I should have thought of this long ago.

One of the common defenses of infant male circumcision is that it’s the parents’ decision and that they make many decisions that may or may not be the best decision. The argument is that the State is no more qualified to make those decisions than the child’s parents. I disagree with this, as I’ve explained before. (One example here.) And it’s obviously ridiculous because we’ve already legislated against parental decision-making for the genitals of their daughters, prohibiting the same excuses we permit for the genitals of sons. There is no valid line of thought that supports that legal distinction.

I’d already reached that conclusion, of course. But I consistently missed a fallacious approach to the argument. If parents have “rights”, a proxy power granted only to the genitals of their sons can’t be legitimately referred to as a right unless we concede that the state is infringing upon their right to cut their daughters. This should be obvious, and it always has been to me. However, the argument based on rights generally leads to a statement that among the many decisions parents make for their children include such decisions as where to educate them, whether or not their friends are acceptable, and what to feed them. Those are all valid parental decisions.

Those are an unintentional distraction from the real question. The (male) circumcision decision for parents of a healthy (male) child is whether to allow their (male) child to keep his normal anatomy or not. The analogous decision is not whether to send their (male) child to school X or school Y. The analogous decision is whether to send their (male) child to school or not. The analogous decision is whether to allow their (male) child to have friends or not. The analogous decision is whether to feed their (male) child or not.

In every one of those examples, we immediately recognize the legitimacy of state intervention to prohibit objectively reckless decisions. (The anarchists don’t, but that’s a different blog entry.) The decision to circumcise a healthy male child is no different when properly analyzed.

Even when the claim is medical benefits, those benefits are merely potential benefits for risks that are universally low to begin with for normal males. The remaining non-medical reasons people offer simply cannot withstand any rational consideration of the truth that prophylactic circumcision is an invasive surgical procedure forced upon a healthy individual, with all the inherent risk of complications and without any direct medical need. Again, we fully understand this basic truth for the normal, healthy genitals of female minors. The notion that parents possess a right to proxy consent distinguished only by the gender of the child is indefensible.