Saturday, May 22, 2010

Let's just stop cutting our babies

I recall talking once with an Intact America rep at a midwifery conference and he was very happy to hear that I was interested in getting some literature to hand out to my clients. He told me that many of the midwives he had talked to at the conference said that, while they supported his orgainzation's aim, they didn't feel it was their place to bring up the topic of circumcistion with their pregnant clients; that is wasn't their place to discuss it.

In my experience, education is of the utmost importance on this topic. I have seen countless families who originally planned, without question, to circumcise their baby boy, but then once they learned more and because informed, they instead kept their boy intact. Indeed, more and more families in the United States are keeping their boys intact. In my region of the country, around 70% of baby boys are now left intact. Even still, 30% of boys being cut is too high.

I bring up the topic prenatally with my clients, if they know they are having a boy and if they don't know the sex of their baby. It is sometimes an anxiety-filled conversation, but its an important one. I myself am the mother of 2 intact boys and married to an intact man (as are the majority of men in South America, where my husband was born).

Quoted directly from the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Center website, here are the basics on male circumcision:

  • No national or international medical association recommends routine circumcision.
  • Only the USA circumcises the majority of newborn boys without medical or religious reason.
  • Medicalized circumcision began during the 1800s to prevent masturbation, which was believed to cause disease.
  • Today's parents are learning that the foreskin is a normal, protective, functioning organ.
  • Today's parents realize circumcision harms and has unnecessary risks.
  • Circumcision denies a male's right to genital integrity and choice for his own body.

  • This brings me to the recent news that the American Academy of Pediatrics revised their policy on female genital mutilation (now called 'cutting'). I believe that this move is likely related to the fact that they (along with the CDC) are currently reviewing their policy on infant male genital mutilation (aka circumcision), exploring whether or not they are going to continue to NOT endorse circumcision. If I am correct in my connecting the two, I am fully expecting the policy of infant male genital mutilation to be reversed. (I hope I am wrong.)

    When I originally heard the news of the AAP and CDC reconsidering recommending circumcision and now backtracking on their original opposition to all female mutilation, I felt such shock and disgust. How about we just stop cutting our babies? No, really! Sharp objects belong nowhere near genitals of babies and children, in my opinion.

    Marilyn Milos, director of NOCIRC, recently sent the AAP this letter in reply to their policy revision on female genital mutilation, which ElementalMom so wisely blogged about.

    CNN recently published a good article on the topic of female genital mutilation. A Somali film director and activist, Soraya Mire, counsels genital mutilation survivors and families who want to have their daughters cut:
    She sleeps with her cell phone tucked under her pillow, so she can answer at all hours.

    "You don't have a right to do this to your children," Mire tells the immigrant community. "You are continuing the abuse."

    Fatima Mohamed, a Somali immigrant and activist, was herself cut and says of her own daughter:

    Her 11-year-old daughter is too young to comprehend genital cutting, Mohamed says. Instead, they discuss her daughter's dreams to become a pediatrician. Perhaps in a few years, Mohamed will tell her the truth.

    "I would never do it to my daughter," she said. "I don't want it. This has nothing to do with religion or culture. I believe nobody should control my child."

    Really, this applies to both sexes.

    On the topic of Jewish male circumcision, have you seen the documentary CUT? It's worth a watch!

    This is something that affects all of us. Our babies are born perfect, whether they have labia and a clitoris, or a penis and scrotum between their legs. How about we just don't cut our babies?


    Modern Midwife said...

    My understanding is that the public health community is in support of male circumcision as a means to reducing STI rates. I think that this is a poorly thought out stance, because a) health practices in the third world do not necessarily translate to the first world, b) condom use is lower with uncircumcised males across the board, but design changes and educational campaigns could change that (theoretically). Can you (or anyone out there) speak to this information?

    Radical Midwife said...

    Yes, you are right, that is the motive behind the possible revision to begin endorsing male circumcsion. The flaws you mentioned are spot on, as well as the fact that the studies themselves were poorly designed. I didn't get into this topic on my post, as I didn't want to it be even MORE wordy, but an excellent site that specifically addresses the huge misconception of HIV transmission happening less among circumcised males is here: (a good site overall, for information).

    I watched once a youtube video of a prominent HIV researcher breaking down the HIV/circumcision myth. I wish I could remember what it was called....

    Radical Midwife said...

    This isn't the one I previously saw, but its a good one, nonetheless.

    Radical Midwife said...

    Corin said...

    I AGREE. We MUST stop the cutting. This makes me so mad and so angry that it's even still going on.

    Spinning Babies Lady said...

    Thank you for posting this. And what a beautiful blog photo banner.
    I clicked to see your post with another kind of cutting in mind. I have recently met a woman, now a mother herself, who was horribly cut along her back while she was being born. She was breech you see, and labor was progressing well when her mother arrived at the hospital. They were rushed to the OR for an emergency cesarean - "To save her from injury" I'm sure. Her scar is so deep that I assume she was cut to her ribs. She's had two natural births of her own. I can hardly breathe, though, telling this story, remembering her eyes, her scar and the baby in her wrap. Mothers and babies experiencing breech in America, there is a spectrum of care and beliefs, safe breech birth is likly to be possible, don't assume a cesarean is necessary unless there is something besides a simple breech fetal position...

    Radical Midwife said...

    Oh how horrible! :(

    Yes, this other sort of cutting is just as important. Have you seen Lisa Barrett's recent blog post?

    Zion Lights said...

    Well said. Here in the UK it is not standard practise to cut babies, and it's the same across Europe. To be cut is seen as kinda odd- people don't understand why anyone would do it. After all, there are thousands of men who haven't been cut, and they don't have any medical issues to report, and nor do they have issues with being 'dirty' down there. So why do it?!

    Anonymous said...

    Thank you for posting this. As a doula I am always looking for good information on circumcisions to pass on to my clients. I am the proud momma to twin boys. Both uncircumcised.