Circumcision on ballot in San Francisco: Will voters okay ban?

A circumcision ban is making its way to San Francisco ballots
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(CBS/AP) What's the truth about circumcision? Is it a valuable tradition with important health benefits - or just another way to inflict suffering on little boys?

Voters in San Francisco will soon be able to weigh in, as a measure to ban male circumcision is on the ballot for the upcoming November election.

The proposed law would prohibit circumcision in males under age 18. What if a child is born into a religion that requires circumcision? It wouldn't matter - whoever wields the scalpel would face a $1,000 fine or up to one year in jail.

No matter how you slice it, this debate is going to upset a lot of people.

Supporters of the ban call circumcision painful and needless, with purported health benefits largely unproven. Those on the other side of the debate say circumcision helps prevent the spread of disease and/or serves an important religious purpose.

The CDC doesn't have any position on the San Francisco proposal, according to Elizabeth-Ann Chandler, a spokesman for the agency.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says the procedure cuts both ways. In its official policy statement on circumcision - updated in 2005 - the academy says the procedure has the potential to reduce the risk for bladder infections and help prevent transmission of sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS.

But the academy also said there were potential downsides, pointing to anecdotal reports that circumcision can reduce men's sexual sensation and evidence that it can be painful and lead to complications like bleeding and infections - and in rare instances -partial or complete amputation of the penis.

But others say critics and proponents of circumcision should just cut it out.

"People care way too much about this little piece of skin," circumcision expert Dr. Mark Alanis, assistant professor obstetrics and gynecology at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, told the Washington Post. "At the end of the day, it's unlikely to significantly change your child's life for better or worse."

What do you think? Is San Francisco ahead of the curve on circumcision - or badly out of step?

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