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Hanna Rosin Is Still Mistaken on Circumcision. Uh Oh.

Yesterday, the New York Times ran an article about a recent study (on a semi-related topic) that suggests the U.S. infant male circumcision rate fell to 32.5% for 2009. This has been floating around for a few weeks. Frankly, I don't believe it, as much as I'd like it to be true. When the data are fully analyzed, we'll either see the rate climb or the exclusions will reveal circumcisions that weren't counted but must logically be assumed (e.g. ritual). I'm aware of my culture's insanity.

This story has, predictably, brought out the usual folks and their BUT TEH AIDS!!!!1 rhetoric. For example, a year after showing her ignorance and bias¹ for circumcision, Hanna Rosin returns to prove that she's still willfully ignorant.

The New York Times reports today on new findings that circumcision rates have declined precipitously in the United States, from 56 percent in 2006 to 32.5 percent last year. That’s a phenomenal decline in just three years. ...

No kidding. It's so phenomenal that, were she ever willing to break out her critical thinking skills, she might focus her blog entry on that point. Instead, she regurgitates the same incorrect, irrelevant propaganda.

... The story quotes doctors saying that of course no one in the profession should ever tell a parent to circumcise their child and the Centers for Disease Control declines to comment because they never do on this issue, even though they know full well that the drop in circumcisions is a potentially serious public health problem. ...

That quote is this:

“No one is going to tell a parent, ‘You have to circumcise your child.’ That would be foolish,” Dr. [Michael] Brady said. “The key thing physicians should be doing is providing information on both risks and benefits and allow the parent to make the best decision.”

Any doctor who agrees with that is an unethical coward. The key thing physicians should be doing is rejecting the offensive parental request to surgically alter healthy children boys.

As for what they "know full well," this from the New York Times article:

Some 80 percent of American men are circumcised, one of the highest rates in the developed world. Yet even advocates of circumcision acknowledge that an aggressive circumcision drive in the United States would be unlikely to have a drastic impact on H.I.V. rates here, since the procedure does not seem to protect those at greatest risk, men who have sex with men.

Context matters, a caveat Rosin ignores.

Continuing:

... But circumcision has become like abortion these days, where allying yourself with the Mengele doctors who mutilate infant boys risks bringing a horde protesters to your office door.

Doctors (and non-doctors) who circumcise healthy boys mutilate them:

1 : to cut up or alter radically so as to make imperfect
2 : to cut off or permanently destroy a limb or essential part of

Words have meaning independent of the desired preference of pro- or anti- child circumcision arguments. For mutilation, that meaning is independent of the victim's gender and the proxy's intent.

She continues:

It does not really matter if any individual parent decides that circumcision is not for them, as I explained in this New York magazine story, “The Case Against the Case Against Circumcision.” ...

This is the crux of her mistake. The (unnecessary) circumcision Rosin defends is not for the parent. It's imposed on the individual child boy. This is why it's unethical, regardless of all the unimpressive, incomplete facts she shares. It's not about what the parents want, but what the boy needs. Proxy consent has objective, logical limits. That our society ignores these does not reduce their validity.

Continuing:

... But it absolutely matters if a whole society turns against the practice. The exact relationship between circumcision and the prevention of certain diseases – from AIDS on down – is not perfectly understood. ...

Promote anyway, apparently, since there's no chance missed factors could contribute to the conclusion.

... But it is absolutely understood that societies in which the majority of boys are circumcised have lower rates of such diseases than other societies.

From AVERT, worldwide AIDS & HIV statistics from 2008 show that North America has an adult prevalence of 0.4%. Most 15-49 year old American males are circumcised. Canadian circumcision rates are declining, but a large percentage in that age group are circumcised. Western & Central Europe, where most males are intact, has an adult prevalence of 0.3%. But it is "absolutely understood" that mutilating societies have lower rates of such diseases. Rosin is entitled to her own facts, apparently. She knows.

Still more:

Anti-circumcision activists have convinced us that circumcision is harmful and dangerous and does a lifetime of damage. ...

Circumcision is surgery. It removes healthy tissue and nerves. That's harmful. Every boy suffers some form of harm (e.g. scarring), but some boys suffer far worse. Collectively it is not "dangerous", but individuals are not statistics. And since this damage is permanent, it certainly lasts a lifetime.

If a male chooses circumcision for himself, that is his right, regardless of his reason. The issue is its imposition on healthy, non-consenting children boys. Their health proves how the science involved is twisted, since only potential benefits seem to count as "science". Their lack of consent proves the ethical argument against permitting prophylactic circumcision (i.e. ritual, cultural, and "scientific"), unless Rosin wishes to open proxy consent to medically unnecessary genital surgery on female minors.

¹ I also highlighted her ignorance and bias here and here.

Comments

I saw your comment on Twitter and came over to read. I'm just beginning to do my own research on circumcision. We've made our own decision on it and now I work to share what I've learned with other mothers.

Thank you for sharing your opposing views to Rosin's article.

Funny how "they" say that no one forces a parent to circumcise but they never contemplate asking Does anyone ask the child if he wants his sexual organ mutilated? They never say that the child isn't forced... because that would open them up to a smackdown. They merely want, as you've said in another blog post, children to shut up and take - and be chattel.

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