Male circumcision: what would newborns say?

Why are so many male circumcisions still performed when we all agree that female circumcision is a barbarous act?

Now, the American Academy of Pediatrics says the benefits of male circumcision outweigh the risks. But, if newborns had a say in the matter, they would use the following reasons to shout a big “NO” to this mutilating procedure, unless religious or cultural reasons require it.

One – circumcision doesn’t just snip off a small piece of skin. Rather, it removes a large surface of foreskin measuring three to five inches in length, about half of the total skin of the penis! Also, inside the foreskin there’s a band of tissue that acts like an accordion. Its gliding motion is needed to trigger sexual reflexes and pleasure.

Two – the foreskin is not just skin. Dr. John Taylor, a Winnipeg pathologist, reported in the British Journal of Urology in 1996 a new anatomical finding. Taylor and his colleagues discovered a ‘ridged band’ that runs around the inside of the foreskin. Microscopic examination shows this skin is loaded with blood vessels and nerves. So what is being amputated is a large part of the sexual function of the penis.

Three – never forget that nature placed the foreskin in that area for a good reason. It’s therefore a sound rule not to mess around with nature.

Four – don’t buy the argument that circumcision decreases urinary infections. Infections primarily occur in the first year of life and can be avoided by improved hygiene. This is a lame excuse for decreasing the pleasure of sex for the next 80 years or more.

Five – don’t accept the theory that circumcision decreases the risk of penile cancer as this is an extremely rare malignancy. After all, no one recommends that all female breasts be removed for fear of malignancy.

Six – studies show that circumcision decreases by 15% the risk of contacting HIV and genital herpes. But it has no effect on decreasing the risk of gonorrhea. This advice may make sense to those wandering from one bed to another. But not to others who practice responsible sex. Why should all suffer for others’ irresponsible behaviour?

Seven – circumcision rarely presents complications. But if one occurs, it’s nevertheless a 100% hit. Moreover, the world’s medical journals are full of reports dealing with a variety of surgical mishaps that are not an ‘act of God’ but due to human errors.

A primary problem is the incorrect use of the circumcision clamp. In some cases too much foreskin is pulled into the clamp causing injury to the penis. In other cases there’s severe injury to the urinary tube (urethra). This may result in difficulty passing urine or development of a urethral fistula causing urine to be discharged through an abnormal opening. Some of these injuries are not apparent following discharge from hospital as a fistula takes weeks or months to make its presence known. And on rare occasions part of the penis has been amputated. As Harvey Cushing, one of Harvard’s great surgeons, once remarked, “There’s no such thing as minor surgery, but there’s a lot of minor surgeons.”

Eight – how many men today would need an erectile dysfunction drug (ED) if a circumcision had not been done. I don’t know how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, nor do I know the answer to this question. Nor does anyone else. But it’s my bet that this procedure has had a reasonable effect on the sale of ED drugs.

Nine – in 1996, the Canadian Pediatric Society recommended that circumcision should not be routinely performed. It plans to reconsider this advice in the next year. Let’s hope it first reads the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, then decides it’s a needless, brutal procedure that violates newborn rights.

Ten – circumcision is not a life and death situation. So unless it’s required for religious or cultural reasons, this decision should be made when an adult can decide whether or not he wishes it done. I believe many newborns would say Amen to that.

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