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June 14, 2010

Hey AAP: Ready to Reverse Course on Male Circumcision, Too?

Baby I run in a pretty “crunchy” crowd. Or rather, I used to run in an ultra-crunchy crowd. You know - the kind that grows vegetables in the backyard, argues about the conservative media bias, and generally considers Birkenstocks to be perfectly acceptable for the office. I never seriously considered a hospital birth because I knew from the start I wanted my babies born at home if at all possible. But I knew when I was a new mom I needed to flap my social wings a bit. I found myself socializing with other mamas, if only for the reassurance that my son’s (remarkably poor) eating and (remarkably poor) sleeping was normal. (It was). Imagine my surprise, then, as I sat with a group of moms at a Friday jazz program at the National Gallery of Art when the conversation turned to circumcision.

One of the moms of a girl asked the group (which formed from a lunchtime gathering at the Breastfeeding Center of Greater Washington) about whether folks had their sons circumcised and at the point when I was about to say “of course not, I’m friends with the author of the MGM bill, and he has convinced me the procedure is unnecessary and potentially harmful”, I was interrupted and another woman answered (and I do not think I will ever forget this) “Of course I did! I don’t want my son to be a freak! I want girls to like him!”, and then the next woman spoke up about her son’s bris, and a third chimed in about how her son didn’t even blink during the procedure which clearly showed it wasn’t painful (though others would argue her son might have been in shock). At this point, I looked down at my glass of wine, blinked back a tear, and took it as one more sign that life as I knew it before a baby was gone. If I wanted to have some mommy friends, which I desperately did, I was going to have to take a step to the right and bite my tongue. Or at least bite my tongue.

I was reminded of this conversation a few weeks ago when the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) put out a position statement —which they subsequently reversed—regarding female circumcision, or female genital cutting (FGC). After a loud public outcry, the AAP has reaffirmed their opposition to all forms of FGC, noting that it is forbidden by federal law in the United States. 

But I wonder, what will the AAP say in the revised policy on male circumcision that is due out later this year? Currently, the AAP’s policy indicates that circumcision is not essential to a child’s health and furthermore, scientific benefits of the procedure are not sufficient for the AAP to recommend that all infant boys be circumcised. Yet, at least in this country (though few other Western countries), circumcision remains the norm (though that majority is getting slim). Contrast this with Canada, where fewer than one-third of infant males are circumcised. And that’s true of many European countries as well.

How did I make the decision? I thought about a few things. My son could only reasonably expect to be able to reverse my decision to not circumcise. A choice to have him circumcised would be a lifelong one. My husband and I thought this decision ought to be his. As a mom that often looked like a deer in headlights, I often go back to the mantra “first, do no harm” – and this pointed me in the direction of not having him circumcised. I dismissed the argument that my son wouldn’t “match” his peers the same way my mom dismissed me when I used this logic as a girl “If Suzy jumped off a bridge would you follow her?”. But most of all, it just never made sense to me. The routine removal of a body part wasn’t something my husband or I could justify. And so we didn’t. I'm crossing my fingers that when the AAP's new policy statement on male circumcision comes out, they agree with me. 


This is an original DCMetroMoms post. Elaine writes about less controversial topics at Connor and Helen!


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