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