Parents

Circumcision politics get really personal

May 19, 2011 at 6:15 PM ET

This fall, will you be voting Republican, Democrat or Intactivist?

A controversial initiative that would outlaw circumcision in San Francisco has received enough signatures to make it onto the ballot in November. If the measure passes, it will be illegal for anyone under 18 years of age to be circumcised within city limits and religious exemptions are not allowed.

And in New York, a toddler recently died during a routine circumcision. Anesthesia complications are suspected, but the specific cause of the death is unknown.

The cross-country events have fanned the flames of the red-hot subject, causing parents on either side to fiercely debate the issue across mommy blogs and message boards.

Many attachment parenting advocates -- and so-called "intactivists" -- label the practice as “mutilation.” As one person framed the argument on a message board:

“It is an antiquated barbaric practice that mutilates babies, why wouldn't a caring mother care about causing pain to their infant son?”

(You could see where THAT might hit a raw postpartum nerve or two.)

Jennifer Margulis, a contributing editor at Mothering magazine, recently blogged about the topic on Babble.com and says if parents knew more about the procedure, they’d be running for the hills when asked whether they want to circumcise their baby.

“Most parents do not watch their baby being circumcised and do not know that the procedure can be excruciatingly painful, even with anesthesia. Anyone who has ever witnessed a circumcision and heard the high-pitched scream of a newborn having part of his penis cut off (you can watch one on the Internet if you don't believe me) knows that this surgery causes pain.”

And MsTeryMom, a poster on a BabyCenter.com message board, assures readers the procedure wasn’t traumatic for her son.

"The circ was done while I was in the hospital…He came back to me looking to nurse and snuggle, but overall was fine. I was much worse off than he was, esp when I changed those first few diaps and saw his little wounded penis. BUT I felt it was the best decision for MY FAMILY so when it healed (2-3 days?) I have never regretted the decision."

But facing down all the anti-circ arguments and the strong feelings that come with them, there are people like me, who as a Jewish parent, believes it is important to follow our religion’s dictates and traditions.

Jewish boys are religiously obligated to be circumcised at eight days of age in a ritual called a bris. Male circumcision is also common among Muslims (the largest number of circumcised men worldwide are Muslim).

Many of us who circumcise our sons believe that the ritual is not only hygienic and safe, but also a cornerstone of the identity we, as parents, want to establish for  the child. For many of us, it's not only ritualistic tradition, but also the deeply significant, emotional idea of a ceremony  which commits our family and child to being part of thousands of years of belief, culture and history.

And then there are parents who simply think Junior's penis should look just like Dad's.

Share your thoughts on the circumcision debate. Did you circumcise your son? Do you believe other people should have the right to circumcise theirs?

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