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Massachusetts Will Debate The Right to Bodily Integrity

The Massachusetts legislature is considering a bill that would make non-therapeutic genital cutting (i.e. circumcision) on healthy minors illegal.

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(a) For the purpose of this section, the term “genital mutilation” shall mean the removal or cutting or both of the whole or part of the clitoris, labia minora, labia majora, vulva, breast, nipple, foreskin, glans, testicle, penis, ambiguous genitalia, hermaphroditic genitalia, or any genital organ.
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Reading the bill in its entirety shows that the author(s) shaped it directly from the Federal Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act, while correctly updating the text to remove the federal law's gender discrimination. It includes protection for females, which is useful (if likely redundant) since Massachusetts does not have a state law prohibiting female genital mutilation. The Massachusetts bill is reasonable and should move out of committee, where it's scheduled for a public hearing on March 2nd, and pass into law.

It won't, of course. I'm hopeful it will at least get an honest hearing, but I've worked on this topic too long to be that naive. Too many people are unwilling to consider all facts, particularly those detrimental to their status quo preferences.

For example, this editorial from Massachusetts, from Wicked Local, reveals that its authors fail to understand even the actual text of the bill.

Thumbs Down:

Circumcision is a crime? Through state Sen. Michael W. Morrissey, Charles Antonelli of Quincy has decided to waste the Senate’s time with a bill that would ban male circumcision of anyone under the age of 18 in Massachusetts unless medically necessary. The measure would get right in the way of parental rights, imposing a fine and/or up to 14 years in prison on people who violate this ban. Antonelli is the Massachusetts director of MGMbill.org — a group of “we know better than the majority of doctors” nuts working to ban what it calls “male genital mutilation.”

Is it a waste of time to get in the way of parental rights to alter a daughter's genitals? Because the bill does that, as the excerpt above proves. The federal Anti-FGM act does the same. So, the question here is what is the full list of plenary parental 'rights' that require only that the child have a penis?

For what it's worth, if a doctor believe a healthy child needs surgery, yes, I'm more informed than he or she is. And he or she violates the Hippocratic Oath when recommending genital cutting, regardless of the healthy patient's gender.

This group shoves aside the belief held by most of the medical community that circumcision reduces susceptibility to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases as well as urinary tract infections and penile cancer. The anti-circumcision group declares “those findings are not a valid reason to amputate a healthy, functioning body part of a child.”

I won't speak for those involved with MGMBill.org, but for me, I shove nothing aside. Prophylactic circumcision has the potential to achieve those results, statistically. So what? Because, somehow, possessing an objectively healthy, functioning body part does not indicate that surgery is not valid for that healthy, functioning body part. There are apparently no ethical considerations involved. There is apparently no need for an objective look at the relative and absolute risks involved. There is apparently no need to question whether or not the child might want his normal, healthy foreskin.

It's frustrating that Wicked Local defiantly states that circumcision reduces susceptibility to HIV without also noting that every study showing this risk reduction involved only adult volunteers, not non-consenting children. Note, too, that the studies only found a reduction in female-to-male transmission through vaginal intercourse, a significantly smaller problem in the United States than in Africa.

But Wicked Local seems to perceive the issue to be about only potential benefits, no matter how trivial or easily avoided with lesser methods the risks posed by the foreskin. So surely we are failing all children by not proactively removing dangerous body parts from their bodies. To avoid getting in the way of parental 'rights', when do we start studies to determine whether or not there is a potential medical benefit to be achieved from prophylactic breast tissue removal? Although, since some adult women are already voluntarily having their breasts removed pre-emptively, we can assume that a plenary parental 'right' to remove the healthy, functioning breast tissue from daughters exists. What's good enough for the parents is good enough for the children. Right?

That's all intentionally absurd, of course. But without a boundary, there is nowhere to end the madness. The subjective boundary Wicked Local establishes here is arbitrary and based on its editors personal preferences. The law cannot be based on such whim. For proxy consent, the child's objective needs matter first. Where there is no objective need for intervention, there is no parental 'right' to intervene. Surgery must be prohibited. That is a clear standard that applies to males and females, genitals and not genitals.

Also ignored is Jewish and Muslim tradition in which all males are usually circumcised as part of their faith.

Passive voice, males are circumcised. They do not choose. Indeed. But this bill does not seek to prohibit religious circumcision. Adult males may still choose circumcision for themselves if they believe their God demands it. This bill focuses on minors, where civil law must take precedent over religious texts. It codifies that the human rights of every individual exist first, and no amount of parental preference can supersede that in the pursuit of subjective, unprovable spiritual or cultural benefits. Unless we're opening the law books to strike any law that violates a religious dictate governing what one person may do to another, there is nothing objectionable on this front. Are we opening the law books in this manner for a purge of religiously objectionable civil laws?

The bill has not yet been assigned to committee. It would be best to see this ridiculous waste of government time sniped from the legislative agenda and left discarded on the Senate clerk’s floor. Parents and doctors, not legislators, should decide the merits of whether a male child should or should not have a circumcision.

Parents and doctors, not legislators, should decide the merits of whether a female child should or should not have genital cutting? Again, if we're saying that parents have a plenary 'right' to alter their sons for subjective reasons, the same plenary 'right' must exist for their daughters. Or we could consider the importance of the omitted word, a healthy child, and recognize that the answer is irrefutable because it is illegal (and immoral) to discriminate based on gender alone. Either all children have the same right to bodily integrity or no children have that right. The former breaks our current ignorance, while the latter turns children into property.

And here’s a tip for the angry anti-circumcision group — you would do a lot better with an informative public education campaign and debate rather than going state-to-state trying to shove your will on everyone and toss parents who don’t agree with you into jail for up to 14 years — a tact that so far has not seen even one state go along with this nonsense.

I agree, an informative public education campaign and debate is the best way to go. We shouldn't need to legislate against something unjust. But we do, because the rights of boys in America (and Massachusetts, in this case) are violated every day. I can explain how male circumcision is egregious because it violates human rights. I can explain how male circumcision is egregious because it is not the least invasive solution for every perceived benefit. But the Wicked Local editors haven't even bothered to understand the text of the bill. I can overcome ignorance. I cannot overcome willful ignorance.

Comments

Tell me, how exactly does a physician violate the Hippocratic Oath by circumcising a baby? First of all, numbnuts, doctors do not recite the Hippocratic Oath anymore. So maybe you're thinking about medical ethics, one important principle of which is non-maleficence, doing no harm. A big part of medical ethics is that doctors can't withhold a treatment that they know is superior to the alternative. I'm sorry, but despite whatever your buddies over in HOOPs are telling you, male circumcision isn't harmful, much unlike female circumcision which is actually a custom in Islam rather than a rule. Besides, guys don't remember circumcision when they're babies. This is different from, say, molestation which actually is harmful and a violation of one's individual rights. Basically, get it over with at an age they can't remember.

This is America. You want to talk about rights being violated? Then let's start with the constitutional right to freely practice religion. Not only have Americans died to protect that right (among others), but so have countless Jewish people for past thousands of years just for the freedom to do that.

But hey, if you would rather have men undergo a procedure once they've reached an age of consent at which they can actually remember the pain, then be my guest buddy. I'm sure lots of guys who got circumcised at age 18 or later will gladly buy you a beer.

The Rational Man said: "But hey, if you would rather have men undergo a procedure once they've reached an age of consent at which they can actually remember the pain, then be my guest buddy. I'm sure lots of guys who got circumcised at age 18 or later will gladly buy you a beer."

So what you're saying is that left to their own option, men would probably not choose circumcision as adults. How could one then do something to a child that an adult wouldn't do to themselves? How is that rational or ethical?

As to medical ethics, how is it ethical to perform a surgical procedure on an un-consenting individual when there is no objective benefit?

The rational man:

First, let's play semantics. Would you rather I write primum non nocere or some other non-shorthand? From the dual facts that you correctly inferred medical ethics and you nicknamed me 'numbnuts,' I don't think this is much of an argument, but rather a silly attempt to discredit my blog post before worrying about the content. Moving on...

Medical ethics requires doctors promote surgery on healthy individuals, including those who can't offer consent? Words have meanings, including the word 'ethics', that aren't changeable simply because you need a more presentable way to be irrational. As I implied, the same logic that says parents/doctors should cut to reduce a risk of HIV says parents/doctors should cut to reduce a risk of breast cancer. The pursuit becomes the unbounded standard. Is that what you're advocating? To be subjectively applied according to your whims, right?

As for circumcision allegedly not being harmful, it's surgery on a healthy child. Normal, healthy tissue is removed. There are risks of complications. There is scarring. All of those are objective harm. That's before getting to a discussion of rights that are violated. You're wrong on this point.

There is no 'unlike female circumcision' when discussing custom rather than rule. Forced male circumcision is a custom. No one forces parents to force circumcision on their sons. They choose it because they believe whatever it is that motivates them that isn't medical need. It's a custom, not a rule.

An inability to remember a surgical intervention is irrelevant to whether or not a surgery should be imposed via proxy consent. Any intervention could pass that standard. To use your own example of an actual harm, an infant wouldn't remember being molested, but that's still rightfully a crime because the individual is harmed, even if no physical damage occurs. Age is irrelevant.

The Constitution guarantees individual rights. Among these is the right to be free from harm, including non-therapeutic surgery (i.e. circumcision). But you want to discuss freedom of religion, as if parents have the 'right' to practice their religion on the bodies of their children. This is a mistaken thought. The Constitution trumps any religious text. Courts have ruled that parents can't withhold needed medical treatment just because their religion tells them to without treatment. Forcing unneeded medical treatment on a child can't reasonably receive more protection.

And since the rights guaranteed by the Constitution are held by each individual, each individual possesses his own freedom of religion. Parental proxy consent to ritual mutilation violates the child's freedom of religion. People practice religions that hold bodily integrity sacred. If the child circumcised at birth chooses such a religion, again, his freedom of religion has been violated.

Notice, too, that I stated very clearly that "[a]dult males may still choose circumcision for themselves if they believe their God demands it." I'm stating nothing radical aimed at denying anyone's legitimate liberties, only that each individual owns his (or her) own body and is the sole decision-maker.

Personally, I'd rather men not choose circumcision for themselves, as I wouldn't have chosen it for myself. I don't understand why they would. I think it's stupid, pointless, and harmful and that every claimed benefit can be achieved with less invasive methods, leaving the risks unjustified. But I'm not interested in stopping adults from choosing for themselves for whatever reason. I am not other men. My opinion of their personal choice is irrelevant.

But they are not me, either, including my mother and my father. Their preferences are not mine, and should not have been considered acceptable substitutes. I seek to leave future males their decision.

I don't think many men would choose circumcision for themselves if it wasn't forced on them as children. I believe they'd decide that the trade-offs of pain and inconvenience outweigh what they would realize are minor potential benefits, if left with their choice. Statistics from countries that don't circumcise healthy children provide anecdotal support for this position.

I was attempting to find a way to say this nicely, but it was really difficult. Here it goes: despite your clearly excellent grasp of the English language and your eloquent writing, you clearly either do not understand the Constitution as it has been interpreted for the last 200 years, or you are deliberately distorting it, particularly in regard to the rights of minors. I will not delve much further than that, simply because it makes me furious to see someone twist Constitutional law to a point that it has never reached in the history of this country. While in theory, yes, children have individual rights, their inability to make rational choices leaves us to defer some of those rights to the parents. By your logic, parents (and children themselves) would have no rights to, say, feed their children unhealthy food, as the right to health is quite similar to the right of bodily integrity, or let their daughters pierce their ears until they are 18. Yet, that is clearly an absurdity, and your suggestion is no different.

Mo:

If you find the constitutional arguments lacking you really should indulge us and explain your objection. How else can a reasonable debate proceed?

I find your examples weak. While parents shouldn't feed their children unhealthy food, the choice of food is time sensitive, one has to make a decision on what to feed a child. That decision might be a bad one but it had to be made. Ear piercing is a bit closer, I admit, but not as destructive. Perhaps you could shore up your argument by explaining why circumcision is a time critical decision that has to be made? What about circumcision prevents that decision from being left to the only person to whom it matters?

Mo:

You state the possibility that I do not understand the Constitution as it has been interpreted for the last 200 years. I may have been sloppy in my writing, but I don't think I suggested that courts have interpreted the Constitution in a manner favorable to me. I didn't intend to suggest that, because they haven't. Courts have very clearly treated children as property. We're nudging away from that stance, since I don't think any court would overturn the anti-FGM law in the United States. BUt that still leaves the discrimination against males that I've discussed.

I am working with theory. I'm using the plain English meaning of the text and the intended application of the Constitution to the individual. I apply those to relevant modern applications (i.e. infant male circumcision). I understand ‘individual’ to mean each human being, not the present understanding that the ‘individual’ means each human being, unless he - and only he - is younger than an arbitrary age; then, there are restrictions to his human rights so we don’t violate his parents’ rights to alter his normal genitals. The notion that the Constitution permits parents to inflict bodily harm on their sons is absurd, no matter how well-intentioned they are in making his choice for him.

Non-therapeutic genital cutting on a non-consenting individual is wrong, regardless of the gender of the child. Even if the First Amendment is not meant to protect an individual right to religious freedom, protecting instead a proposed right to impose one's religion on another with a scalpel, the Fourteenth Amendment also exists in the Constitution. It guarantees equal protection of the law. So, unless you're in favor of repealing the anti-FGM law and allowing parents to cut the genitals of their daughters for any reason, you're declaring an unequal interpretation of the Constitution.

That last point gets back to the concept of rights guaranteed by the Constitution. We probably both agree that certain rights are "held in trust" for the child, rather than letting him exercise them immediately. Restrictions on speech, voting, whatever. But if the right to be free from harm is "held in trust" rather than inherent from birth, we must repeal the anti-FGM law, or the courts must strike it down, as unconstitutional. Add to that laws against child abuse, if we're declaring parental intent to be more important than objective physical reality.

Of course children can't make rational choices, although that's less universal as any particular child ages to adulthood. Proxy consent must exist. I don't dispute that, nor do I seek to remove it where it's appropriate. But because children can't make rational choices, parents must make rational choices. But rational must mean something objective, not that the parents are capable of forming thoughts.

The first question when considering proxy consent for surgery is irrefutable: Does the child need this? Almost always with circumcision, it's non-therapeutic. The child doesn't need surgery. Thus, the process must stop.

The anti-FGM law makes that standard clear, since it's codified. Genital cutting on female minors is prohibited unless it's medically necessary. There is no consideration for parental preference, whether based on cultural or religious desirability or any other speculative pursuit may be conjured later.

When a male child is healthy, he needs no genital surgery. There is no valid proxy consent. The belief that he'll be laughed at in the locker room isn't enough. The belief that he might get HIV from his female partner isn't enough. The belief that God demands it isn't enough. (As I wrote in my post, if it matters to civil law, then we must open the laws to religious review and repeal any law that prohibits something that a religious text requires. Stoning, anyone? Kill children who are disobedient?)

So, what about feeding children unhealthy food? The first question is whether or not the child needs food. Obviously, everyone does, so parents would be neglectful (at best) in not feeding their children. But does that mean they can't feed their children 'unhealthy' food? I don't think 'healthy' versus 'unhealthy' is objective enough to remove parental decision-making. At the extreme, where a child is fed so poorly that she's malnourished, yes, the state has a proper role to take corrective action. But outside extreme scenarios, I'm not interested in saying someone can't make subjective decisions for their children.

Still, we mustn't ignore objectivity at the altar of parental rights, especially when that right is the 'right' to force objective harm on another person for subjective reasons. Feeding a child enough cookies to make him obese (and possibly diabetic) is problematic, yet it can still be overcome later. Once parents remove their child's healthy foreskin, that can't be overcome. The decision is permanent. To permit permanent physical alteration, there must be need.

Taken to the extreme, didn't these children have a right to health? They were healthy before their parents forced circumcision on them. They died as a result.

That is unlikely, of course, and I don't pretend it's more than extremely rare. But it is possible with every circumcision and other complications occur more frequently, as well as guaranteed outcomes (i.e. scarring) for every individual circumcised. Society looks at common outcomes as normal. That's a mistake that permits the violation to continue. Each individual matters, not his place in the collective that says circumcision is a safe, potentially beneficial procedure.

P.S. Parents should wait until their daughters are 18 when she can decide for herself whether or not she wants the piercings. It's an alteration and it has risks (i.e. infection) that can be serious.

P.P.S. For more on my thoughts on the limitation on parental proxy consent, read this. For more on my thoughts on circumcision and the First Amendment, read this.

Medical ethics requires doctors promote surgery on healthy individuals, including those who can't offer consent? Words have meanings, including the word 'ethics', that aren't changeable simply because you need a more presentable way to be irrational.

Excuse me? You're accusing me of twisting facts? I'm the one here who actually knows what he's talking about. Tell me, from which revision of the Declaration of Helsinki did you get your definition of medical ethics? Do you even know what the DoH actually is? I'm sorry, but medical ethics is a lot more complicated than "doctors should cure people and stuff."

As for your butchering of the Constitution, I like your cute use of the word “individuals” but I can give you a whole line--in fact, the very first one of the Bill of Rights, not including the Preamble.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

As far as our founding fathers and the vast majority of the American people to this day are concerned, circumcising the penis legitimately falls under the category of “the free exercise” of religion. I’m sorry, I don’t know what feel-goodery planted such nonsense in your heads, but “individual rights” does not mean that parents can’t raise children under their value system or make perfectly healthy decisions for their young. But hey, I guess any putz with a keyboard can reinvent the wheel these days.

There is no 'unlike female circumcision' when discussing custom rather than rule. Forced male circumcision is a custom. No one forces parents to force circumcision on their sons. They choose it because they believe whatever it is that motivates them that isn't medical need. It's a custom, not a rule.

Try telling that to 12 million Jews:

God [then] said to Abraham, 'As far as you are concerned, you must keep My covenant — you and your offspring throughout their generations. This is My covenant between Me, and between you and your offspring that you must keep: You must circumcise every male. You shall be circumcised through the flesh of your foreskin. This shall be the mark of the covenant between Me and you. 'Throughout all generations, every male shall be circumcised when he is eight days old…This shall be My covenant in your flesh, an eternal covenant. The uncircumcised male whose foreskin has not been circumcised, shall have his soul cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.Genesis, ch. 17
On the eighth day, [the child's] foreskin shall be circumcised. Leviticus ch. 12

Supposedly God's words, not mine. I think you also just defied about 1.2 billion Muslims on top of it. Whether you believe that the Bible is God’s eternal word to his people, but for thousands of years these words have been more than “custom” for the Jewish people. Add 1300 years for Muslims too.

Female circumcision, OTOH, is a custom, and an incorrect one at that. It’s punitive or preemptive, misguidedly forced upon women to prevent them from promiscuity. Not only that, but clitorectomy is dangerous and causes actual damage to a woman’s reproductive organ and body, not the least of which is infection. All you have are a few scientific papers that find that guys with foreskin might have more sensitive penises. Clitorectomy is an outrage; not one’s covenant with God. I'll have you know that there are plenty of studies that find circumcision to be beneficial. That's not to say that some studies are more legitimate than others, but circumcision has been found to be beneficial. And there are some that find no such conclusions. But rarely, if ever, has a study found proof that circumcising the penis is harmful. But of course you seem to know everything, so I guess all the medical experts must be wrong.

It's nice to see this issue finally make it into the light of day.

In the US we prohibit Christian Scientists and Jehovah's Witnesses from withholding medical treatment, we prohibit Muslims from even a pin-poke to draw one ceremonial drop of blood from female genitals, and it's about time we prohibited the ampututation of the best part of the male genitals from someone too young to give informed consent.

Not one national medical association on earth (not even Israel's) endorses routine circumcision.

Informed adults can decide FOR THEMSELVES whether a tiny reduction in STD risk is worth losing over half the sensual pleasure-receptive nerve endings and 15 square inches of exquisiet sexual interface. Adults elect genital surgery all the time, but only 2 in 1000 intact men choose circumcision, while something like 40% of men over 40 get vasectomies. Hundreds of babies die annually from circumcision but adult circumcision deaths are unheard of.

Foreskin feels REALLY good. It's HIS body, and morally it's HIS decision.

Foreskin feels REALLY good. It's HIS body, and morally it's HIS decision.

Dude, whatever you do in your bedroom is your business. If you prefer guys with foreskin, then that's your prerogative.

Not one national medical association on earth (not even Israel's) endorses routine circumcision.

Worst. Lie. Ever.

Wow, Ron Low, you are a lying scumbag. Let me guess: your little piece propaganda is truth but those damn Jews control the medical establishment and won't let the word get out. It's easy to make an argument when the truth is irrelevant. And I'll have you know that there are medical non-profits that go around Africa circumcising the males, and some have reported positive results.

You people are idiots. Just how exactly is circumcision on the same level as withholding necessary medical treatment (which, btw, would fall under the category of "unethical")?? And I've debunked your Big Lie that male circumcision is like female genital mutilation. Just the facts that I am a circumcised male and am defending circumcision, and that millions of Jewish guys who themselves were circumcised as babies go on to have their sons circumcised, who have their sons circumcised, and so on, speak for themselves. Find me one woman who endorses clitoris removal.

Your wish is my command. Some Muslims do feel that FGM is a religious matter. And there are those women who defend it.

"There is not one person here not circumcised, and it will continue", a 16-year-old secondary school Egyptian girl student commented. "No one can get married without it," said another one."

These two procedures are closer to each other than you prefer to believe. You should really BTW try to have a conversation without insults. It really doesn't reflect well on you to call people idiots.

So I'll ask again how is it ethical to remove a healthy body part when there is no clinical need or objective reason to do it?

And being obtuse doesn’t reflect well on you.

I’ve already torn apart your arguments—based entirely on selective hearsay and shoddy comparisons—6 ways from Sunday, but I’ll try to get this through your thick skull somehow.

It is perfectly fine—morally, ethically, or otherwise—for parents to have their sons undergo surgery that has been found to have clinical benefit (and, admittedly, none in some studies), is harmless, and is thought little of probably 95% percent of the time. If it’s for religious reasons that have been accepted for thousands of years except by antisemitic Christian rulers and the Soviet Union, then all the more so. And if you want to get technical, then it is completely within the bounds of ethical medical practice for a physician to perform a surgery requested by parents for a child under 18 that has not been proven to be inferior to or more harmful than the alternative. The fact that circumcision can have clinical benefit only reinforces this.

This is hard to tell people such as yourself who are pretty spoiled, but just because your small group of people like foreskin doesn’t mean everyone else has to be forced to try it out, ESPECIALLY if its removal is a cornerstone of religious practice.

Your understanding of medical ethics is rudimentary at best and your tactics are intellectually dishonest. Your cute little chart comparing old wives’ tales circulated in backwards countries where clitoral mutilation is performed, and the preferences of perfectly educated people is laughable. That’s the most basic and meaningless comparison to use between any two things. It’s a context-free cheap tactic. Surgeons use knives to cut skin, and serial killers use knives to kill people; they must be alike. Plus I think you have serious parental issues that need to be sorted out.

Also, what if the child becomes a Jehovah’s Witness later in life and is pissed at his parents for having him get a blood transfusion or an appendectomy? By your understanding, wouldn’t that be the same thing as a child for getting pissed at his parents for having his foreskin removed?

Charles Antonelli will be publically humiliated when his repressive bill--which isn’t even sponsored by the state senator who submitted it!--is immediately tossed out and he is made to look like a fool. But hey, it’s your funeral. If you still don't understand anything I've said, then I don't know what more I can do for you.

[ed. note: I fixed the spelling Mr. Antonelli's name and removed text explaining the misspelling. I will not tolerate the intentional misspelling of someone's name in a pejorative manner. This is especially so when the individual's name is in my blog post.]

ed. note: The embedding didn't work. Here's the link to the video on Hulu.

Rational man:

You're ignoring the facts you don't like, and you don't appear interested in learning what you don't know. For example:

I'll have you know that there are plenty of studies that find circumcision to be beneficial.

Please demonstrate where I've said anything to the contrary. I acknowledge that male circumcision can have potential benefits. I'd be a fool not to, if only because it's become so accepted. But I have no problem accepting that less skin might translate to less risk of some future malady. Where you think you're educating me, you're not. I know more than you do on this, and that's not going to change until you unclose your mind.

Please don't cite the Declaration of Helsinki at me and gloat in your supposed victory. What part of WMA Declaration of Helsinki - Ethical Principles for Medical Research Involving Human Subjects concerns non-therapeutic genital cutting via proxy consent? We're not talking about medical experiments. (Example: The HIV studies I'm supposed to love were conducted on adult volunteers.)

Even if it applied to the subject as you claim, you'd still be wrong. Number 11 on that list:

It is the duty of physicians who participate in medical research to protect the life, health, dignity, integrity, right to self-determination, privacy, and confidentiality of personal information of research subjects.

Proxy consent for unnecessary surgery violates the child's right to self-determination. It doesn't protect his health because he was already healthy. Instead, the surgery imposes inherent risks of complications and a guarantee of physical scarring. Please explain how this is supposed to make me see the logical mistakes in my thinking that you perceive.

As for your butchering of the Constitution, I like your cute use of the word “individuals” but I can give you a whole line--in fact, the very first one of the Bill of Rights, not including the Preamble.

I haven't butchered the Constitution, and individuals isn't cute. The rights guaranteed within the Constitution are individual rights, including the freedom to exercise one's religion. I stated in my post and in the comments why believing that the First Amendment protects the right to exercise one's religion on the body of another is mistaken. You could've gotten to that understanding, but you were too busy going for false counter-examples.

Also, what if the child becomes a Jehovah’s Witness later in life and is pissed at his parents for having him get a blood transfusion or an appendectomy? By your understanding, wouldn’t that be the same thing as a child for getting pissed at his parents for having his foreskin removed?

The question is, would a reasonable person want a blood transfusion or an apendectomy? We assume yes, because it involves staying alive, if such intervention is indicated by an objective standard for medical need. We don't allow parents to decide their kid needs a blood transfusion when she's healthy, just because they like blood transfusions. We assume she wouldn't want that.

Before you go after that, yes, the example is intentionally absurd. So is non-therapeutic child circumcision. Please address what I've written about the First Amendment, not some argument you're having with me in your mind. (Maybe the other me is the "putz"?)

Supposedly God's words, not mine. ...

You correctly included supposedly. God may or may not exist. The question is unknowable, so as a matter of civil law, it must be ignored. What you believe is your business. And to an extent, you may impart that on your children. But, as I've written here already, there is a difference between attending religious services and taking a blade to a child's genitals. The former is not like the latter as an exercise of religion in a civil society that values liberty, as our does according to our Constitution.

Female circumcision, OTOH, is a custom, and an incorrect one at that. It’s punitive or preemptive, misguidedly forced upon women to prevent them from promiscuity. Not only that, but clitorectomy is dangerous and causes actual damage to a woman’s reproductive organ and body, not the least of which is infection. All you have are a few scientific papers that find that guys with foreskin might have more sensitive penises. ...

Joe's already addressed this, so I'll add a few quick thoughts. First, I wrote about one woman defending female genital mutilation. (She is included in one of Joe's links.) Second, based on the types of female genital mutilation, not all of them are as injurious as you believe, and some of them are less so than male circumcision. Those forms are not common, but they occur, and they're illegal in the United States.

Clitorectomy is an outrage; not one’s covenant with God. ...

A covenant with God is irrelevant in the law. Clitorectomy is an outrage only when it's forced on another person. Circumcision is an outrage only when it is forced on another person. The issue is force.

... I'll have you know that there are plenty of studies that find circumcision to be beneficial. That's not to say that some studies are more legitimate than others, but circumcision has been found to be beneficial. And there are some that find no such conclusions. But rarely, if ever, has a study found proof that circumcising the penis is harmful. But of course you seem to know everything, so I guess all the medical experts must be wrong.

I don't know why you believe male circumcision is not harmful. That's a silly, anti-factual position to hold. Healthy skin is removed. Nerve endings are cut. Physical scarring results. I don't need to posit a claim on sensitivity to prove that circumcision is harmful. It causes actual damage to a male's body. It involves risk, not the least of which is infection. That should sound familiar, because it's what you wrote arguing against any acceptance of female genital mutilation. That's why proxy consent requires medical need, not just speculative thinking by the parents. We've codified that for female genital mutilation. The law must catch up to the same facts on male genital mutilation.

This is hard to tell people such as yourself who are pretty spoiled, but just because your small group of people like foreskin doesn’t mean everyone else has to be forced to try it out, ESPECIALLY if its removal is a cornerstone of religious practice.

I don't 'like foreskin'. I like choice. I would've kept my foreskin if given my choice. But that's tangential to the argument. If an individual chooses to have himself circumcised, I don't care why. Really, I couldn't care less.

That's not the same thing as being 'forced to try [foreskin] out' via prohibiting non-therapeutic circumcision of male children. Your phrasing is ridiculous, just as it would be if I said not everyone should be forced to try living with two arms. You take the radical position that you know who will and will not 'like foreskin,' so your opinion for others is valid. It's not. The foreskin is normal. You don't have to like it, but no amount of wishful thinking on your part will change that.

P.S. This is relevant.

Rational man said:

I’ve already torn apart your arguments—based entirely on selective hearsay and shoddy comparisons—6 ways from Sunday, but I’ll try to get this through your thick skull somehow.

Ad hominem attacks are not constructive. On what basis do you believe you've "torn apart" any argument?

Let me make this easy before it gets too complicated. The ethical argument that I, and I think Tony though I can't speak for him, make is that non-therapeutic circumcision is unethical. And as Margaret Sommerville noted: "A medical-benefits or "therapeutic" justification requires that overall the medical benefits should outweigh the risks and harms of the procedure required to obtain them, that this procedure is the only reasonable way to obtain these benefits, and that these benefits are necessary to the well-being of the child."

The burden of proof, whether or not circumcision is ethical, is on the person performing it. If the situation is such that it's equally balanced, which is the most favorable position that could be taken with circumcision, then the operator cannot ethically proceed.

Rational man said:

It is perfectly fine—morally, ethically, or otherwise—for parents to have their sons undergo surgery that has been found to have clinical benefit (and, admittedly, none in some studies), is harmless, and is thought little of probably 95% percent of the time

I will go ahead and disagree with you here. It seems according to your view that parents should be able to tattoo, brand, or cut off the earlobes of their child if it suits the parents whim or pleases their god. None of those would cause any practical harm to the child but all of which are illegal and parents have been prosecuted for some of these things. If we followed your line of reasoning though all those things should be allowed at the discretion of the parents.

I, on the other hand, would only allow something like a circumcision when there is a demonstrated clinical need for a child, or like other body modifications, at the whim of the individual. I am not sure what the problem is with that.

Further more, neither I, nor the blog author, denied that there might be some benefits in some situations. As Tony posted, "Prophylactic circumcision has the potential to achieve those results, statistically. So what? The value of that benefit is very subjective and can only be evaluated by the individual. In the example you provide, besides the extremely low morbidity, there are far better options. As well as plenty of time for the individual to decide if they also want the vanishingly small benefit circumcision might provide them.

Rational man said:

Your understanding of medical ethics is rudimentary at best and your tactics are intellectually dishonest. Your cute little chart comparing old wives’ tales circulated in backwards countries where clitoral mutilation is performed, and the preferences of perfectly educated people is laughable. That’s the most basic and meaningless comparison to use between any two things. It’s a context-free cheap tactic. Surgeons use knives to cut skin, and serial killers use knives to kill people; they must be alike.

Well, have you ever looked a a list of countries where circumcision is common? As you can see virtually all are third world backwaters and then there is the US. We really are in good company aren't we? To be fair though, those third world backwaters do it to please their god, only the US really does it for non-secular reasons.

Now if you read the article closely, you would see that FGM, in places where it is practiced, is practiced by large parts of the population including educated people and much like male circumcision in the US, they reinforce the practice through beliefs in old wives tails.

And talking about "basic and meaningless comparison[s]" why would you try and condemn what could be a cherished religious and cultural tradition for some because of how it's performed? Would it make you feel better if these FGM procedures were conducted in a surgical theater in a hospital? Many actually are in places like Indonesia and Egypt.

Rational man said:

Plus I think you have serious parental issues that need to be sorted out.

Really? Like what? The only issue that has to be worked out are the boundaries of what is appropriate.

Rational man said:

Also, what if the child becomes a Jehovah’s Witness later in life and is pissed at his parents for having him get a blood transfusion or an appendectomy? By your understanding, wouldn’t that be the same thing as a child for getting pissed at his parents for having his foreskin removed?

First off, I think it's already been pointed out here that such life saving treatment can't be denied to a child on the basis of religious grounds. Second, I don't see how the two can be compared. A blood transfusion is typically done because of actual medical need. Do you have an example of a situation where blood transfusions are performed because of the subjective whim of parents? Contrast that with circumcision which is almost always non-therapeutic, typically done for no reason other then the tastes of parents or because they believe some old wives tales about intact boys.

Rational man said:

"Charles Antonescu, or whatever the fuck is his name is, will be publically humiliated when his repressive bill--which isn’t even sponsored by the state senator who submitted it!--is immediately tossed out and he is made to look like a fool. But hey, it’s your funeral. If you still don't understand anything I've said, then I don't know what more I can do for you.

That may be the case but he's fighting the good fight. You see he, and I, believe that boys deserve the same respect for their bodies that girls already enjoy. I am an equal rights kind of person, you know. Though, of everything you've posted to date, this is the only thing I believe you've got partially correct. I don't think this bill will get any traction but don't think that won't prevent it from being resubmitted year after year. As Margaret Mead said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Rational man:

I don't care for the insults, and the ad hominem's against Ron are petty, but with those, I'll let your words stand or fall on their own. However, I fixed the misspelling of Mr. Antonelli's name in one of your comments and removed the text explaining the misspelling. I noted this in my editorial fix.

Tony, after presenting perfectly logical arguments only to be questioned because apparently fascists like Charles Antonelli [ed. note: I'm still not going to allow the intentional misspelling.] and yourselves are above logic and want to see antisemitic legislation last applied by the USSR. I mean, one of you guys accuses me of picking and choosing? I'm using evidence and am no worse than you, who can only use sources from the websites of fringe groups. I mean, one of you questioned my use of an article because it involved African adult male volunteers.

And I don't care if you believe in a god or not, but I used the passages from the Hebrew Bible just showing how important circumcision is to Jewish law and practice. Circumcision has been completely accepted in this country as legitimate religious practice which is protected by the First Amendment. You can't undo that. And don't bullshit me. Charles Antonelli [ed. note: I'm not going to allow it here, either.] is specifically targeting religious circumcision.

I am done here, but I recently read something very interesting that I would like to share with you:

"There is a 1 percent risk of complications, mostly mild bleeding, said Wang, director of newborn nurseries at MassGeneral Hospital for Children. Benefits include a reduced risk of urinary tract infections and penile cancer." -Boston Herald

And Joe, Margaret Mead probably wasn't referring to fringe groups, so don't get your hopes up.

Rational man said:
Tony, after presenting perfectly logical arguments only to be questioned because apparently fascists like Charles Antonelli [ed. note: I'm still not going to allow the intentional misspelling.] and yourselves are above logic and want to see antisemitic legislation last applied by the USSR.

I don't see how either Charles, Tony or I are above logic. I, and others, have asked you to explain to us why we should permit parents to make a subjective permanent decision such as circumcision and why it is ethical for a doctor to accede to such a request when there is no clinical need for the surgery. Your response noted that anything would be fine so long as the parents want it, they didn't believe there would be harm, and the belief that most children wouldn't complain. To which I pointed out a list of things parents could do to their children that would fit your criteria but are, or would be considered, illegal or abusive. So why do we allow one but not the other? How it that logical? Can you give me any rational reason?

Nobody here criticized your use of any material. I am very familiar with most of the material that is out there. I am also very familiar with how that material is useful in various contexts. And that was the basis of the comment on your link, not the content but the context. If you find fault with a link we provide, point out the specific question that comes to mind. And from there a discussion can insue.

Rational man said:
You can't undo that. And don't bullshit me. Charles Antonelli [ed. note: I'm not going to allow it here, either.] is specifically targeting religious circumcision.

Regrettably, forced child circumcision to please the sky god will be difficult to end. That is primarily because religion is inherently irrational but we can change its acceptability for secular reasons and that is the primary aim.

Rational man said:
I am done here, but I recently read something very interesting that I would like to share with you:
That is a shame, you made your first post that was not really derogatory and now you're leaving. Thanks, for the article but I've already read the study. I am not sure what use it is to you here though.

Rational man said:
And Joe, Margaret Mead probably wasn't referring to fringe groups, so don't get your hopes up.

I reject the notion that my parents should have had the authority to do such a thing to me when there was no good medical reason to do it. That is not fascist. All groups that seek social change start on the fringe. Didn't you know that? I don't care if the goal is a lifetime away, and it probably is, like many social movements and changes that came before, this is the right thing to do.

Rational man:

You've presented arguments, but you chosen to not understand what's been written here. Calling us fascists and Soviets might make you feel better, but it doesn't change anything you ignored.

I mean, one of you questioned my use of an article because it involved African adult male volunteers.

I genuinely have no idea what you're talking about there. You posted one link, which no one refuted or questioned medically. How many times do I have to say that male circumcision reduces the risk of female-to-male HIV transmission? Honestly, I accept this as valid and true. I can't say it any clearer, but I'll try once more, without the appropriate caveats it needs to be 100% accurate. Male circumcision reduces the risk of female-to-male HIV transmission.

I pointed out that the studies were done on adult volunteers because that informs the ethical aspect of this topic, the one you ignore. As Joe said, it's about the context, not the content. The fact that some risk reduction is possible is insufficient to prove the ethics non-therapeutic circumcision on a non-consenting individual. It's about consent, not circumcision.

And I don't care if you believe in a god or not, but I used the passages from the Hebrew Bible just showing how important circumcision is to Jewish law and practice. Circumcision has been completely accepted in this country as legitimate religious practice which is protected by the First Amendment. You can't undo that. And don't bullshit me. Charles Antonelli is specifically targeting religious circumcision.

Circumcision is important to you. Fine, I have no problem with that. But this is about consent, not circumcision. Slavery was completely accepted in this country for centuries. Then it wasn't. Times change, and standards evolve. The First Amendment is an important aspect of the Constitution, but it says what it says and in the context of every other individual right. (This is why the federal anti-FGM law only violates the Fourteenth Amendment, not the First Amendment.) I'm correct, for the reasons I explained and you pretend I didn't write. Rather than actually defend your points against my arguments, you toss out charges that the legislation is anti-Semitic and that we're all fascists and Soviets. Name-calling is so much easier than debate.

I am done here, but I recently read something very interesting that I would like to share with you:
"There is a 1 percent risk of complications, mostly mild bleeding, said Wang, director of newborn nurseries at MassGeneral Hospital for Children. Benefits include a reduced risk of urinary tract infections and penile cancer." -Boston Herald

You're quoting something that proves me right. Thanks?

Dr. Wang's claimed 1 percent risk of complications is higher than the 0% risk of complications from not performing the surgery. That risk is harm inherent in every surgery, in addition to the physical harms I listed that you imagined don't exist. And, as I wrote, since this pertains to individuals, they live with the complications. The claimed 1% risk of complications mostly consists of mild bleeding. It can be more, up to and including death. Non-therapuetic genital cutting violates a non-consenting individual's rights, in every case. This is not about the collective mindset you have where what you value is automatically accurate and good for everyone, everywhere.

Note, too, that the arguments against circumcising a child are more robust than just "a 1 percent risk of complications." That's the debate that should've happened here, if you hadn't decided however long ago that your mind is full of all the circumcision information you need. If you ever decide to unclose your mind, you'll be amazed at how much larger this topic is.

But you're right, this law in Massachusetts has no chance. That might be an interesting contribution to the debate if I hadn't explicitly stated as much in my blog post. And the debate might've been interesting if you'd engaged what was written rather than just the facts you like with a liberal sprinkling of random bits you imagined in your mind. It's just easier for you to be an ass, apparently.

Kudos to Tony and Joe for so ably rebutting Rational man (who should really go by the name of Irrational man).

The Bill is doing a good job of sparking public debate. The debate over the Bill will speed the increase in public awareness of the harms of circumcision and the human rights of the children. In time, the increased public awareness will reduce the rate of infant circumcision.

All groups that seek social change start on the fringe.

Like the Nazis? Women’s suffrage, abolition, civil rights, 18 year voting age—not fringe groups and there’s not much to disagree with there, unless maybe you’re a plantation owner. Look, I understand the concern about the legality of babies not consenting. That seems to be the big issue here. Your contention that removing “healthy tissue” is wrong no matter what the context is ludicrous, especially when there is therapeutic benefit which you acknowledge. Banning circumcision will not solve this; in fact, it only explicitly violates freedom of religious practice as guaranteed by the 1st Amendment, something that you had the gall to deny.

I’m sorry, but you need to better define circumcision’s implications on legal rights, because the Constitution can’t say things any clearer:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

First, the technical implications: The major issue is that you want a law to ban something that is protected by the 1st Amendment. If we’re just talking about the technical legal and ethical implications, then I’m sorry but you’re not making the right logical jumps and have done nothing to address them. You simply cannot ban something and contradict a constitutional right (at least for the religious aspect) because of a vast minority opinion unless you can convincingly argue that the harm caused by circumcision—and we’re talking unquestionable, quantifiable harm instead of symbolic similarities with completely different procedures i.e. FGM—is so severe and egregious that it constitutes violations of rights so egregious that it warrants legislation that bans it in the face of parental rights but also, more importantly, in what for many people is a contradiction of a constitutional right. Even at that point it’s an uphill battle. Aside from the argument about parental rights, the American Jewish community isn’t going to get up one day and decide that one of its most important rituals that is clearly outlined in the Torah and very much still in practice as it has been for the past thousands of years, may be compromised for all the reasons above.

There is an explicit commandment in the Torah for Jews to circumcise babies on the eighth day. That is a higher authority than the sages’ treatises. The multitudes of Jews and non-Jews who have their babies circumcised for nonreligious reasons and for the therapeutic benefits, which somehow still don't outweigh the 1% risk of bleeding and possible reduced sexual sensation for some, is a case of parents making decisions for the best of their children.

Jewish circumcision on the eighth day, however, is of crucial importance to Jewish practice. You tell me that that ritual would be protected; Antonelli’s bill doesn’t protect it, but in fact specifically targets it. It's probably wrong to say that society is perfect where it is, but there is wide debate surrounding issues where there is moral gray area (like, say, abortion, where the choice should be left to the mother). There is virtually none about male circumcision, and American society isn’t going to change its stance on something so innocuous because a few people have beef with it and have to lie to themselves and others to be convincing. Most importantly, banning circumcision means denying a well-established religious group a crucial part of its constitutionally protected religious practice because an insignificant minority of people doesn't like it. You simply can’t deny a group of people a constitutional right because some people have personal problems with it.

Slavery was completely accepted in this country for centuries. Then it wasn't. Times change, and standards evolve. The First Amendment is an important aspect of the Constitution, but it says what it says and in the context of every other individual right. (This is why the federal anti-FGM law only violates the Fourteenth Amendment, not the First Amendment.) I'm correct, for the reasons I explained and you pretend I didn't write.

Wait, what? First of all, what the hell does “in the context of every other individual right” even mean? Do you mean as protected by the Constitution, society’s present laws, or society’s present understanding of what is just and fair i.e. what the law should be? IT says what it says because it means it, dumbass. Until you somehow use your weak arguments to convince people otherwise, circumcision is not a violation, despite your little ditty about baby’s consensual rights, which we’ll get back to.

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

What privileges? Like perhaps parental rights or, most importantly, an explicit constitutional right? Plus, the Constitution protects from unlawful government policies that violate the parameters defining particular individual rights. Laws don’t deal with protecting people from parental decisions (as opposed to state legislation) the very nature of which has to be stretched based on a very subjective view in order for those choices to be considered harmful. And explain to me how a law against circumcision still doesn’t violate the 1st Amendment, something men have died for.

So then there is the equal protection clause. It sounds like, in addition to your myth that circumcision = FGM which I have already debunked, they have to be equal because the language of the 14th Amendment, a vague catch-all used to secure black rights, demands so. So again, you want to accomplish equality as apparently demanded by the 14th Amendment by making two things similar when their similarities end at cutting in the nether regions, especially until you consider context and effects. Plus, you want to do this even in clear as clear can be defiance of the 1st Amendment.

Dr. Wang's claimed 1 percent risk of complications is higher than the 0% risk of complications from not performing the surgery. That risk is harm inherent in every surgery, in addition to the physical harms I listed that you imagined don't exist. And, as I wrote, since this pertains to individuals, they live with the complications. The claimed 1% risk of complications mostly consists of mild bleeding. It can be more, up to and including death. Non-therapuetic genital cutting violates a non-consenting individual's rights, in every case.

Sure, the risks are out there, but the likelihood is so small as to render it almost meaningless. We’re talking a 1-2% risk. Voice your concern to any clinician and they'll laugh in your face. Pharma companies would do unspeakable things for that kind of clinical data. The kid’s probably at greater risk of harm from learning how to walk!

If you have to ban circumcision, then you have to ban all elective surgery no matter what the risk or benefit and probably even ban ear-piercing. (I don’t like it, but it happens; it’s not abusive and not my place—parents’ choice. Again, you’re looking to basically reinvent the wheel with regards to defining something as innocuous as circumcision as abusive.) Why not ban all surgery on infants while you're at it? Let’s start from the elective surgery aspect. But, again, that has therapeutic benefits that you acknowledge and the risk is so low. You can’t possibly argue that 1% is enough! Everything has risks. We’re lucky to live in such a time.

So then you bring up “non-therapeutic circumcision,” which I assume you mean as that for religious reasons. I’ve covered that, and you said it should be exempt only to reverse your position and deem it the male version of FGM even though the similarities end at “having to do with religion” and “involves cutting genitals.” That’s an extremely simplistic, context-free, and immature way of viewing it. They’re worlds apart. Even if parents have their kids circumcised “for the hell of it,” you invalidate the choice because of intent, especially with therapeutic benefit and low risk. Intent regarding what is widely accepted as a legitimate procedure (despite either one of our views) has little to no bearing, unless it’s indicative of a much larger problem going on inside the household that should involve the police.

Adult volunteer or unwitting child, benefit is benefit. That’s a basis for judgment because that’s legitimate data. That’s much more conclusive than saying that the removal of supposedly healthy tissue is automatic cause for uproar, especially since the baby didn’t provide written consent.

You’d be hard pressed to find a respected medical organization that respects and approves of clitorectomy. This is one thing you (and apparently Restoring Tally) refuse to acknowledge. There is absolutely ZERO moral or therapeutic (or lack thereof in FGM’s case—the opposite, actually) equivalence between FGM and male circumcision. I get that you understand male circumcision’s therapeutic benefits, yet you still see it as a problem because of tenuous arguments that, in addition to the one about baby’s consent, the minor risk of harm somehow outweighs the positives of circumcision, even though you acknowledge they exist. Ideas about FGM having benefit are based on backwards old wives’ tales, as oppose to something like, say, clinical data.

You cavalierly say, No problem, let the Jews wait, but Jewish law doesn’t work like that. 8th day it must be, unless the baby is in such a state that circumcision actually does present serious risks—and that doesn’t mean 1%! You’ve done nothing to convince me that circumcision, outside of religious ritual, is an elective surgery on the same lower moral tier as abuses you’ve described. You’re saying it is, but the basis is faulty; you’re not making the correct logical jumps. The reasoning doesn’t compute.

And as for the slavery bit, which was pretty unbelievable of you to say people may have used some version of the King James Bible to justify it, but there is no commandment "Thou shalt own slaves," and there is no way to justify its practice in American society. Lawmakers understood that! Its practice was an outright violation of human rights and, importantly, Constitutional rights. Again, your argument that circumcision doesn’t violate Constitutional rights is absurd and based on a very flimsy amateur interpretation of the Constitution and individual rights. And by the way, there wasn’t a vast majority of slaves that appreciated the experience, which I must add had no clinical benefit either.

And don't call me close-minded and ignoring the “real issues” at hand. You've ignored plenty of legitimate statements I've made or made extremely weak straw-man arguments against them, as I’ve pointed out.

FGM hasn’t been made into a constitutional issue and the small fringe group of people practicing it know that. There is no acceptable religious pretense because it is a punitive custom on the fringes of acceptable religious practice. Again, circumcision is not even close to having equal footing.

So that leaves us with baby’s consent. I agree, there might be technical problems. But why not ban parents from making any medical decisions for their infant children? In fact, denying life-saving treatment has been considered abusive. (Plus it’s unethical—you know how in Tuskegee the doctors knew that penicillin could cure syphilis but they did nothing? Kind of like that.) Despite your conclusion, the factors that you acknowledge—therapeutic benefit, low risk, possible loss of sexual sensation—are not grounds for declaring something abusive—it just doesn’t reject the null hypothesis, so to speak. Tell me how the minimal harm is the most important consideration when it can be outweighed by benefit. If parents think it’s abusive, then it’s their prerogative not to subject their kids to it. If you want the law to define it as abusive, then you have to rewrite the rules regarding what types of medical choices parents can choose for their kids, no matter how widely accepted they are. You can’t just single out circumcision because some people regret it and you consider that indicative of abuse retroactively.

And Restoring Tally: I'm irrational solely because you disagree with me. Nevertheless, you terrific argument totally has me reconsidering my position completely. /sarcasm

First off, thanks for responding in a responsible manner. Now I don't plan to
reply to all your post, I'll leave most of the constitutional law to Tony if he chooses to respond.

Rational Man said:

All groups that seek social change start on the fringe.

Like the Nazis? Women’s suffrage, abolition, civil rights, 18 year voting age—not fringe groups and there’s not much to disagree with there, unless maybe you’re a plantation owner.All these groups that you mentioned: Nazis, Women's Suffrage, Abolitionist, and Civil Rights groups all started on the fringes. For better or worse they persevered for years with the momentum of society against them before their voices were heard and listened to by enough of society to effect change. Need I remind you of the Fugitive Slave Act or 1850, Underground Railroad, and the fact that there were very few women in the early parts of the US suffrage movement. Most actions for social change start with a few that's just the way it is.

Rational Man said:


Look, I understand the concern about the legality of babies not consenting. That seems to be the big issue here. Your contention that removing “healthy tissue” is wrong no matter what the context is ludicrous, especially when there is therapeutic benefit which you acknowledge.

That is indeed a large issue. We don't dispute that there may be a potential benefit but that is not necessarily a therapeutic benefit. I think it's important to understand the difference between the two so I will again quote the Canadian legal and medical ethicist Margaret Sommerville who noted that: "A medical-benefits or "therapeutic" justification requires that overall the medical benefits should outweigh the risks and harms of the procedure required to obtain them, that this procedure is the only reasonable way to obtain these benefits, and that these benefits are necessary to the well-being of the child."

Now having said that what you need to do is tell me what clinical need is being served by circumcising a boy. It may be the case that there are a very tiny number of boys that require circumcision for a "therapeutic" reason and in those cases there is no problem. To use your previous example, a potential propholaxis for HIV does not meet this definition because (just of the top of my head):

1. Particularly in the US the benefit doesn't out weight the risk.
2. There are more effective and less invasive ways for the boy to protect
himself.
3. It isn't necessary for the infant's well being, he is not at risk.

That doesn't mean that we dismiss the potential benefit. Some men may feel that they want that benefit, though I can't see why, that is up to them.

Rational Man said:

"You simply cannot ban something and contradict a constitutional right (at least for the religious aspect) because of a vast minority opinion unless you can convincingly argue that the harm caused by circumcision—and we’re talking unquestionable,"

I believe that circumcision is unquestionably harmful. It is healthy tissue removed with out medical indication. Surgery by definition causes harm but that harm is balanced by the therapeutic need. What is the therapeutic need for circumcision? I see male circumcision the same way most might see cutting off earlobes. Sure you might be able to do it and it doesn't cause much harm but why do it?

Rational Man said:

"quantifiable harm instead of symbolic similarities with completely different procedures i.e. FGM—is so severe and egregious that it constitutes violations of rights so egregious that it warrants legislation that bans it in the face of parental rights but also, more importantly, in what for many people is a contradiction of a constitutional right."

You don't know much about FGM do you. There are many who believe it is a cherished tradition in their culture. That is not the harm portrayed in the west. Start reading here: http://tinyurl.com/ycxz4ao And then tell me why we deny those women the right to pass their traditions to their daughters or conversely why you deny me the right to security in my person. Why do I have less protection than a woman?

I will skip the part about Jewish law because I have little interest in it except to say that if circumcision had remained confined to religion I doubt it would have garnered this much attention. I don't see how the bill explicitly targets religion either. The bill protect people like myself who only want the same dignity and respect for our bodies that women enjoy.

Rational Man said:

Sure, the risks are out there, but the likelihood is so small as to render it almost meaningless. We’re talking a 1-2% risk.

The "potential benefits" are equally small. What would you tell your son if he was one of the 1% or 2% who received more harm than expected?

Rational Man said:

If you have to ban circumcision, then you have to ban all elective surgery no matter what the risk or benefit and probably even ban ear-piercing. (I don’t like it, but it happens; it’s not abusive and not my place—parents’ choice. Again, you’re looking to basically reinvent the wheel with regards to defining something as innocuous as circumcision as abusive.) Why not ban all surgery on infants while you're at it? Let’s start from the elective surgery aspect. But, again, that has therapeutic benefits that you acknowledge and the risk is so low. You can’t possibly argue that 1% is enough! Everything has risks. We’re lucky to live in such a time.

I am not aware of any other elective surgery that is routinely performed, surgery with no therapeutic aim. We can't ban all surgery that would be silly, some are actually necessary, circumcision is not therapeutic, see above.

Rational Man said:

So then you bring up “non-therapeutic circumcision,” which I assume you mean as that for religious reasons.

No, it means any circumcision that has no therapeutic intent. Which is nearly all of them including religious.

Rational Man said:

You’d be hard pressed to find a respected medical organization that respects and approves of clitorectomy.

Perhaps for now, but have you ever googled labiaplasty, it's a growing business.

Rational Man said:

Ideas about FGM having benefit are based on backwards old wives’ tales, as oppose to something like, say, clinical data.

Fine, in addition to the well referenced article I provided above read this one too: http://tinyurl.com/d9uom

Rational Man said:

And as for the slavery bit, which was pretty unbelievable of you to say people may have used some version of the King James Bible to justify it, but there is no commandment "Thou shalt own slaves," and there is no way to justify its practice in American society. Lawmakers understood that!

They did use the bible to justify slavery. And not all lawmakers understood the immorality of the practice. We had five long years of war and lost over 500,000 men because of that issue. There were plenty of people who believed it was their god given right to own slaves, where have you been?

Rational man said:

And don't call me close-minded and ignoring the “real issues” at hand. You've ignored plenty of legitimate statements I've made or made extremely weak straw-man arguments against them, as I’ve pointed out.

Please point out what points I've ignored.

Rational man said:

Tell me how the minimal harm is the most important consideration when it can be outweighed by benefit.

Well, as a thinking adult if I have a medical problem to address, I tend to solve it in the least invasive way, don't you? Why pull a tooth when I can drill and fill it?

First, it’s interesting that your response proves Godwin’s Law. But, while interesting, it's not productive. Please try to make that the last irrelevant reference to Nazis in this thread.

As I’ve tried to convey several times throughout this exchange, you’re misunderstanding me and then running with that misunderstanding to generate arguments and counter-arguments not based on what I’m defending or positing. No matter how much you insult me, I’m happy to defend my arguments for as long as it takes. But it’s almost pointless when I’m expected to defend or explain my ‘inconsistencies’ based on statements I haven’t made. (Not that I won't continue, but I do recognize that endeavor as verging on pointless.)

… Your contention that removing “healthy tissue” is wrong no matter what the context is ludicrous, especially when there is therapeutic benefit which you acknowledge. …

I haven’t acknowledged that there are therapeutic benefits to non-therapeutic circumcision. I can say with certainty that I never will acknowledge that, because to do so is preposterous. Therapeutic:

1 : of or relating to the treatment of disease or disorders by remedial agents or methods
2 : providing or assisting in a cure

Circumcision, as discussed here as a religious and/or cultural rite, is never therapeutic. There is no disease or disorder to cure. Again, words have meanings. Hence, my specificity in using non-therapeutic.

I said that circumcision has potential benefits. It has the potential to be prophylactic:

1 : guarding from or preventing the spread or occurrence of disease or infection
2 : tending to prevent or ward off

That is, there are statistically demonstrated reductions in various risks. Actual prevention of any disease or infection is not guaranteed to any individual. Thus, the value of those potential benefits is subjective. The individual affected by the intervention is the only one capable of declaring a preference for the various subjective trade-offs involved. All individual tastes and preferences are subjective, to borrow an economic concept. That isn’t false or irrelevant simply because the individual is a child and his parents think circumcision is awesome.

We must also remember that, at the collective rather than individual level, statistics across like societies (i.e. U.S. versus European nations) demonstrate that circumcision is unnecessary for maintaining health. There are many ways to guard against and prevent the spread or occurrence of disease or infection. Condoms, bathing, not-smoking, monogamy, etc. They work, as evidenced throughout non-circumcising first world nations. They are all far less invasive and harmful than non-therapeutic circumcision.

There is also the matter of absolute versus relative risk reduction. The key takeaway (emphasis in original):

An important feature of relative risk is that it tells you nothing about the actual risk.

Every potential benefit for circumcision is discussed only as relative risk, with no mention of actual risk. Those supporting non-therapeutic child circumcision tend to promote numbers like a 10x reduction in risk of UTI. (They usually forget to mention that that risk reduction is only shown for the first year of life.) The absolute risk of UTI in the first year of life for all infant males is approximately 1%. (It's approximately 3% for girls.) The same is true for female-to-male HIV transmission risk reduction. Voluntary, adult circumcision among heterosexual men in high HIV prevalence and low male circumcision settings reduces the risk by >50% isn't as impressive if you consider that the absolute risk of female-to-male HIV transmission in the U.S. - a low HIV prevalence setting - is less than 1%. It's all about marketing, which is subjective.

I have more to say. I wrote a lengthy rebuttal to your appeal to the First Amendment. I'm not going to post it yet, because it's a distraction to the more immediate misunderstanding. We need to agree on what I've said about non-therapeutic circumcision before we frame that any further within the Constitution. If you think I believe that non-therapeutic circumcision is therapeutic, of course my position on the First Amendment will appear irrational. But my position is not irrational because I don't believe that non-therapeutic circumcision is therapeutic. I want to give you the opportunity to reconsider and challenge me based on what I actually believe and have written.

Many people chose to circumcise their sons because of either traditional or religious reasons. I think the decision for circumcision is up to the parents and/or doctors if need be. Circumcision is a practice that should be respected.

[ed. note: I removed the link from your comment because I won't link directly to someone offering non-therapeutic child circumcision services.]

I would ask Sunshine Coast why he or she believe that the decision shouldn't be up to me.

Ah, so you don't the truth to get out that you're basically full of shit.

Actual prevention of any disease or infection is not guaranteed to any individual

Sticking your penis into a pot of raw sewage is a bad idea no matter how much foreskin you have. But having less will reduce that risk.

I have more to say. I wrote a lengthy rebuttal to your appeal to the First Amendment. I'm not going to post it yet, because it's a distraction to the more immediate misunderstanding. We need to agree on what I've said about non-therapeutic circumcision before we frame that any further within the Constitution. If you think I believe that non-therapeutic circumcision is therapeutic, of course my position on the First Amendment will appear irrational. But my position is not irrational because I don't believe that non-therapeutic circumcision is therapeutic. I want to give you the opportunity to reconsider and challenge me based on what I actually believe and have written.

Been there, done that. Your problem is that we don't agree. But hey, thanks for reaching out to me and appealing for my agreement.

So let's see, a mohel circumcises a baby in line with thousands of years of tradition and the 1st Amendment which you think you can contradict, the baby is less likely to contract STD's, infections, and doesn't have to deal with the overall mess of foreskin, but it's not "therapeutic" because the mohel needs to have intent? Yeah, strike that one up as another victory for HOOPs.

And no, it's not about marketing. Correlation doesn't = causation, but stats = stats. 1% risk is low. Of course it would be foolish to say that a baby would be more safe during those 10 minutes of the procedure if he wasn't undergoing it at all. I'm also more safe when not getting my teeth cleaned, but you don't see me complaining.

Within the right to freedom of religion is also the right to freedom from religion. It's reasonable to accept that parents may teach their child specific religious views, and raise him or her accordingly. We can't police thought, and the Constitution indirectly prohibits such a course. But, just as reasonable is the assumption that the child may reject his or her parents' religious philosophy.

I think my IQ just dropped from reading that turd of a paragraph. Thankfully, it's not nearly as low as yours. So that's it? That's how you just turned the First Amendment on its head? Tony baby, I'm beginning to sound like a broken record here:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

I had no idea you could make circumcision exempt from the First Amendment by switching "Congress" with "parents." I guess language doesn't matter after all. Ever heard "My house, my rules"? At Jewish day school, there are usually a rule that a kid has to wear his yarmulke. He doesn't get to say, "Sorry rabbi, 1st Amendment rights free me from your tyranny!" unless that kid is in a public school, whose principal happens to be a rabbi (or just called rabbi for some strange reason). Parents make choices and society and the establishment agree that they have consent by proxy. By your reasoning, I can be legitimately mad at my parents for not having raised me in Australia. Because I was raised in the US, I missed out on Australia's educational system, was at greater risk of interacting with idiots like you, and don't have a sexy Aussie accent.

Also, your assumption that a person will leave religion is a joke. First of all, find me stats instead of your feel-good estimate. 2nd of all, of kids who leave religion, how many of them actually want foreskin back? Again, you can't outlaw a practice that is a protected Constitutional right because a tiny minority have irrational second thoughts about a piece of skin that is as useful as an appendix.

Yeah Joe, I had a typo, but that's what I said: people did use the Bible to justify slavery but I've already legitimately argued that it's not the same as circumcision, rather than just making baseless statements or using non-sequiters, like the following gem:

Rational Man said:

You’d be hard pressed to find a respected medical organization that respects and approves of clitorectomy.

Perhaps for now, but have you ever googled labiaplasty, it's a growing business.

What in God's name are they not teaching you in sex ed? Labia does not = clitoris. But then again, I doubt many girls are turned on by the whole anti-circumcision activist thing, especially when they know the 1st Amendment.

Rational man, first off I'll say it's a pity to see your post slip back into simple attacks and further away from any actual rational discussion. It doesn't reflect very well on you or your position. Second, you made much more than a simple typo. You demonstrated a complete lack of knowledge of American history where it relates to the issue of slavery, civil rights, and women's suffrage. Finally, labiaplasty is considered a type of FGM, and therefore officially discouraged but women get it done anyway and perhaps when enough women get it done, we'll save infant girls the trouble and just do it for them.

Having said that, I am inclined to agree with Tony and believe we would be better served with narrowing the focus of the question before attacking the larger issue. So I'll reiterate his request for you to comment or whether or not you agree with how he has defined therapeutic, non-therapeutic, and prophylaxis. If you do, then we can move on if you don't then please provide alternative definitions.

If possible, try and be civil.

How did I make more than just a typo, Joe? You misinterpreted me as saying that slavery's proponents were not defending the practice with the Bible when in fact I did intend to say otherwise. But hey, I guess that gives you an opportunity to take a potshot that's as baseless as everything else you and Tony have been saying. (FWIW, your definition of fringe is still shaky at best, but I guess the loose interpretation of language isn't such a cause of concern for you.) Come on, practice what you/Tony preach and give me specific examples.

So Oh please. Yes, I know that the WHO designated as such, but it's a misguided cosmetic procedure with increased health risk. You really think doctors would promote that? Your idea of it becoming mainstream is absurd. Circumcision didn't start out in the Valley as a harmful cosmetic procedure for pornstars. It has ancient and Biblical roots yet manages to have clinical benefit. Not bad for a few-thousand-year-old procedure.

Don't bullshit me about defining each purpose for circumcision. You've already demonstrated how ignorant you are when it comes to religious circumcision, and it has the same benefit as circumcision performed in the hospital. You don't want to deal with the technical details because you know you can't wiggle your way through them.

Rational Man:

Ah, so you don't the truth to get out that you're basically full of shit.

You infer that from what?

Sticking your penis into a pot of raw sewage is a bad idea no matter how much foreskin you have. But having less will reduce that risk.

I wrote: "... I have no problem accepting that less skin might translate to less risk of some future malady." So, your point is?

... Your problem is that we don't agree. But hey, thanks for reaching out to me and appealing for my agreement.

I'd be a "dumbass" to assume we're ever going to agree. I know we won't. I happen to like the debate because I learn more with every one. I think you can do the same, if you try.

My problem is that you aren't reading what I write, but choosing what you want to believe I've written. And then you run with it. You shouldn't choose to be wrong based on positions you've made up for me to believe.

So let's see, a mohel circumcises a baby in line with thousands of years of tradition and the 1st Amendment which you think you can contradict, the baby is less likely to contract STD's, infections, and doesn't have to deal with the overall mess of foreskin, but it's not "therapeutic" because the mohel needs to have intent? Yeah, strike that one up as another victory for HOOPs.

First, you're going to have to instruct me on 'HOOPs'. I have no clue what you're talking about. I'm sure I'll feel properly rebuked and ashamed of myself once you explain it to me, but until then, I'm just ignorant about HOOPs and its implications here.

Second, the circumcision we're discussing is not therapeutic because the mohel (or doctor) needs to find a disease or infection of some sort (and would preferably be treated with less invasive methods before resorting to circumcision). Hence, the use of the word 'therapeutic.' The definition linked above hasn't changed. Intent has nothing to do with this discussion if the child passes the first objective medical test and has no medical need.

And no, it's not about marketing. ...

"...the overall mess of foreskin..." It's about marketing.

... Correlation doesn't = causation, but stats = stats. 1% risk is low. Of course it would be foolish to say that a baby would be more safe during those 10 minutes of the procedure if he wasn't undergoing it at all. I'm also more safe when not getting my teeth cleaned, but you don't see me complaining.

If you don't get your teeth cleaned, they will likely fall out of your head. If you don't get your foreskin removed, it will likely not cause you any problems. If it does cause you problems, they're likely to be easily treatable, if they weren't easily preventable with less invasive methods than circumcision.

Also, normal life has risks.

If you're going to quote the Constitution at me and expect me to shut up, I'd rather you be consistent and reject the opinion of the courts that parents can't withhold medically necessary treatment from their children based on their own religious beliefs. You'd be wrong, but at least you'd be consistent.

You're comparing wearing a yarmulke with the surgical removal of a normal, healthy body part as a matter of civil law? I've said nothing against parents making such decions for their children, but at least don't be ridiculous if you want to make the point that I'm denying something to parents. The proper comparison, to the limited extent there is one, is that parents may force their children to wear a yarmulke all his life, even beyond the age of majority, regardless of what he wants.

Also, your assumption that a person will leave religion is a joke. First of all, find me stats instead of your feel-good estimate. 2nd of all, of kids who leave religion, how many of them actually want foreskin back? Again, you can't outlaw a practice that is a protected Constitutional right because a tiny minority have irrational second thoughts about a piece of skin that is as useful as an appendix.

"...irrational second thoughts..." It's about marketing.

"...piece of skin that is as useful as an appendix." It's about marketing.

(Since we can't assume knowledge is stagnant - as useful as an appendix?)

But, yes, the presence of a tiny minority of one is enough, because the rights guaranteed by the Constitution are individual rights. You want collectivism. But any right that is recognized only at the discretion of another makes the notion of rights a farce, including your misconception of religious rights.

... You really think doctors would promote [labiaplasty]? ...

Do you think parents would accept it if doctors promoted it?

... It has ancient and Biblical roots...

What if I said the bible is made-up bullshit? I'm not saying I believe that, so do not assume it's true. Rather, I'm asking how you would prove me wrong if I did believe that, to the point that we could elevate it above what civil law can reason?

Don't bullshit me about defining each purpose for circumcision. You've already demonstrated how ignorant you are when it comes to religious circumcision, and it has the same benefit as circumcision performed in the hospital. You don't want to deal with the technical details because you know you can't wiggle your way through them.

I wrote 'non-therapeutic' and 'prophylactic'. You incorrectly assumed that was a synonym for 'therapeutic'. I'm not sure which technical details - whatever you might mean by that - you think we're ignorant about. Enlighten us.

Rational Man said:

"How did I make more than just a typo, Joe? You misinterpreted me as saying that slavery's proponents were not defending the practice with the Bible when in fact I did intend to say otherwise. But hey, I guess that gives you an opportunity to take a potshot that's as baseless as everything else you and Tony have been saying. (FWIW, your definition of fringe is still shaky at best, but I guess the loose interpretation of language isn't such a cause of concern for you.)"

Primarily with your misinterpretation of history. And while that part of the reply might have been a tad inflammatory, it was still orders of magnitude more respectful then you have been. And I don't see how my interpretation of fringe is loose. All of those groups started out on the fringe.

Rational Man said:

Come on, practice what you/Tony preach and give me specific examples.

I think we have been practicing what we preach in the face of pretty abusive replies. Perhaps you could try to be civil?

Again, let's get back to basics Tony has provided definitions for therapeutic, non-therapeutic, and prophylaxis. Do you agree with those definitions or not. If not please provided your definitions.

If you're capable of that, in a respectful manner, then we can move on to wider issues.

Hypocritical would be me telling you to tone down your language. I just said that your little potshot sucked.

I'm using fringe as it's commonly used, to mean so extreme and alienating that those espousing it are considered very distant from mainstream political discussion. That's the usual context in which it is used--not to characterize just any small interest group. We're not talking about groups pressing for alternative energy or environmental groups; we're talking neo-Nazi's, eco-terrorists, communists, world-is-flat theorists (they still exist, but in very small numbers, making them a fringe group), and yes, anti-circumcision activists. Sorry, but your view is considered very alienating by a number of people. Minority does not necessarily = fringe, but fringe views typically exist among an extremely small minority.

And re: the Bible. Note the use of the word "supposedly." I'm not using the Bible as an all-encompassing authority. I don't know if you have a religion or which one and I don't care--it's irrelevant. The point of referring to the Bible is to stress how important the commandment of circumcision is to Jews. For Jews, it's the word of God himself--that's only part of how important circumcision is to them. And the importance (and, for better or worse, the popularity) of the Bible is what puts certain rituals into the realm of acceptable religious behavior protected by the Constitution. This is a country where Jewish practice, which includes millennia-old rituals, has been protected since its founding in accordance with the First Amendment. Rarely, if ever, throughout this time has the moral and legal acceptability of religious circumcision ever been questioned. If circumcision does have such serious problems, then why hasn't it been challenged until the past 30 years or so by such a tiny minority? Why hasn't it gone the way of slavery? If you want to discuss what makes something a religious practice and constitutionally "acceptable," then that goes into a whole other argument about what makes for a legitimate religious practice, and whether past societal and legal approval legitimizes it.

The issue of therapeutic is meaningless and irrelevant. That is a distraction, not the illegality of outlawing (in America) a centuries-old religious practice that has been widely considered to legitimately fall under the protection of the 1st Amendment. You haven't provided any compelling arguments at all re: Constitutional provisions; just whether or not circumcision is appropriate. Therapeutic quality, or curing an existing malady, isn't the sole determinant of whether a procedure is ethical or not. It's all smoke and mirrors. There is benefit.

And HOOPs = Hands Off Our Penises. It's a joke from the show Arrested Development. Believe it or not, I am capable of laughing.

You haven't provided any compelling arguments at all re: Constitutional provisions; just whether or not circumcision is appropriate. Therapeutic quality, or curing an existing malady, isn't the sole determinant of whether a procedure is ethical or not. It's all smoke and mirrors. There is benefit.

That's not to say that you have been convincing with the latter. The sentence came out bad. What I intended to say was that you have declared discussion of the legality of a possible ban to be a "distraction" and that we should be talking about what makes it necessary or not. You dwell on whether it's therapeutic. The "Therapeutic quality, or curing..." sentence holds. That's not the sole criterion for something being ethical or not though. Like I said, for a procedure to be considered technically ethical, it has to meet certain other requirements, like whether it's better than the alternative b/c a physician can't provide a treatment he knows to be inferior to the alternative. The consent issue is also considered. The patient has to be able to comprehend the risks/benefits, but if he can't then a legal guardian fulfills the role of someone who can give consent by proxy. Your issue is that circumcision isn't provided in a life/death situation or a way that addresses an immediate ailment. I say it's beneficial and considered by most medical experts to be innocuous, but you say that it involves removal of "healthy tissue" and is not therapeutic, with risk. Those two issues are smoke and mirrors. Everything has risk. The inherent risk is so small. The idea that it's about marketing. First of all, it seems to imply that all clinical reports reporting lower risk are immediately tainted by some sort of conflict of interest that it's their interest to say that the risk is minimal. That's ridiculous. They test for statistical significance, but the ethicality also depends on risk/benefit, and the benefit seems to be considered enough to outweigh the minimal risk.

Rational Man said:

"Sorry, but your view is considered very alienating by a number of people. Minority does not necessarily = fringe, but fringe views typically exist among an extremely small minority."

Perhaps in the US and certain religious countries but not in most secular democracies. Keep in mind that outside the US, secular circumcision is very rare. You also don't seem to understand that most groups that seek significant social change are considered 'fringe' groups in the beginning and often until they push over the edifices of the old order. Abolitionist were fringe until perhaps the civil war. They even faced civil and criminal penalties for many of their activities.

Rational man asked:

"If circumcision does have such serious problems, then why hasn't it been challenged until the past 30 years or so by such a tiny minority?"

Primarily because it wasn't until the last 60 year or so that circumcision stuck its nose so prominently into secular practice. And then only in the past 30 years that individuals, such as myself, had the information to realize that everything that had been promoted about circumcision was, and continues to be, mostly BS. If routine circumcision kept its place as an exclusively religious practice whose practitioners could take comfort in the writings and advice of some schizophrenic old man from thousands of years ago then I doubt this kind of movement would have materialized. However the problem people have today is that circumcision is performed without informed consent, for no objective reason, and as a result of the last 60 or more years is supported by myth rather then fact.

Rational Man said:

"The issue of therapeutic is meaningless and irrelevant. That is a distraction,"

I disagree the therapeutic or prophylactic points are really the only ones that matter when discussing the appropriateness of a medical procedure.

Rational Man said:

What I intended to say was that you have declared discussion of the legality of a possible ban to be a "distraction" and that we should be talking about what makes it necessary or not.

That is not what we've said. We've said that we have to start from a common base and build from there. For a medical procedure, the best place to start is to first determine what the therapeutic or prophylactic value might be.

Rational Man said:

The "Therapeutic quality, or curing..." sentence holds. That's not the sole criterion for something being ethical or not though. Like I said, for a procedure to be considered technically ethical, it has to meet certain other requirements, like whether it's better than the alternative b/c a physician can't provide a treatment he knows to be inferior to the alternative.

An important point which we can't get to unless we can determine whether or not circumcision is therapeutic or prophylactic to begin with, for which we need a definition from you if you disagree with the ones provided. Your point about alternatives is well taken as the purported benefits of circumcision all have more effective alternatives available (and/or can be evaluated by the individual when it's possible to provide informed consent) to prevent or treat the rare problems that circumcision may address.

Rational man said:

"The inherent risk is so small. The idea that it's about marketing."

It is about marketing because the risk may be small but the benefit is at least as small. But rather then pointing that out, those who promote circumcision like to cite a small risk but spin the benefits to appear large. Sometimes they are technically not lying but just presenting the information in such a way that is favorable to their position. That is spin, that is marketing. There are at least three types of spinning that advocates of circumcision revel in:

1. They up sell the benefits.
2. The down play the risks.
3. The tend to suggest that to leave the option to the man would make the procedure significantly more risky.

Rational Man said:

"They test for statistical significance, but the ethicality [sic] also depends on risk/benefit, and the benefit seems to be considered enough to outweigh the minimal risk."

You see, this is spin. You characterize the risk as minimal but you don't characterized the potential benefits as minimal even though they are.

So a questions for you: Is it your opinion that a parent can do anything they want to their child so long as we can say the risk is minimal, whether or not we can assign a potential benefit to it? A yes or no answer is preferred; if 'no' then please explain.

You also don't seem to understand that most groups that seek significant social change are considered 'fringe' groups in the beginning and often until they push over the edifices of the old order.

My understanding of social movements is fine, thank you very much. Like I said, the connotation and usual meaning of fringe is holding extreme views. John Brown was on the fringe as a radical abolitionist. There was a healthy abolitionist movement in the North led by William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, and HBS.

I'm going to be a nerd and quote Lost, so here goes:

"In my experience, the people who go out of their way to tell you they are the good guys... are usually the bad guys."

Don't give yourselves too much credit. In my own experience, the groups that compare themselves to past greats tend to just have inflated opinions of themselves.

If routine circumcision kept its place as an exclusively religious practice whose practitioners could take comfort in the writings and advice of some schizophrenic old man from thousands of years ago then I doubt this kind of movement would have materialized.

Ah, so you're into insulting religious people now. I never declared the Bible to be truth and go on to promise fire and brimstone if you don't accept it. If you want to say something about me, then fine, but don't make that asinine comment. I explained myself on the Bible thing. Apparently you don't like to read.

"They test for statistical significance, but the ethicality [sic] also depends on risk/benefit, and the benefit seems to be considered enough to outweigh the minimal risk."

You see, this is spin. You characterize the risk as minimal but you don't characterized the potential benefits as minimal even though they are.

You're right, they don't test for statistical significance and all studies on circumcision are partial and biased. They're definitely less tainted than studies funded by National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers ("Fine-touch pressure thresholds in the adult penis" Sorrell et al.). Rubbish. Some nice extremist, or--wait for it--fringe tin-foil hattery. I didn't make up the numbers. 1% risk.

We don't just "say" that the risk is minimal or choose to assign benefit. The statistics speak for themselves. Parents can make decisions for their children. That's my answer.

Rational Man said:

"My understanding of social movements is fine, thank you very much. Like I said, the connotation and usual meaning of fringe is holding extreme views. John Brown was on the fringe as a radical abolitionist. There was a healthy abolitionist movement in the North led by William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, and HBS."

It wouldn't seem so. Both Garrison and Douglass were on the fringe, especially initially. Garrison was jailed in Baltimore, wanted in Georgia while Douglass fled the country. This is because for their place and time, they were railing against the social order, on the fringe as it were.

Rational Man said:

"I explained myself on the Bible thing. Apparently you don't like to read."

We're not at the point where we are speaking about the bible yet, you haven't addressed the simple questions put to you yet that will allow us to move forward. So go back and give us a hint as to whether you agree with the previously discussed definitions and as for reading skills, let's try and actually answer this question again:

"Is it your opinion that a parent can do anything they want to their child so long as we can say the risk is minimal, whether or not we can assign a potential benefit to it?"

Please take note that I am not just speaking of circumcision here, I am speaking more broadly. So once again a 'yes' or 'no' answer is preferred; if 'no' then please explain.

You don't understand how arguments work. I don't have to agree to your terms by answering your presumptuous question. Maybe you have trouble understanding this, but wording matters. Or do you want to ban dissenting opinions too?

WSG was not the best example, as he was considered rather radical (he burned a copy of the Constitution), but you’re off about Frederick Douglas. He went to the UK voluntarily, where he lectured and his freedom was bought. He fled to Canada on his own because our good friend John Brown, whom I mentioned earlier and with whom Frederick Douglas had spoken on occasion even though he disagreed with his militant views, was arrested following his raid on Harpers Ferry and Douglas was worried that he would be arrested based on guilt by association. Hardly the exile.

And who the fuck are you anyways? I thought Tony was the guy running this shitty site. You're like his annoying little sidekick who can only repeat his questions like a parrot.

Rational main said:

"You don't understand how arguments work. I don't have to agree to your terms by answering your presumptuous question. Maybe you have trouble understanding this, but wording matters. Or do you want to ban dissenting opinions too?"

I think I understand just fine. Part of the process of debating is to ask your opponent questions so that one can see where similarities and differences lie within their positions as it relates to yours. This also helps everyone come to an agreement of the definitions of terms and lets one feel out the boundaries of ones position.

You are of course free to answer or not but in truth, it doesn't do anyone any good if I ask questions and then you incoherently reply with an insult and obscenity laden response. It certainly doesn't reflect well on you as an individual or on your capability to have a rational discussion on a controversial issue.

I find it interesting that you might suggest anyone here wants to restrict or censor dissenting opinion. This is far from the truth of the matter as evidenced by the fact that your posts are not being edited by the blog owner. You've been given more rope then I think most people would give to someone who does little more than attack others.

With respect to fringe groups, these people for their place and time were on the fringe; live with it. I think though there is an important point getting lost and that is fringe is not necessarily a pejorative label.

Rational Man said:

"And who the fuck are you anyways? I thought Tony was the guy running this shitty site. You're like his annoying little sidekick who can only repeat his questions like a parrot."

He does run this site, what's your point? I didn't repeat his questions. I did ask you to answer his question and then added a new one all my own. So I'll ask you again:

1. Are the definitions provided for therapeutic, non-therapeutic, and prophylaxis acceptable? (Tony's Question)

2. Is it your opinion that a parent can do anything they want to their child so long as we can say the risk is minimal, whether or not we can assign a potential benefit to it?

Please take note that I am not just speaking of circumcision here, I am speaking more broadly. So once again a 'yes' or 'no' answer is preferred; if 'no' then please explain. (My question)

And you've earned a third:
3. Are you capable of posting in a civilized manner, the information I have to date seems to indicate that you can't. Prove me wrong.

the person for who this billed was filed on their behalf ..is not a Massachusetts resident ..but lives in New York city

Boston Bear:

As I understand it, your claim is not correct. However, let's assume it is correct. What's your point, because I can't find it?

If your assertion is correct, it doesn't change my analysis. Massachusetts is a suitable fill-in for any of the 50 states, since non-therapeutic child circumcision should be illegal in all of them.

I hate to say it but the bill in Massachusetts had no chance of passing considering the current environment. Perhaps a bill for policies where hospitals cannot solicit, coerce, or manipulate new parents to circumcise their sons would stand a better chance. I understand that in many US hospitals, new parents are routinely asked if they want their sons circumcised after birth (and of course, hospitals charge for the unnecessary "operation"). Sometimes I think the hospital staff play a part in manipulating the parents to elicit consent. I don't think they should be allowed to do this.
You wouldn't find this type of solicitation in coutries where circumcision is generally not practiced.

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