Ban-Happy San Fran Considers Cutting Circumcisions

Earlier this month, the city of San Francisco made headlines for banning toys in Happy Meals. Next on the city’s hit list: circumcisions.

There is a movement to put a circumcision ban on the ballot next year that would “make it a misdemeanor to circumcise, excise, cut or mutilate the foreskin, testicle or penis of another person who has not attained the age of 18,” according to the San Francisco Examiner.

Circumcision is an age-old practice, but it has recently come under fire from activists (or “intactivists,” as many call themselves) who denounce it as barbaric. Perhaps it was only a matter of time until we’d see efforts to legally ban circumcisions, and indeed, this effort is stemming at the moment at least from the efforts of an individual activist, not the city government.

The truth is that circumcision rates in the U.S. have been dropping in recent years. For those that choose to have their sons circumcised, there are many reasons for what is often a very difficult decision. And of course, for Jews and Muslims, circumcision is a religious requirement, and none of the news reports I’ve seen on San Francisco’s proposed ban mention anything about religious exemptions.

What do you think? Should circumcision be banned?

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  1. by Christine McDaniel

    On November 16, 2010 at 10:09 am

    If you have ever lived in SF, this will not be all that surprising. There is always some new political uproar there. However, this is ridiculous and will never pass. Circumcision is religious for many people and others who choose it have medical reasons. To be dictating parents’ choice in this matter would be infringing on some very serious ground.

  2. by Roland Hulme

    On November 16, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Christine McDaniel – you’re poorly informed. Circumcision is totally unnecessary – there are no quantifiable medical benefits and serious risks with the procedure. Botched circumcisions cause more infant deaths that SIDs.

    What’s more, it’s unconstitutional. Federal law states that making so much as a pinprick on an infant girl’s genitals is a felony, yet you can mutilate infant boys with disregard – how is that ‘equal protection under the law?’

    It’s a barbaric practice and parents have no right to exercise a ‘choice’ about body parts that DO NOT BELONG TO THEM. When their child is 18, they can choose to be circumcised or not.

    There should be no religious exceptions. We don’t allow female genital cutting for religious reasons – why should we allow jews and muslims to mutilate their children?

  3. by Bob

    On November 16, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Male circumcision is a safe, popular, healthy & beneficial procedure for individuals & parents to choose. It provides benefits such as 12x less likely for UTI, +22x less likely for cancer, 28% less risk for herpes, 35% for HPV & 60% for HIV/AIDS. The risks are about 0.2% and are typically minor & easily corrected.

    Parents should research circumcision and make an informed decision for the health & well-being of their son.

  4. by adrienne

    On November 16, 2010 at 11:21 am

    As Christine already stated, this is pretty unlikely-to-pass legislation.

    While intactivists tend to argue that there are “NO quantifiable medical reasons” for circumcism, they’re overextending their argument.

    Circumcision does reduce the spread of STDs by removing a warm, wet environment for virus and bacterial growth. Circumcision also reduces the chances of penile cancer (the intactivists would here argue that we don’t do preemptive mastectomies to prevent breast cancer).

    Anyone who asks a geriatric nurse or gerontologist about circumcision will learn that uncircumcised men who are unable to perform their own hygiene well (from age or disability) are prone to ravaging infections. Their medical situation is often complicated by the embarrassment of having to ask female caregivers for assistance. A small infection can become life-threatening before a patient chooses to disclose their symptoms.

    Female circumcision changes nothing in terms of hygiene or long term health. Male circumcision does simplify hygiene and has a statistical impact on STD infections (in women and men) as well as penile cancer.

    Each family should be able to make these decisions for their children (as they can now).

    Parents choosing circumcision should carefully consider the person performing the surgery. A good surgeon tends to perform the surgery often and would a good record free of infections and complications. In general, I’d choose most hospitalists over most general/family practice doctors simply because they perform exponentially more surgeries in a year.

  5. by denise uponen

    On November 16, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    Banning circumsicion is insane! babys have no memory of the pain thats involved. it’s so sad that these activists are trying to take away our rights that our soldiers worked so hard to protect!

  6. by Mandy

    On November 16, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    In reply to this quote above…

    “It’s a barbaric practice and parents have no right to exercise a ‘choice’ about body parts that DO NOT BELONG TO THEM. When their child is 18, they can choose to be circumcised or not.”

    My sons entire body belongs to me until he is 18.

  7. by Jennio

    On November 16, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    I had a friend in high school whose parents thought they made the right decision by letting him decided for himself at 18. He ended up having the procedure his senior year which was VERY painful to endure as an adult. He said he wished his parents had spared him the years of teasing and embarrasment and just had done it when he was too young to remember. Either way though, the government needs to stay out of it, its a very personal decision for a family to make, not a political issue.

  8. by Annulka

    On November 16, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    We chose not to have our son circumcised at birth only to have problems with UTI’s and a foreskin that was too tight to slide over the head of his penis and had to have him circumcised when he was 3 years old. I can tell you it was tramatic for all of us. When me second son came along you can bet we had him circumcised in the hospital and he has had no problems. I should be a parents and their Doctors decision.

  9. by Amy

    On November 16, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    If we take the right away from the Jew and Muslims then we would be affecting religious freedom.

  10. by Ashley

    On November 16, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Maybe San Francisco is trying to boost tourism by having their name in the news . . . I do not see how government can tell others what medical procedure they can or cannot have.

  11. by molly

    On November 16, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    SERIOUSLY!!! this is so wrong! It’s the parents choice end of story. If you choose not to circumcise then don’t! If you choose to circumcise then do! Seriously people, there are so many more important issues to be solved at this time! What a waste of time and money!

  12. by Lindsey Whitney

    On November 16, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    I agree Religious reasons should not be enough to justify — people used to sacrifice their children to idols/gods too (Lev 20:4, 2 Kings 17:31), and we certainly don’t want that to be allowed. Medical reasons, that’s a different story.

  13. by Jessica

    On November 16, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    I am 99.9% sure that I would not have my son circumcised. The .1% being swayed by peer pressure. For me, personally, it boils down to the question of if I have the ethical right to consent to a medically unnecessary procedure that will remove a part of my sons body without his consent. I don’t believe I have that right.

    Many Americans, if not the majority, don’t see this issue the way I do, and they support infant circumcision. For those people, especially for the male infants, there must be a safe, and pain free, method of circumcision.

    Therein lies my concern to banning circumcisions. What will happen to the male infants whose parents insist on them being circumcised? How safe will those circumcisions be? What type of pain relief will be available to those little babies? That is my concern.

    Personally, rather than banning circumcisions, I would move towards requiring adequate pain relief for the little boys who must endure the circumcision.

  14. by KaliMama

    On November 16, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    I did not circ my son. He is perfectly happy and healthy.
    To respond to some of the above posts:
    My son’s body is not mine. I choose to teach him that he has the right to protest ANYONE who lays hands on him when he doesn’t want it.
    The difference in statistical occurances of UTI’s and other medical problems is insignificant, and any statistician worth his/her salt will tell you that. It’s a non-issue.

    That said, I think that the deeply ingrained beliefs of certain religions should be taken into account. Make them get a waiver or something, but let them do it. Also, for those of you who have seen medical issues regarding a foreskin, you well know the importance of a medical “loophole”.

    I guess my feeling is, it isn’t my choice, but if you ban it, you have to make room for certain waivers.

  15. by Kristin

    On November 16, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    So Im gonna go out on a limb and say these same people would likely take issue with the fact that I had my daughters ears pierced at 3 months of age. I agree, medically unecessary but she is none the wiser. Properly taken care of there was little chance of infection or any other adverse reaction.
    Her ears may not “belong to me” but just the same, my child, my decision.
    My decision to vaccinate or not. My choice. Im sure that needle may hurt but so do measles. The vaccine might not work a small percentage of the time but that in and of itself doesnt stop me from vaccinating.

    Genital Mutilation (cuting up a females labia and clitoris) which is maiming is a far cry from an optional non invasive medical proceedure that has medical/hygenic benifits and has very minimal risk.

    Someone should speak up for the children you say? There is someone, its called their parents and its all a part of parenting.

    Maybe they wanna stop removing apendicies and tonsils too. Or maybe we shouldnt cut kids hair. Go to dentist, they pull teeth and who knows, that cavity might get better.


    They wanna go fight and be “active” against something, go do something about parents who choose to smoke with children. In cars, in the home, out for a walk. Now there is real risk there with proven lasting damaging effects. Go start a movement about that.

    Bottom line, like a few others said, the decision shouldnt be made lightly. Resources are out there…legitmate resources. Make an informed decision as a parent. Not just whats popular or because thats how its always been done.

  16. by Jami

    On November 16, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    In response to PP regarding “there being a better way” There is! I have 2 sons(both circumcised)and my older son had a procedure done called a “Bell” the Dr rolls the foreskin back and ties it off at the base of the head of the penis. The skin then falls off in about 2 wks. No extra cleaning, no bandages,no blood and its painless. We used a diff pediatrician w my 2nd son and had the cutting circ done and it looked way worse than it was and it never seemed to bother him 5 mins after it was done i just wish all drs would learn the bell procedure

  17. by Kristin

    On November 16, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Before people make that OMG! face about the unclear biblical reference above by Ms Whitney, Lev 20 is actually admonishing sacrifice to a false idol/god and making such sacrifice punishable by death. The 2 Kings reference is again talking about people who turned from GOD and were choosing to “continue to make gods of [thier] own. (verse29).
    In saying that, for those who still subscribe to the old law it is in fact considered “unclean” and therefor unholy to leave thier child uncircumcised. Before you go jumping on the bandwagon of attacking a persons religious beliefs make sure you have ALL the info and not just a smidgin’ of it.
    Statistics, however small show that keeping the foreskin can potentially be a problem.
    A parent who chooses to cut said foreskin isnt a religious fanatic for wanting a clean healthy child. Human sacrifice (death) would be.
    Just the same a parent who wants thier son to keep all the stuff he came out with isnt some new age nut job. Its that parents right/choice/RESPONSIBILITY to do what they feel is in the best intrest of that child.

  18. by Jenn

    On November 16, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Roland- “Botched circumcisions cause more infant deaths that SIDs”??

    Point me towards ONE credible study showing this. Just one.

  19. by Melissa

    On November 16, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    It should be the parents choice do what ever they want, there should be nobody telling the parents what they have to do. What is this world coming to if there are laws for everything. Whats next, are they going to tell us how many kids we can have and what sex they can be. The Government needs to spend more time getting this country back on its feet then poking there noses where they should not be. It should be the parents choice and not the Government.

  20. by Shauna

    On November 16, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    I totally agree with Kristen’s post. While I have 2 circumcised boys, I also have 2 girls. It is my choice to circumcise, and also pierce ears, if I so see fit. It is not the business of the government to tell me whether or not I should do something, but rather make available the resources for me to make an informed decision. It is also the job of the government to oversee such investigations of botched procedures, therefore weeding out any unsafe dr’s. SF is known for it’s crazy tactics and this is one issue that I would hope the city stay out of. It’s a complete waste of taxpayer money.

  21. by Tracy

    On November 16, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    Roland, Jews do not mutilate their children. Inform yourself before making ignorant racist comments. Who do you think you are speaking for? You go practice your religion and I will make sure never to move to the US where Christians rule the nation. I’ll stay in Canada where no one tells me I can’t be a practicing Jew.

  22. by Donna

    On November 16, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    Tracy, I will bet that it’s not Christians who are introducing this ban. My guess is that it has more secular origins.

  23. by Miranda

    On November 16, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    OMG, This is just foolish. Really when is enough enough? I have 2 sons and both have had one. Please government keep your nose where it belongs and that is getting this country back on track. My child my choice. Until they are 18 every major choice that involves their health is mine.

  24. by Roland Hulme

    On November 16, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    “My sons entire body belongs to me until he is 18.”

    You’re a sociopath.

    Here’s the study that shows circumcisions lead to more infant deaths than SIDS

    Anybody here who tried the old ‘it reduces STDs’ argument – sorry to burst your bubble, but how come the USA – where circumcision is pretty standard – has HIV rates significantly higher than in the UK and France, where circumcision is very infrequent.

    The answer? Circumcision does NOT offer any applicable protection against HIV and other STDs – only condoms do that.

    There is really no reason why anybody should cut off perfectly healthy issue from a day old infant – religious or otherwise. I’m sorry to offend anybody, but this isn’t a question of ‘religious freedom’ – it’s about performing unnecessary surgery on a newborn.

  25. by Ian Wilkinson

    On November 16, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    The pro-circumcision arguments here just seem self-serving and post hoc justifications for an archaic and barbaric social custiom. The facts are in intact Cultures true therapeutic circumcisions are about 1 in 17,000 (Finland). Simple hygeine, yes daily wash with fresh water, sex education, safe sex, condom use, and conservative medicine have far superior outcomes than circumcision without the harms and losses of functional and errogenous tissue. But most importantly of all Whose body is it, its your sons and a human rights violation to remove his functional sex organ without his consent.

  26. by Ian Wilkinson

    On November 16, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Further, have a Jewish nephew who was circumcised, and he had UTI’s as a baby, and as an adult has deeply resented his circumcision and told his parents so!!!!!

  27. by Dean

    On November 16, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    My son was circumcised and after working in health care facilities, I would do it again. The problem with uncircumised males is in not keeping the penis clean which includes pulling back the foreskin and cleaning the area daily. When one works with people who are mentally or physically ill they do not or are not able to do the basic cleaning that is needed.

  28. by chris

    On November 17, 2010 at 11:42 am

    This is going to far, the State of California needs to just break away and become it’s own country. They are trying too hard to make the decisions for the citizens first what to eat now how to take care of our kids. What next, having to get a credit check to get married or have a child. Maybe they will CHOOSE our spouses for us and our jobs.

  29. by chris

    On November 17, 2010 at 11:53 am

    directed to Ian W.

    If it is the childs body then why do we impose our beliefs on them as they get older. for instance drugs, sex, religion, all of those things which we make them do against their wishes, because from what you are saying, its their bodies and their choice. So you want me to let my son drink, smoke pot and have unprotrected sex?

  30. by motown

    On November 17, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    For all of you who keep saying “the Government should leave this issue alone” please re-read the article and retain information. The article describes that activists and potentially an individual activist is pushing to put it on the ballot. It has nothing to do with the government! The government is not out to get you!!! Anyone can put anything on the ballot as long as there are enough signatures.

    Now to the main point, the average and rational parent make decisions for a child that the parent feels is in the child’s best interest. No one and nothing should stand between that. If you feel that not circumcising your son is in his best interest that’s ok but there should be no law to enforce uncircumcision for all. Conversely, if you feel that it is in the child’s best interest to be circumcised that’s ok too, but there should be no law requiring circumcision for all. The laws we have today make these provisions and are the right laws. Don’t go screwing with something that isn’t broken. All of these arguments on both sides sound sort of silly because they are amounting to rational parents trying to tell other rational parents how to “parent” there own child. This is what this proposal is essentially lending itself to doing and it is absurd!!!

    I personally believe in circumcision and I don’t want anyone telling me that I should not circumcise by son. I have my reasons as to why I feel (as a rational parent) that he should be circumcised. And I’m sure a parent believing the opposite does not want me trying to justify to them why their son should be circumcised. Notice I’m careful to use the phrase “rational parents”. I use this phrase because any rational parent does not intend to put there children in harms way – get this – whether they are for or against it! Therefore I take offense to anyone who insinuates that I am. In my opinion, I’m not putting my son in harms way any more than those who choose to leave it uncircumcised – but this is my opinion which brings me to my next point. All of these are just opinions – but legislating opinions, especially when there is no significant and plausible reason to legislate it for one side or the other, is a recipe for disaster!

  31. by Kristin

    On November 17, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    Roland – “Circumcision-related mortality rates are not known with certainty;”
    That is an exerpt posted with the article you referenced . Not paying $15 for the rest. If it was that significant and important it should be free.

    Motown – TOTALLY AGREE, couldnt have said it better!

  32. by J.Skosnik

    On November 17, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Female circumcision is illegal in the US and has been since 1996. Do you believe:

    * This is an intrusive law that should be removed because, hey, it’s a cultural thing?
    * Or the should be expanded to include all children, in accordance with equal rights?
    * Or boys don’t deserve the same protection girls have?

  33. by Detroit White Woman

    On November 17, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    Female circumcision is the removal of the clitoris and/or some or all of the external genitalia. It is NOT AT ALL comparable to the removal of the foreskin. Removal of the foreskin has its benefits and detractions, but I think we all can agree that removal of center of sexual pleasure and arousal purposely is wrong. This is also not usually done an infant hours or days old, but on a young girl, 4 to 8.
    WHO website:

    Anyone who thinks there is any similarity in circumcision and female genital mutilation needs to think about having their sexual organ removed without their consent and at a cognizant, remembering age. Then image having intercourse with enjoyment. Then imagine having children. Trust issues??

  34. by J.Skosnik

    On November 18, 2010 at 12:30 am

    At Detroit White Woman:
    No, actually the law prohibits not just removal of the clitoris but the surrounding tissue, the clitoral hood. A male’s foreskin is the counterpart to that clitoral hood. And the male’s foreskin is a “center of sexual pleasure and arousal”, it provides a gliding mechanism pleasurable to both him and his partner (
    So, again, I ask you:
    Female circumcision is illegal in the US and has been since 1996. Do you believe:
    * This is an intrusive law that should be removed because, hey, it’s a cultural thing?
    * Or should this law be expanded to include all children, in accordance with equal rights?
    * Or that boys don’t deserve the same protection girls have?
    Before you answer, may enlighten you to the movement to ban routine infant circumcision.

  35. by adrienne

    On November 18, 2010 at 11:13 am


    You’re citing an article from Men’s Studies Press (a non-medical sociology journal)? And it’s written by the founder of the Boys Health Advisory (an anti-circ activist with no disclosed credentials)?

    From the article’s abstract: “this study estimates the scale of this problem. This study finds that approximately 117 neonatal circumcision-related deaths… occur annually in the United States.

    According to the Center for Disease Control: “more than 4,500 infants die suddenly of no obvious cause. Half of these Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUID) are due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), the leading cause of SUID and of all deaths among infants aged 1–12 months.”

    That would be about 2,250 SIDS deaths in the US annually versus an ESTIMATED 117 from circumcision. Even by Mr. Bollinger’s own estimates, SIDS dwarfs circumcision related deaths (an number which is only guesswork in the first place).

  36. by paul

    On November 18, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    So we shouldn’t circumcise infant males without their permission because its “barbaric” but aborting them without their permission is still fine and dandy??? Explain that one please.

  37. by Johnson

    On November 18, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    I find it shocking that there are ANY people in support of the idea that government should ban the practice of circumcision. Whether or not a “rational parent” (to borrow a phrase from another poster) chooses circumcision for his/her son is a personal decision. The state has NO conceivable basis on which to support or deny a parents’ decision. It has nothing to do with the state or any of its interests. Roland Hulme and Ian Wilkinson are free to hold whatever opinions they want, but they are not free to impose those opinions on me or anyone else under force of law.