Circumcision: Do the Health Benefits Outweigh the Genital Mutilation?

Here’s something that won’t be controversial.

The American Academy of Pediatrics announced yesterday that “the health benefits of [circumcision] clearly outweigh any risks.” The policy statement can be read here.

“The health benefits of male circumcision include a drop in the risk of urinary tract infection in the first year of life by up to 90 percent,” [Dr. Susan Blank] says.

But there’s a much bigger reason to do it, Blank said. Circumcised males are far less likely to get infected with a long list of sexually transmitted diseases.

“It drops the risk of heterosexual HIV acquisition by about 60 percent. It drops the risk of human papillomavirus [HPV], herpes virus and other infectious genital ulcers,” she says.

It also reduces the chances that men will spread HPV to their wives and girlfriends, protecting them from getting cervical cancer.

“We’ve reviewed the data and, you know, we have gone through them with a fine-tooth comb, and the data are pretty convincing,” she says.

The critics aren’t denying all of that (some of it, yes, but not all of it), but they still say circumcision should be a personal decision, not one your parents make for you:

“We have no right as parents or as physicians or adults to strap them down and chop off a normal part of their body. To do that is a human rights violation and an ethical travesty,” says Georgeanne Chapin of the anti-circumcision group Intact America.

NPR adds that experts are siding with the AAP, adding that male circumcision shouldn’t be compared to female genital mutilation:

They dismiss any comparison to female genital mutilation as grossly misleading and say male circumcision is about as safe as any procedure could be.

A couple of godless parents recently decided not to circumcise their child for many of the reasons mentioned already. In response to the AAP’s new findings, the father said this:

So we’re home and our little boy didn’t get cut. I just dropped it and realized that we had made a decision we felt was best for him and moved on. As I was posting photos on Facebook this morning, I ran across an article that mentioned the new statement from the AAP. Basically the only thing that changed was that their previous statement said there were potential benefits and the new statement removed the word potential. They are still very minimal and nothing to warrant routine newborn circumcision according to the AAP. The use of the word “significant” wouldn’t be appropriate since it’s still not recommended on a routine basis. Essentially nothing has changed and the controversy will rage on. For this family, we’re happy that we didn’t circumcise him and more than willing to engage our family in all necessary conversations around this topic as our boys grow up and start asking questions.

I’m going to step away for a couple of hours and when I come back, I expect you’ll all come to a conclusion one way or the other with no emotions flaring up on either side.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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