The Circumcision Controversy
Once routine, circumcision rates have been declining since the 1980s. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that a little more than half of all infant males are circumcised now, although that figure is likely low since it only counts in-hospital circumcisions. Globally, about 30 percent of men are circumcised, although rates range drastically from country to country.
Passionate opponents of circumcision, who sometimes describe themselves as “intactivists,” call the procedure barbaric and liken it to female genital cutting. The internet, and its increasing use as a resource for medical decisions, has helped anti-circumcision groups get their message out. “We believe that circumcision of children violates numerous legal rights of the child and is highly unethical, if not unlawful,” said a public notice posted by Doctors Opposing Circumcision in anticipation of the AAP’s announcement.
Some groups have even tried to make the practice illegal. Activists in San Francisco proposed a measure to ban circumcision, but i t was struck down by California Governor Jerry Brown. Courts in Germany recently called circumcision “grievous bodily harm,” and ruled that the "fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighed the fundamental rights of the parents.”
Because circumcision is such a sensitive issue, moral or religious concerns might be more important than medical studies to many parents. “It’s a reduction of risk, not an elimination,” says Dr. Brady. “We recognize some people have very strong personal feelings about this issue, and those should be used in any decision-making.”