just the foreskin...

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No, a parent should not be able to consent to sex reassignment surgery for a child. And I don't have any evidence that this is happening. In cases where assigned gender dysphoria has been an ongoing issue in a child, the recommended course is hormonal treatments to delay puberty so that the individual doesn't have to go through (most likely the incorrect version of) puberty and can be spared as much trauma as possible by at least remaining androgynous until s/he is old enough to make the decision. A lot of transfolks don't choose to have any surgeries, and the rates of non-op folks are about equal depending on whether the person knew s/he was trans in childhood or didn't fully realize it until adulthood.

While we're on the topic, it's really intriguing to hear/read the accounts of individuals who were born with ambiguous genitalia (or even non-ambiguous female genitalia with an enlarged clitoris) who had surgical procedures to "correct" this. Most feel extremely violated and don't feel it was anyone else's place to choose to have this done. One young woman I worked with, who had typical female chromosomes and was born with ambiguous genitalia, told me about how she had entered her teen years as someone who was comfortable with a female identity, then found out at about 16 that she'd been born ambiguous and had her genitalia "fixed" to be more typical female, which led her to have go through all kinds of sudden and extreme experimentation with gender identity, physical appearance, body size, etc. There are also stories of people with extremely variant genitalia who talk about how glad they are that it was left alone.

Anyway, what I was pointing out is that I easily found an aboveboard surgeon who will amputate healthy parts. There are certainly more out there who would do such a thing. I suppose we could include SRS surgeons and plastic surgeons in this category too. Therefore, there are surgeons who will amputate healthy parts aside from foreskins. So, if I start a religion in which children's fingertips are cut off for religious purposes, should this be allowed? What if I start one where children have their perfectly healthy noses surgically altered? What about removal of labia? Binding of feet? Where is the line?

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I dont believe the state should protect any religious activity that is harmful, painful a violation of the rights of the individual. I have no proplem if an adult male wants a circumcision as part of his religion. But a baby boy it is a violation since he has no decision wheither he wants foreskin or not. HIS BODY HIS RIGHTS! I dont want to be circumcised i am very upset with the damage that was done to me but that decision was made when i was an infant..

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Many Jewish citizens no longer support infant circumcision. We already have a law against female infant circumcision which is part of the Muslim religion. If we are going to allow body parts to be cut off for religious purposes, then should we repeal the law on female circumcision?

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So, let's get this straight:

If you're Catholic- it's horrible, despicable, heinous to molest a child.

If you're a Christian Scientist- it's child abuse to deny your child medical care.

If you're Jewish- it's "freedom of religion" to mutilate your male child's genitals, and how dare someone even bring a bill to the floor. Can't even be discussed!

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Don't be so snippy. Now you see how the sausage is made. This bill was a hack job anyways. Ok, I'll cut it out.

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...to np this discussion in the bud.

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...I feel like I should leave you a tip.

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Sorry for cutting it short ...

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At my nephew's bris:

"Tip-off in 10 minutes, everybody!"

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many people, Jewish or not, have their sons circumsized. I'm not pro-circumsizion, but starting sometime in the 20th century circumsizion became the norm.

My nephew, who's almost two, is of 75% Catholic heritage but has a Jewish last name thanks to his paternal grandfather. When he was born, the nurses were very surprised to hear he wasn't being snipped--but they told my brother and his wife, "Good for you for doing the research."

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Sorry but foreskins should be removed from all male infants regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof. And in fact most are removed in this country regardless of religious affiliation and lack thereof.
Why?
Because to many people they're considered a disgusting aberration.
OR
Because their parents had it done as a child and have suffered not for it and in fact benefited.
OR
Because they are throwbacks to a time of underpantslessness.

Now that humans use underpants there is no need for them just as there is no need for excessive body hair because we invented the furnace. Hopefully excessive body hair too will pass with time.

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Sorry but the clitoral hood, vulva, and/or labia should be removed from all female infants regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof. But in fact it is ILLEGAL to remove them in this country regardless of religious affiliation and lack thereof because of the sexist double standard in America when it comes to this subject.

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Is that the big "medical reason" that justifies infant male circumcision?

Well what if I thought the labia was "yuck?"

What if I thought that the labia were aberrations that looked like chewed up bubblegum?

I'm sorry, but it is absolutely DISGUSTING of you to imply that all boys should be circumcised to conform to YOUR FETISH.

Let's cut off the labia off of girls. After all, smegma accumulates in them, and sometimes they get to be so big that they look disgusting. Honestly, there are already women cutting them off, why not do your daughter a favor?

Boys don't like ugly disgusting, shriveled up flaps.

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Girls in the USA are protected from any knife slicing off ANY part of their genitals. Why aren't baby boys protected? A foreskin is NOT a birth defect. Religion aside, it's the BOY'S penis, so parents should NOT be allowed to decide to get their boy circumcised just because they feel like it. His penis. His choice. Circumcision started in the 20th century because Dr Kellog demanded every boy be circumcised without pain medicine to prevent masturbation. He said it cured blindness, epilesy, polio, etc. All FALSE!! He was a crazy man who never had sex with his wife. Sad part is, America believed the man!! I don't eat Kellog's cereals to this day. Stop circumcisions today! Let the Jews circumcise their boys. But for everyone else in America: stop doing to your sons what your parents did to their boys. Stop!

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Sorry but there are no negative effects from having it removed. Any such claims are as ludicrous as those from the anti-vaxxers (often the same crowd).

There are however many many positive effects of having it removed.
-Your penis will be more hygienic
-Your penis will not look as weird
-People may want to touch your penis (see above)
-You're less likely to get penis cancer (cervical)
-You're less likely to get and transmit STDs via your penis

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....has had a major axe to grind, or been on extremely shaky scientific ground.

For example, everyone loves to cite a recent study among african males. Circumcised men had lower rates of AIDS transmission/infection, blah blah blah.

Except that the only people being circumcised are religious folk. Who usually have different sexual behaviors. Yet the study completely ignored that- it just correlated circumcision with STD transmission.

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Complications of infant circumcision are about 3%. And that's only the medical complications that are treated shortly post-op. That doesn't include skin bridges, meatal deformities, or any of the other issues that can, ahem, arise as the penis grows. The complications included in that 3% include death from hemorrhage, gangrene or necrotizing fasciitis that can cause loss of the entire penis or entire region, fatal infections, and a host of other fun and exciting things it's legal to inflict on one's infant.

Leaving the damn thing alone may result in a slightly higher rate of treatable infections, but has not once caused someone to bleed to death or have his entire pelvic region removed.

Oh, and the anti-vaccine folks certainly are not largely the same folks as the anti-circumcision folks. The American Academy of Pediatrics takes the position that there is no medical reason for infant circumcision. The AAP is obviously pro-vaccine.

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Sorry but there is actually more than TWICE the risk of complication/risk associated with male infant genital mutilation than any possible issue that MIGHT arise form remaining intact. There is simply no valid reason to maintain the practice. It's a violation of the child's basic human right to an intact body.

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@BlackKat: Risks of circumcision (most small, but they add up):
infection and sometimes death;
haemorrhage and sometimes death;
pain / shock, and sometimes death;
methaemoglobinaemia, brain damage and possibly death, if EMLA cream is used to anaesthetise a newborn;
necrotising fasciitis ("galloping gangrene");
damage (scarring, pitting) to the glans or shaft;
urethral fissure/fistula;
scaphoid megalourethra;
"trapped/buried penis";
occlusion of penile venous system;
eczema of the glans and meatus (the urinary opening);
meatitis;
meatal ulcer (as common as 10%);
meatal stenosis;
multiple pyogenic granuloma - a series of brushlike growths around the circumcision wound, caused by pus;
loss of sensitivity (and not just the quantity, but the quality - "a symphony of sensation";
production of ugly scar tissue, skin-bridges, skin-tags, malapposition (rejoining on the twist) and/or suture holes - and more.

"-Your penis will be more hygienic"
Keeping a whole one clean is quick, easy - and fun (but reducing fun was one of the original aims of circumcision)

"-Your penis will not look as weird"
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder: at least 70% of men are intact

"-People may want to touch your penis (see above)"
??

"-You're less likely to get penis cancer (cervical)"
It would take hundreds or thousands of circumcisions to prevent even one case (if the poor studies we have are accurate). The case that circumcision prevents any cervical cancer is weak and indirect.

"-You're less likely to get and transmit STDs via your penis"
Just not so.

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I'm sorry, but you don't put a child through needless surgery because it "doesn't have negative effects." All of the "positive" effects you mention are dubious, and even if they were true, that would still not be any grounds for needlessly mutilating a child.

A surgery is performed because it is called for. Because a child is suffering some sort of condition which cannot be dealt with any other way.

What ails a healthy newborn child? If having a foreskin is such a problem, why do 75% or so of the men in the world, not suffer from any "problems?"

Define "hygenic." What does that mean to you? That the normal intact penis can't be? You seem to be implying that men with foreskins don't ever take showers. Women usually have a smell about them as well, and they also have to deal with smegma. Yet their problem is easily taken care of with a shower. Is there a reason why healthy boys couldn't learn to do the same?

"Penis won't look as weird." Weird to WHOM?

"People may want to touch your penis." I think this will happen whether it is cut or not.

About cancer, you DO know that the American Cancer Society of all people, says circumcision doesn't do anything for you, right?

About STDs, as long as you have a penis, and as long as you don't have safe sex, you'll transmit or get STDs. I'm sorry, but whether you're cut or not, if you don't wear a condom, you're going to get an STD.

Now, you need to tell me why STD prevention is even relevant in a child who does not even have sex yet, and why, when he's older, he'll be too stupid to learn to use a rubber.

You perform surgery because it's necessary, not for the "negative" or "positive" effects it has.

Cutting children because you think it makes them sexier is twisted and sick. What sick, disgusting sadomasochistic pedophilia.

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I see you've managed to equate circumcision to a vaccine.

A vaccine works by making the body immune to microorgasms that cause disease.

Circumcision does not, cannot even begin to do that.

Please stop trying to sell the dubious premise that a circumcision is like a vaccine, because it is not.

When a body is infected with HIV, the disease will not magically pass over a person because he is circumcised.

What utter quackery.

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@FinaD: "it's the BOY'S penis," Actually, if it were only the boy's penis, and if circumcision was shown by proper cost-benefit analysis to do all the things claimed for it concerning diseases of childhood (basically only urinary tract infection), then there might be a case for allowing non-therapeutic infant circumcision.

But in fact, by the circumcisers' own figures, out of every 1000 circumcisions to prevent UTI, 991 are wasted, 990 on boys who were never going to get a UTi, and 1 on a boy who gets UTI anyway.

Oh, and you'd have to be able to give the boy back his foreskin on his 18th birthday, because it's not only the boy's penis, but the penis of the man he is to become, with his own view about how much of it he wants to keep.

Actually, Kellogg did not advocate universal circumcision, only of those boys caught masturbating (it would have seemed to work, because they'd make damned sure not to be caught again). In the next paragraph of his anti-masturbation book "Plain Facts for Old and Young" he advocates applying carbolic acid to girls' genitals for the same purpose.

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They really come out of the woodwork for this topic.

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I am a son who was circumcised at birth. I dislike being circumcised. So much, that I am restoring my foreskin. I much prefer having a foreskin and so does my wife.

The penis is very importent to men. Unfortunately, for those men who were circumcised at birth, they have no idea what it is like to have a whole sex organ. Few men can accept the fact that they have less than their whole penis. Having experience being both circumcised and having a restored foreskin, I think male infant circumcision would come to an end if only everyone knew how much better sex is with a foreskin.

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I am an attorney and argued at the Massachusetts hearing on the bill to ban male circumcision.

I thought that the testimony against circumcision was extremely compelling. Senator Creem indeed did not appear to be very interested in the testimony, and I was told was overheard saying in the hall to a Jewish woman that the bill would not pass.

There is no question that removing the foreskin, which at birth is fused to the penile shaft, is excruciatingly painful. It amputates (the words of the American Academy of Pediatricians) highly vascularized, erogenous, living tissue, and completely changes the look and function of the sexual organ. It can cause death and the rate of complications is high. In short, it is clearly harmful.

The Supreme Court of the United States, in Prince v. Massachusetts, made clear that parents cannot harm or even risk harming their children (let alone killing them) for religious reasons. The Court said that parents can make martyrs of themselves for religious reasons, but cannot harm or risk harm to their children for religious reasons. The Court said that children should be allowed to reach adulthood and then make their own decisions about their own bodies for themselves. This also has been American law and the common law of Britain since the Magna Carta was signed in the 1200's, that every person is entitled to security of the person; i.e., bodily and hence also genital integrity.

Let me add that under the federal and state constitutions, people are entitled to speedy redress for unlawful acts, including touchings and woundings that cause harm. So the legislature failed in its constitutional duty to (a) give the bill a fair hearing, and (b) its duty to pass it.

Query also whether it is a conflict of interest for someone Jewish, who believes that God mandated circumcision, to chair a committee on the question.

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In much of Europe it is practically illegal to circumcise baby boys with an exception for Muslims and Jews to do religious circumcisions. I think it should be that way in Massachusetts also. I don't think it would be possible to outlaw male circumcision of minors who are Muslim or Jewish, because there would be too much protest.

I think it's insane for Christian parents to let their baby sons be circumcised though. According to the Old Testament males are supposed be circumcised as a religious sacrifice. But according to the New Testament, because Jesus died on the cross for us, males are no longer supposed to make the sacrifice of circumcision. In Galations 5:1-6 it says "IF YOU RECEIVE CIRCUMCISION, CHRIST WILL BE OF NO ADVANTAGE TO YOU"

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@Jay: I used to agree with your suggestion that their should be a religious exemption to any restriction on circumcision, but then I heard from too many Jews who wish this had not been done to them. (I'm sure that under the right circumstances I'd hear from Muslims, too.)

I don't know about "much of Europe" but there are certainly restrictions in Sweden and Finland (and South Africa, and Tasmania is considering its legality).

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As a Jewish woman, Creem had a conflict of interest in even considering this bill.

What a shame that the fate of this bill rested in the hands of a religious, self-interested woman.

This goes to show you that Church and State are ever wed.

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Of COURSE this bill would never pass. Still, what a shame that it had to die in the hands of a biased judge.

Without a doubt the bill would still fail to pass, and there would be no end to the outcry of an "attack on religious freedoms."

But yet, how far do "religious freedoms" go?

It is very easy for us to see male circumcision as a "religious right" because for the most part, infant circumcision is still widely accepted, even in secular circles. American medicine has done a good job of lodging the image of circumcision as a "clean, American" thing to do in the American psyche. But what if this pre-existing love affair with cutting boys didn't exist?

Believe it or not, cutting girls happened in this country, and only until relatively recently was there ever a law to ban circumcising girls. In fact, insurance companies such as Blue Shield paid for the procedure. The ban forbids doctors from cutting female genitalia of under age girls in any way, shape or form, and there can be no religious exception. Why, then, this double-standard?

It's very easy to say that banning circumcision is an attack on religious freedom, maybe even a racist attack on Jews. But if so, why does nobody care that a ban on female circumcision infringes on the "rights and freedoms" of ethnic groups for whom circumcising girls is a traditional/religious custom?

Circumcising girls is an important rite of passage for quite a few African tribes. It is also important in many sects in Islam, and it is important in Indonesia. (The NYTimes published an excellent article on this called "A Cutting Tradition.")

What is it called when you give one group preference and religious privilege, but then deny it to another?

If we're going to defend "religious freedom," let's do it across the board, not just with people who practice a mutilation to which we are desensitized.

The same rights violated in a girl, are the same rights violated in a boy.

There will never be true equality until both sexes are protected.

Either both sexes are protected, or both kinds of mutilations are allowed.

It is not equality when one religion has "freedom" and the other doesn't.

What a shame that Creem is allowed to flaunt her religious privileges that way.

What a shame that children are but accessories for their parents here.

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The time is long past for religious people to object to a ban on genital cutting on the grounds that it restricts their religious freedom. Where were they in 1996 when the US law to ban female genital cutting with NO RELIGIOUS EXEMPTION (no matter how minor) was passed.

To paraphrase Eli Weisel: "They came for the Muslims' religious freedom, but I said nothing because I was not a Muslim."

In fact the only person whose religious freedom matters in this issue is the boy (and the sexually active adult he will become) whose penis would be deprived of half its sensual pleasure-receptive nerve endings. A Jew in the US or UK is 5 times as likely as a member of the general population to attend an anti-circumcision rally. Several of the people who testified in favor of the Massechusetts ban are Jewish.

Foreskin feels REALLY good. HIS body, HIS decision.

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Some Muslims believe it is part of their religion to cut parts off the genitals of baby girls, but I don't recall too many complaints when that was made illegal.

Everyone should be able to decide for themselves whether or not they want parts cut off their genitals. It's their body.

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It seems the senator wasn't aware of St Thomas thoughts about circumcision:

"But a private person may not perform such an ablation, even with the patient's consent; it would be committing an injustice to society, to which man belongs with all his limbs."

"You can cut a limb off only if there is no other way of insuring the health of the whole body. But you can always guarantee the salute of the soul by other means than physical mutilation, be-cause sin is essentially voluntary; thus, mutilation will never be permitted in order to suppress an opportunity of sinning."

Summa theologica. 1273.

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