Wednesday, August 25, 2010

TMI-Circumcision

Romans 2:28-29 A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God.

I went to a baby shower a few months back and the topic of circumcision came up. My friend is having twin boys at the end of September or October. The general feeling I got from it was that circumcision was a totally normal thing to do. Although as many in the party pointed out, you had to go to a urologist because the hospital doesn't preform them.

It seemed rather odd to me because as I've mentioned a lot, I used to work at a day care. And after changing many baby boys, you notice something. A vast majority of them are uncircumcised. Perhaps this is because I worked in a poorer part of town. Perhaps this is the new trend on the issue. MK said there is a trend that less and less boys are uncircumcised.

Just so you know, to circumcise or not is not a Christian or Catholic issue. It's an American one. Other Christian nations do not circumcise their children. A friend of mine from Colombia pointed this out to me one day (don't ask how the subject came up because honestly I don't remember). He said that it's purely an American thing to circumcise, not a religious one.

The Bible backs this up. Their are numerous quotes from Paul clearly pointing out that it's not the circumcision itself that makes one holy, but how one behaves. He tells many of the Jews evangelizing the Greeks to stop forcing them to go through a circumcision.

The Catholic church also says that circumcision is not mandatory. And from what I've heard (I have no evidence of this), it's actually frowned upon.

I've looked into how our country got into circumcision and it's largely based around doctors. In the 70s and 80s, 90% of all boys were circumcised. Doctors were telling families to perform the procedure so that boys could receive the now deemed benign benefits of lower risks of contracting STDs and lower risk of urinary tract infections.

Fast forward to the next generation, the AAP says that because there are risks and only benign benefits, they do not endorse it or refute it. In other words, it's up to the parents to weigh their options. Today, only 60 % of American boys are circumcised.

Some reasons to circumcise today include: religious reasons (Jews and Muslims especially are obligated), less risk of UTI, less risk of AIDS/HIV contraction, less risk of other STIs or STDs contractions, "easier" to clean (I say this because cleaning an uncircumcised boy is a piece of cake), and because their father was so they want to look similar.

Some reasons to not circumcise today include: expense- insurance carriers are no longer covering the procedure because it is deemed cosmetic, risk of infection, risk of hemorrhaging, and to keep the child as is.

Now many of you know that HB is a boy and are probably wondering what choice we have made on the subject. I actually hesitate to tell you because I strongly feel it's my duty as HB's parent to protect his privacy. However, this blog is largely anonymous and the ones who know me in person, for the most part, already know what our decision was. That being said, I will tell you.

Since there is no religious obligation to circumcise nor is it considered immoral, I left the decision up to Hubby. Hubby is a man. I don't have a penis so I don't feel that I could make that sort of decision because I don't have the faintest clue as to what something like that would do. Hubby, in his wonderful wisdom, took the same attitude I did. He decided that he couldn't make that body altering decision for another man. He decided to let HB decide. Since HB is an infant, he can't really decide right now. In the mean time, he will remain intact because it's a lot easier to remove a foreskin than it is to sew one back on. When he's old enough to make that decision for himself and if that's what he wants to do, we will take him to be circumcised. And that was our decision.

It's the same decision that my parents had with me over piercing my ears. Although circumcision is surgery. My attitude is not to alter the body the child has. If they want to, then that is their decision. So things like circumcision, body piercings, and tattoos should be something that the child decides when their of the age to. But that's my opinion. Parents have to decide whether they are circumcising their boys for the benefits or for religion or for society and to weigh the options against the risks.

13 comments:

  1. I agree with you. If our son wants to be circumcised when he's 18 (16 if he knows what he's doing), I'll pay for it and help him find a good surgeon. Until then, he stays intact. His body - his decision. If he wants to be circumcised later, it's easy to fix - safer, less painful, and better cosmetic results. If we'd had him circumcised, and he wanted to be intact, it's a problem.

    Also worth checking out:

    Canadian Paediatric Society
    "Recommendation: Circumcision of newborns should not be routinely performed."

    http://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/pregnancy&babies/circumcision.htm
    "Circumcision is a 'non-therapeutic' procedure, which means it is not medically necessary."
    "After reviewing the scientific evidence for and against circumcision, the CPS does not recommend routine circumcision for newborn boys. Many paediatricians no longer perform circumcisions.


    RACP Policy Statement on Circumcision
    "After extensive review of the literature, the Paediatrics & Child Health Division of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians has concluded that there is no medical reason for routine newborn male circumcision."
    (almost all the men responsible for this statement will be circumcised themselves, as the male circumcision rate in Australia in 1950 was about 90%. "Routine" circumcision is now *banned* in public hospitals in Australia in all states except one.)

    British Medical Association: The law and ethics of male circumcision - guidance for doctors
    "to circumcise for therapeutic reasons where medical research has shown other techniques to be at least as effective and less invasive would be unethical and inappropriate."

    The Royal Dutch Medical Association
    http://knmg.artsennet.nl/Diensten/knmgpublicaties/KNMGpublicatie/Nontherapeutic-circumcision-of-male-minors-2010.htm
    "The official viewpoint of KNMG and other related medical/scientific organisations is that non-therapeutic circumcision of male minors is a violation of children’s rights to autonomy and physical integrity. Contrary to popular belief, circumcision can cause complications – bleeding, infection, urethral stricture and panic attacks are particularly common. KNMG is therefore urging a strong policy of deterrence. KNMG is calling upon doctors to actively and insistently inform parents who are considering the procedure of the absence of medical benefits and the danger of complications."


    Drops in male circumcision:
    USA: from 90% to 57% (43% according to a CDC study this year)
    Canada: from 48% to 17%
    UK: from 35% to about 5% (about 1% among non-Muslims)
    Australia: 90% to 12.6% ("routine" circumcision has recently been *banned* in public hospitals in all states except one, so the rate will now be a lot lower)
    New Zealand: 95% to below 3% (mostly Samoans and Tongans)
    South America and Europe: never above 5%

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's worth remembering that no-one except for Muslim and Jewish people would even be having this discussion if it weren't for the fact that 19th century doctors thought that :
    a) masturbation caused various physical and mental problems (including epilepsy, convulsions, paralysis, tuberculosis etc), and
    b) circumcision stopped masturbation.

    Both of those sound ridiculous today I know, but if you don't believe me, then check out this link:
    A Short History of Circumcision in North America In the Physicians' Own Words

    ReplyDelete
  3. While that may be true of the 19th century, my focus was more directed toward those who are presently alive and the trend that was common among today's fathers.

    Many strange practices among 19th century as well as 20th physicians have been thankfully been phased out. FYI- in the 1920s women were told to go to the doctor's monthly to use machines that would make them orgasm. The thought was that if they didn't they would go insane. There's always a history of sex followed by one of intense anti-sex. Most people think of the sexual revolutions of the 1960s. I think of the sexual revolution of the Renaissance. So I feel that we would still be having this discussion regardless of what doctors in the 19th century thought. Currently, I believe, we're in a sort of sex saturated age. So perhaps the next decade we will see a resurgence of male circumcision.

    I think the discussion about circumcision is an ancient one and that it will continue because it is heavily based in religion. That was the point of this blog. Male circumcision is around to stay regardless of any sexual issues that doctors or any one else thinks. While a lot of parents do look into the medical reasons, a lot also study the religious reasons. So I think it's a bit hasty of you to assume that the issue would not be around simply because of something that has happened in the past.

    But, hey. That's my opinion. I'm not a sociologist.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Interestingly there are also Jews & Muslims against the practice. For Jews there is a ceremony called a Bris Shalom. For Muslims... well its not actually in the Qur'an and its debatable if its really required or not. Obviously we know which side is more common there.

    As for us Catholics... Most of what I've found says the same as you mentioned, but there are some places that say that its against our religion (even if its not pushed as strongly as say birth control) too. The arguments make sense... But the Church doesn't say anything (or hasn't recently) and most priests say its up to parents... so I hesitate to use it as a reason.

    I'm not even gonna touch the subject of the AIDS/HIV studies. I've seen them and it makes me want to scream. There are other studies (less biased and actually finished) that say the opposite. All of the other benefits are debatable too...

    I get what Mark was getting at too... Those reasons are very out of date yes, but they colored the way our country viewed the practice for a long time. First it was for that, and then because it had been done to them (for those reasons) they wanted to continue the trend (the like father reason) and to back it up started looking for other benefits. As soon as the AAP stopped recommending it they started in on this AIDS/HIV thing.

    I don't think the practice is going to be going anywhere anytime soon either, not just because of the religion factor but because those that are don't want to admit that something cruel was done to them against their will or that they could be missing something. (side note: there are a number of men "restoring" because they do feel they are) But the number of babies going down to 33% last year is a huge step. I'm not naive enough to think its because that many more people are thinking its wrong to make that decision for their sons though. A growing number yes, but not that many.

    Side note: I'm glad the decision was easier for yall as a couple than it was for us. Not just saying that because you came to the conclusion that you did either lol... I don't wish the arguments and all that on anyone.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I mentioned the 19th century stuff, because that's how non-religious circumcision got started. If it hadn't been for that, I don't think any Americans who weren't Muslim or Jewish would even consider it.

    90% of Christians worldwide do *not* circumcise. In the most Christian countries in the world (places like Mexico, Poland, Brazil, Spain, Italy), the practice is almost unknown.

    The Catholic church has been opposed for centuries, most notably in a Papal Bull from 1445:

    The Holy Roman Church "...commands all who glory in the name of Christian, at whatever time, before or after baptism, to cease entirely from circumcision, since, whether or not one places hope in it, it cannot be observed at all without the loss of eternal salvation."

    An exception for medical reasons was made by Pope Pius XII in 1952:

    "From a moral point of view, circumcision is permissible if, in accordance with therapeutic principles, it prevents a disease that cannot be countered in any other way."

    The original Jewish form of circumcision was very different to what happens nowadays btw. Back then, they only cut off the overhang of the foreskin. The usual form of male circumcision nowadays was introduced around 130AD by rabbis who wanted to stop Jewish men trying to pretend to be gentile.

    ReplyDelete
  6. As far as medical issues go, the AAP is basically neutral on male circumcision, but it's worth looking at what medical organizations in other countries say:

    Canadian Paediatric Society
    "Recommendation: Circumcision of newborns should not be routinely performed."

    http://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/pregnancy&babies/circumcision.htm
    "Circumcision is a 'non-therapeutic' procedure, which means it is not medically necessary."
    "After reviewing the scientific evidence for and against circumcision, the CPS does not recommend routine circumcision for newborn boys. Many paediatricians no longer perform circumcisions.


    RACP Policy Statement on Circumcision
    "After extensive review of the literature, the Paediatrics & Child Health Division of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians has concluded that there is no medical reason for routine newborn male circumcision."
    (almost all the men responsible for this statement will be circumcised themselves, as the male circumcision rate in Australia in 1950 was about 90%. "Routine" circumcision is now *banned* in public hospitals in Australia in all states except one.)

    British Medical Association: The law and ethics of male circumcision - guidance for doctors
    "to circumcise for therapeutic reasons where medical research has shown other techniques to be at least as effective and less invasive would be unethical and inappropriate."

    The Royal Dutch Medical Association
    http://knmg.artsennet.nl/Diensten/knmgpublicaties/KNMGpublicatie/Nontherapeutic-circumcision-of-male-minors-2010.htm
    "The official viewpoint of KNMG and other related medical/scientific organisations is that non-therapeutic circumcision of male minors is a violation of children’s rights to autonomy and physical integrity. Contrary to popular belief, circumcision can cause complications – bleeding, infection, urethral stricture and panic attacks are particularly common. KNMG is therefore urging a strong policy of deterrence. KNMG is calling upon doctors to actively and insistently inform parents who are considering the procedure of the absence of medical benefits and the danger of complications."

    ReplyDelete
  7. Ooo thanks for that link! I searched "everywhere" for it but only could find quotes from it mentioned in places.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Wow, this discussion is a very good one. And if that may sound sarcastic to you, it isn't meant to be. I truly think that this is a good discussion.

    To be honest, I really haven't all that many hours in the day to research a topic especially from the official Catholic perspective, which as MK said is for the most part in the shadows. I knew that it was an important one so that's why I decided to use our situation as a platform. Currently I haven't heard of any official response on the matter, but that doesn't mean that there isn't one. Most of the stuff I've written I wrote from memory from stuff I've read. Did I mention that I'm kinda a sponge and remember a lot of the stuff I've read? Yeah, those statistics. I can't honestly remember where I found them.

    I knew that a lot of other medical professional groups world wide officially discourage male circumcision. The AAP is always slow. I've heard that they are investigating their stance at the moment and we may hear in a year or so that they are discouraging it as well. For the time being having a neutral stance is positive since many parents do follow the AAP's guidelines (like me).

    I suppose that's why it was so surprising to here so many women at the baby shower talking about their son's circ. I thought about bringing the topic up against it, but then the subject changed. I didn't think that it was proper at that time to use a baby shower as a soap box. My friend will have to go elsewhere if she wants her son's circumcised. Perhaps I can broach the subject with her then. Right now she's a bit edgy/hormonal. I don't want to push the decision on her before the babies are born. I have enough things going on then to make one friend become hostile towards me.

    My official stance on the matter is that I don't tell parents what to do. I just present the facts and have them make educated decisions themselves. Unfortunately, I've seen a lot of parents go with the flow. Like my one friend who NIP did it because she's seen others and it seemed normal. She had no idea that there are states out there who can potentially arrest you for indecent exposure. Education is key, which is why doing our homework on something like this optional surgery is really important.

    ReplyDelete
  9. :-)

    I don't remember where either, but I do remember when... The 60% is from 2004. Thinking it was more recent I used it when talking to my hubby and had to eat my words when I realized it had dropped. Its true the way you worded it though, those babies are now boys lol.

    I don't think I would have brought it up at the shower either. Esp with yall living in a place that the hospitals dont do it.. They do in some places and the best/only time to bring it up is during pg (which is rough) but yall are lucky there. Good luck with broaching the subject too.. .I've seen on CM that a lot of women who're planning to do it don't take well to receiving the info (even if you're not pushing). This is a subject I'm a lot more comfortable talking about online than in person too though. Even on my blog I was a little hesitant just to do the stats post.. because family reads it.

    Curious about the NIP thing too. Which states can arrest you? I know not every state is equal rights wise, but I had not heard that before.

    ReplyDelete
  10. There are three that have no NIP law protection (I've mentioned it before but I can't think off the top of my head which ones). So if you do NIP, the police can arrest you for indecent exposure although I doubt that they would because it's ridiculous. But they can still arrest you.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I had to google "NIP" to find out what it meant, and I'm actually kind of shocked that it seems to be such an issue. I don't really understand why anyone would be against it.

    "Forty-four states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have laws with language specifically allowing women to breastfeed in any public or private location (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming)."
    http://www.ncsl.org/IssuesResearch/Health/BreastfeedingLaws/tabid/14389/Default.aspx

    Michigan, South Dakota, and Virginia exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws.

    That leaves Idaho, Nebraska, and West Virginia.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Oh, thanks! I'm a stay-at-home who's a little dysfunctional sometimes. Sorry about the acronym. I'm used to talking to other nursing moms.

    I think it's not been completely protected for two reasons. 1) it's not seen as being that terribly important 2) a lot of people think seeing a small bit of breast in public is disgusting. I think it's a bit comical considering that people go to malls and walk past billboards with women in lingerie.

    There's even a story of a women getting asked to leave a Victoria's Secret dressing room because she was nursing her child in there. It's a lingerie store! People are trying on bras in there. And what's crazy was she wasn't sitting in the middle of the store. Needless to say there was what lactivists call a "nurse in". Basically it's a bunch of moms protesting by sitting in the store and breastfeeding. You've probably heard about this concerning flying or airports.

    A lot of groups and moms are trying to change the laws to make life easier on breastfeeding women. In March of this year, Obama signed into law that employers with 50 employees or more must provide a quiet, private place (and not the bathroom) and some break time for nursing moms to pump while at work. Up until that point, if you were wanting to nurse while going back to work and you're employer wouldn't let you have the time or place to pump, you'd have to formula feed your child. Although, most employers did so voluntarily.

    So when I say you can get arrested in Idaho, Nebraska, and WV it isn't likely that you will, but legally you could be. And that's the problem because all you need is one upset person and the policeman would have to arrest her or at least cite her.

    Crazy to think that you could go to court with a ticket over indecent exposure because you were NIP.

    ReplyDelete
  13. West Virginia both surprises me and doesn't. A friend just moved there (very strong lactivist too... we met through a nurse in that fell apart here lol, didn't happen) and they have all sorts of issues there. I'm bad about the acronyms too. Even worse we have some that are the same for diff things. People use EBF for both exclusive and extended. FF is both formula fed/feeding and forward facing. I read those things all the time and still get confused every now and again lol.

    ReplyDelete

I love to read your thoughts. Thanks for sharing!