Dr. Amy Tuteur Is Wrong About The First Amendment (And Still Wrong About Circumcision)

Dr. Amy Tutuer is at it again. She insists on defending circumcision from any rational challenge, and also insists on name-calling. Consider:

The foreskin fetishists have struck again. Those who devote their lives to the preservation of foreskins are hurriedly gathering signatures to put a circumcision ban on San Francisco’s November ballot. The measure would assess fines as high as $1,000 and provide for up to one year in jail for someone who performs a circumcision.

Foreskin fetishists is a term used by someone who has no arguments beyond ad hominem. This isn’t her first time deploying it. But if that’s all it takes to “discredit” an argument, what about this rewrite?

The labia fetishists have struck again. Those who devote their lives to the preservation of labia are hurriedly gathering signatures to put a female genital cutting ban on San Francisco’s November ballot. …

Works just as well, right? Demonize where there is a rational argument to be made against surgical intervention on the healthy genitals of children, and no one needs to think beyond the past. Move on, nothing to see here. It’s stupid and rather pathetic, especially since she refers to herself as “The Skeptical OB.”

The news article she excerpts refers to the current ballot initiative in San Francisco to criminalize circumcisions on healthy, non-consenting male minors. It states:

“We say: ‘Would you like to help protect the children from forced circumcision? This is a human-rights issue,’” [Lloyd] Schofield said.

To which she replies:

Actually, it’s a First Amendment issue, and a ban on circumcision is unconstitutional, because it violates the right to free expression of religion. Circumcision is an integral aspect of Jewish religious practice and is important in the practice of Islam. Of course the foreskin fetishists are not concerned with anything as piddling religious belief.

A ban on circumcision would not violate the First Amendment because it’s an individual right. Male minors possess this same right, even in the face of the obvious point that parents may make religious choices for their minor children.

But I’ll momentarily concede that the parents’ First Amendment right trumps the child’s forever. That right doesn’t trump the child’s right to be free from harm, a fundamental natural right. The courts have already ruled that parents do not possess a plenary right to harm their children in the practice of their religion. The disconnect here is solely that our society does not yet acknowledge the obvious point that circumcision, as surgery, is harm. For example, Tuteur writes in the comments:

Every effort is made to minimize any possible risks and religious circumcision cannot and should not be performed if there is any question that it will harm the infant.

Circumcision removes healthy tissue and nerve endings. It causes scarring. It includes a non-zero risk of complications, ranging from mild to severe, including rare cases of death. It alters the functioning of the penis by removing the gliding and protective features of the foreskin. It is not simply a disposable body part. Contrary to what she stated in the past and clearly still believes, the legitimacy of proxy consent in some cases does not prove that it is legitimate in all cases. The distinction that she misses, which is frightening given that she is an OB, is need. Without medical need, proxy consent is invalid.

But smears are easier than thinking.

Underpants Gnome Legislating

In this recent post, The Two Obfuscations of Obamacare, Jason Kuznicki explains the basic arguments against the law in the context of its (lack of) constitutionality. I agree with it all. This is the best part of the post:

As a thought experiment: Suppose we levy a tax on everyone. You can get out of it by spending two days a week breaking rocks in a quarry, in leg irons. The beneficiary is a multinational mining corporation.

It’s just a tax, I’m sure you’ll have to admit — not a penalty in any sense at all. And it’s certainly within the federal government’s power to regulate the mining industry. No one doubts that, do they? So the whole thing gets a pass, constitutionally. Right?

On a related note, I find it amusing when the law’s supporters demand that opponents call it something other than “Obamacare.” I’ll echo a sentiment I read somewhere that questioned this demand because, if the law is so wonderful, why shouldn’t its supporters be happy to have President Obama forever linked with this supposed improvement? That doesn’t advance the debate, but it’s also a fair comment. And, as Jason points out in the comments to his post, the official name of the law is dishonest. Getting outcomes is more complex than legislating an industry as if it’s a vending machine that gives us what we want when we insert our dollar bill. “Affordable” lacks context, since it’s a subjective concept. The plan to get there is preposterous magical thinking.