San Francisco mulls circumcision ban: Is procedure mutilation - or good medicine?

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(CBS) Has the time come to cut out circumcision? Pro-foreskin forces say so, and some in San Francisco say they've collected enough signatures to put a proposal to ban circumcision before voters.

The proposal would make it a misdemeanor to perform circumcision on a male under the age of 18 within the city. Anyone who ignored the ban would face a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.

Circumcision should be outlawed because "it's excruciatingly painful and permanently damaging surgery that's forced on men when they're at their weakest and most vulnerable," a leading proponent of the ban, 59-year-old Lloyd Schofeld, told Reuters.

Since circumcision is a ritual practice for Jews and Muslims, some legal experts say such a ban might prove an unconstitutional infringement of religious freedom, Time reported. But others say religions don't get a "free pass."

What do doctors say?

The American Academy of Pediatricians says the procedure cuts both ways. In its official policy statement on circumcusion - issued in 1999 and reaffirmed in 2005 - the academy said the procedure has potential health benefits, including reduced risk bladder infections and transmission of HIV/AIDs and other sexually transmitted diseases.

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

Yow.

Given the pros and cons, the academy says "the procedure is not essential to the child's current well-being" and that "parents should determine what is in the best interest of the child."

Eighty percent of American men are circumcised, the New York Times reported last year. But across the nation, fewer parents are choosing to circumcise their boys. In 2009, 32.5 percent of newborns in the U.S. were circumcised, down from 56 percent in 2006.

Of the slide, Georganne Chapin, executive director of the Tarrytown, N.Y.-based anticircumcusion organization Intact America, told the Times, "Word has gotten out that it's not necessary, it's harmful, and it's painful."

What do you think? Is circumcusion unnecessary and abusive? Should it be banned?

  • David W Freeman

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