UPDATE 7/22/11: Looks like San Francisco voters may miss out on the opportunity to say “yay” or “nay” to a ban on circumcision. Yesterday,California State Assemblyman Mike Gatto and Assemblywoman Fiona Ma introduced a bill to limit jurisdictions other than the state from passing laws against the practice of circumcision.
Assemblyman Gatto believes that local legislation is “a divisive use of the municipal ballot box, and in this case I think it's appropriate for government to step in and act to protect individual rights."
The bill is considered an urgency statute, and can become law as soon as it is passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Brown. First, though, it must get through a Senate committee hearing, which may get a bit heated, given the emotional nature of the topic. This should be happening the week of August 15th, so stay tuned.
Circumcision is a centuries old ritual in certain cultures and religions. Female circumcision in African countries has been decried for decades, not only for its barbarity and disfigurement of women, but for the crude methods used to perform the act. It is illegal to perform a female circumcision in the United States. But does performing a circumcision in a medical setting on a male child make it any better? It is still the forcible permanent removal of a bodily part, without the person’s consent, without anesthesia, and for arguably negligible health reasons.
In one corner are parents who believe that the elective procedure offers medical benefits, while in the other stand those who deem it both medically unnecessary and painful, as well as others who maintain that it adversely affects normal sexual pleasure and performance and there are associated risks. In addition, many parents outside the ring of debate simply allow circumcision to be performed on their newborn boys as a matter of common practice in the long-standing acceptance of the procedure as a medical standard.
One city in the West is again stirring the pot of controversy by taking up the matter. A measure that calls for a ban against the practice of circumcision is set to be added to the November election ballot in San Francisco, with the voters having a say in the matter. The proposal would make circumcision a misdemeanor crime in the City and County of San Francisco if it were conducted prior to a boy reaching the age of 18, regardless of the parents' religious beliefs. It also calls for a maximum penalty of one-year imprisonment and a fine of $1,000.
Should your neighbors have a say in what happens to your child? Should the government be interfering in what is clearly a very personal matter, and in some cases, could deny longstanding religious practice?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent data, as of 1999 a total of 81.4 percent of all newborn boys in the Midwest were circumcised, while were 65.4 of those born on the East Coast, as well as 36.7 percent of baby boys born in the West. (The differences in rates can for the most part be attributed to religious and ethnic practices.)