Small Victories: The New York Times Revises

The New York Times revised its article on the PrePex circumcision device. I have no way of knowing if that change occurred because of my entry on the subject or some other source that provided some revelation to the paper’s editors. Frankly, I don’t much care who got it done. The key is that the Times changed the article to inch closer to reality. It’s not close to perfect, but compare the two. The original:

Dr. Reed said he had heard that another device, Ali’s Klamp, was being tested in Kenya under protocols that seemed to match W.H.O. requirements. According to, a circumcision information Web site, it is a Turkish device dating to 2007, and works on principles similar to those of the Tara Klamp and another device, the SmartKlamp, approved by the F.D.A. in 2004.

The current, revised version:

Dr. Reed said he had heard that another device, Ali’s Klamp, was being tested in Kenya under protocols that seemed to match W.H.O. requirements. According to, a Web site with information about circumcision and arguments favoring it, Ali’s Klamp is a Turkish device dating to 2007, and works on principles similar to those of the Tara Klamp and another device, the SmartKlamp, approved by the F.D.A. in 2004.

This is an improvement.

Now that I’ve stated that, it’s a bit silly for the revision to declare Circlist a site that contains “arguments favoring” circumcision. Circlist is a fetish site. It hosts slash fiction fantasies, pornography, and pro-female genital cutting material, among its offensive content. It pushes unprincipled half-truths and distortions, with strategic omissions, designed to make circumcision seem fantastic and without any ethical flaws or harms, real or potential. The site’s treatment of non-therapeutic child genital cutting is on par with “Teach the Controversy“. It’s propaganda unbounded by facts. The New York Times still needs to ask itself the relevant question: How reliable is Circlist’s “information about circumcision” given the ridiculous nature of its “arguments favoring it”?

Thus, the victory, such that it is, feels hollow. The paper version can’t be revised. The online version still cites the website. It needs further revision, which would hopefully lead to more accurate, ethical coverage of circumcision and its implications for healthy children.

However, that revision is something. Whatever inspired this update, it’s a small sign of progress. We need more of these.

The New York Times Links to a Fetish Site

Update: It’s been pointed out that the link within the New York Times story is broken. It’s missing the “www” from the link, an understandable mistake. So, the paper linked incorrectly to Circlist. The proper conclusion is that the editors failed to fact-check in addition to not checking source credibility rather than the pathetic implication that they didn’t link to a fetish site. I missed this because I started at Internet Archive and worked backwards.

I’ve noted it throughout, but almost every link after the first paragraph of this post is NSFW.

Last month the Washington Post ran a commercial masquerading as an editorial. Today, the New York Times follows suit, but ups the offensiveness in an unexpected – and unacceptable – manner. The article is another regurgitation for the PrePex device, so I won’t quote any of the related nonsense. The largest problem is at the end of the advertisement.

Dr. [Jason] Reed said he had heard that another device, Ali’s Klamp, was being tested in Kenya under protocols that seemed to match W.H.O. requirements. According to, a circumcision information Web site, it is a Turkish device dating to 2007, and works on principles similar to those of the Tara KLamp and another device, the SmartKlamp, approved by the F.D.A. in 2004.

I removed the hyperlink from the excerpt because – unlike the New York Times – I refuse to link to a pro-circumcision fetish site. But it is instructive. It demonstrates how uninterested the New York Times is in logic and ethics. The story doesn’t seem to rely on Circlist for any specific facts since, again, this piece is merely a commercial. That doesn’t make the site’s inclusion in the commercial, with a direct link in the online version, any less problematic.

With any effort, a “journalist” like Donald G. McNeil, Jr. could presumably uncover the bias of Circlist. For example, from its “Considering Circumcision” page, this Editorial Comment:

It used to be the case that the argument between the pro-circumcision and anti-circumcision lobby groups was an argument of opinion versus opinion. That is no longer the case. The pro-circ groups (CIRCLIST included) now have proven scientific fact on their side, whereas the anti-circ groups continue to rely on a less tangible line of reasoning based primarily on the morality of genital integrity – especially as regards child circumcisions. Of necessity they have, in the main, quietly dropped their assertions that the science is bunk.

The reasonable response a journalist might have is to ask what part the health of the child at the time of circumcision indicates. Whether or not the science is valid or bunk is secondary. The application of that science to a healthy (also science) child’s genitals is the ethical/moral question. In the analysis, ethics > science.

In other locations, Circlist believe[s/d] that “Parental Request” is an indicator for circumcision. (And a tight foreskin, and a long foreskin, and a loose foreskin. As long as the end result is YAY CIRCUMCISION…) But, since the child is healthy, that informs the morality involved. Circlist is like most pro-circumcision propagandists. The potential benefits supposedly demonstrate that it is ethical, as opposed to being merely a piece of information. Because it can possibly impart something does not make it ethical. If it did, prophylactic surgery of any type on children would be ethical. That’s stupid.

Any length of time spent on Circlist would reveal the depth of its bias (and kink), which at the least requires some offsetting balance if it’s going to be a source for the New York Times. The challenge is in finding out what the members of Circlist believe. Sometimes, they tell you. On the site today:


The following text is a work of fiction written by an anonymous contributor living in North America. The story involves a Do-it-Yourself circumision. CIRCLIST recommends that you do not mimic the scenes described. Circumcision should only be carried out by a qualified medical practitioner.

There are more at the link I’m not providing. Advocates who’ve been involved in this topic for more than a few years are familiar with what else the site contains and/or contained. Contained is the key I want to focus on now. The current site has been scrubbed of some material, but the Internet Archive reveals its not-lost secrets. (Remaining links are from March 25, 2008, a date picked at random.) Such as more stories and pictures that are very much NSFW, although I don’t recommend the NSFW link. The subject is “Foreskin Has Erotic Purpose For Some”. That’s a way of saying there’s still a circumcision to be done that can generate sexual excitement, not that maybe the foreskin should stay.

Next, (NSFW):

As for infant circs, I am sure, since you are circ-obsessive or you wouldn’t belong to this club, you’ve seen your share of adults circumcised as babies. Many of their scars are quite extensive and, dare I say it, ugly. From the sulcus down to the shaft skin it’s bumpy, red and sometimes looks quite sore. Whether it is sore or not, I can’t say. Also, when the frenulum has been removed, the raw area left in the wake of the surgery can look quite angry. Some guys say that this is still their most sensitive area on their penises, as is mine, even though I instructed the doc to leave mine alone. The worst consequence of these infant circs without sutures is the skin bridge (see photo at right). Sometimes the inner foreskin edge doesn’t grow to join to the shaft skin edge. It turns back on itself and joins with the corona of the glans. From all accounts this bridge can be benign or very painful in sex.

Notice that they are happy to publish that they’re circ-obsessive at the same time they publish a clear explanation that circumcision causes problems. (The corresponding picture and others show circumcision fits the definition of mutilation, especially when forced on another.) Yet, they think the moral question of imposing this on healthy children is essentially a non-issue. Why would anyone trust them to be a good judge of ethics?

Finally, if you click to Circlist today, you’ll find a very different view of female genital cutting than in the past. More on that in a moment. But what’s interesting is how they currently differentiate between female genital cutting and female genital mutilation. They don’t think the distinction is what you think it is.

Female Circumcision (“Femcirc”): Surgery that modifies the female genitalia in ways likely to be accepted by a neutral observer as enhancing the quality of a woman’s sexual experience.

Female Genital Mutilation (“FGM”): Surgery that modifies the female genitalia in ways likely to be accepted by a neutral observer as reducing the quality of a woman’s sexual experience.

The consent of the female isn’t discussed. It’s merely whether a “neutral observer” thinks the cutting “enhances” the sexual experience. They are not endorsing a view that females have a right to their bodies, just that someone else’s perceived benefits to sexuality is a valid reason to cut. They discard the moral question of non-therapeutic male genital cutting, which is unsurprising. But they discard the moral question of non-therapeutic female genital cutting, as well, in spite of its clear position within the Western world. They’re not arbiters of ethics and human rights, yet they’re quoted in the New York Times. Why?

All of that is offensive, but their past interest was more involved. (NSFW) From “Cindy (USA)”:

I recently had my clitoral hood removed (female circumcision) to improve sensitivity and cleanliness as it was such a long hood. I had some pain during healing, but that has been minimal. Healing has been rapid.

The glans clitoris has slowly increased in size since the operation. The sensitivity is also there and my ability to orgasm has increased be cause of it.

I think that all women should consider have their hoods removed as it would aid in cleanliness of the area and grreatly improving orgasm! I’m totally satisfied!


Photos of my girlfriend Lisa, before and after her circumcision are attached. She previously had her clitty hood circumcised, and now her lips. I think she looks much better, don’t you?

Finally, from “French Couple Advocates Both Male and Female Circumcision”:

We are a French couple , 32 years old, from Metz, in the east of France. I am Pascale (wife), my husband is Marc. We have 3 children, 2 girls, one boy.

We are strongly interested in male AND female circumcision, especially female because male circumcision is not a problem for us. My husband has been circumcised (well circumcised) for 3 years.

Marc (my husband) has a very tight circumcision with the frenulum completely removed. It was done 3 years ago, voluntarily, and without any medical reason, only to be very clean and erotic (I write my opinion!) Marc is very happy.

Mathieu (my son) also has a very tight circumcision, frenulum completely removed. We had him circumcised completely at birth. He is now 3 years old and his circumcision looks very good.

Unhappily I am not not yet circumcised, but I WANT it. We are searching information, testimonies, addresses for my female circumcision. I think that female circumcision is analogous to male circumcision and is also necessary to the couple’s sex live. I think it should be better to allow female circumcision . I am now speaking about cutting the hood and the labia minora. I am also searching for information about the complete cutting of the clitoris.

When I was 19 y o, I had a (girl) friend that told to me that she was cut off like an African woman: She had lived in UpperVolta (now Burkina Faso), with her parents, and her mother thought it was a good practice to be cut: All the females of the family were cut in a local hospital by a nurse. She had no regrets and was not ashamed to be a White French Excised woman. She showed me the result of the operation. I thought I would like to be like her.

Last years in Cap d’Agde, a huge naturist town in the south of France , we saw a couple of smooth circumcised Dutch: They had no pubic hair (like us), and the wife had her nipples pierced with rings. Also her clitoris was pierced and had no hood and was ever protruding. She had no labia minora. I want absolutely to be cut and pierced like her.

Circlist is a fetish site. It’s present is tamer than its past, but the underpinning is still there. Yet, today they’re being quoted by the New York Times. The paper, its editors, and McNeil should be embarrassed.

Flawed Circumcision Defense: Dr. Edgar Schoen

This is more than a three months old. I never posted it because I wasn’t quite happy with it. It’s not current, but as long as Schoen is promoting circumcision or being listened to by parents, doctors, and educators, it’s relevant to publish.

Dr. Edgar Schoen wrote an essay on the end of the ballot initiative in San Francisco that would’ve extended equal protection to male minors against non-therapeutic genital cutting. Schoen, being the advocate that he is, again deals in misdirections and half-truth omissions to sell his unethical view. From the beginning, he refuses to play fair.

Fittingly, Judge Loretta Giorgi ordered the removal of the proposed San Francisco initiative to criminalize infant circumcision from the ballot. However, supporters of the measure continue to voice their undocumented and erroneous claims that circumcision has harmful emotional effects and no medical benefits.

That’s an interesting way to phrase opposition. I have no doubt he’s aware of individuals who state that circumcision has harmful physical effects in spite of the potential medical benefits. His equation is only the side he wants. If it doesn’t help his case, he ignores it and pretends that it’s a lie sold by people who don’t care about the health of children, which can only be achieved through circumcision. Somehow. He’s nothing but a propagandist.

For example:

These “intactivists” ignore the overwhelming evidence and the multiple health benefits of circumcision from infancy through old age, including a 60% protection against the heterosexual transmission of HIV/AIDS.

“Overwhelming”, being an adjective, is subjective. Declaring the potential benefits from non-therapeutic circumcision to a healthy child to be “overwhelming” is to ignore evidence in the way he mistakenly accuses others of ignoring evidence. That 60% protection against female-to-male HIV transmission also contains the caveat of high-risk population (i.e. sub-Saharan Africa rather than the United States). That 60% figure is relative risk reduction to normal genitalia (among adult volunteers in a high-risk population), not absolute risk. The absolute lifetime risk of female-to-male HIV transmission to American males is in the low single-digits, regardless of circumcision status. He’s playing loose with the facts because dealing with them honestly demonstrates how absurd it is to declare the potential benefits “overwhelming”.

Schoen continues this pattern with his standard talking points on the potential benefits, except he omits the potential aspect. Rebuking every claim he makes would be tedious rather than productive. Antibiotics, condoms, etc. His bias is decipherable (and embarrassing) once you see his only trick. Instead, it makes more sense to address his ethical and logical lapses.

The neonatal period is ideal for performing the procedure, as circumcision is quicker, less traumatic and has fewer complications than when performed on older patients. Newborns are very resilient and uniquely equipped to deal with stress, having high levels of stress hormones as well as pain-relieving hormones. The thin foreskin means that sutures are not usually needed like in older patients, and local anesthesia is effective at numbing the area to further minimize pain.

“Ideal” conditions for non-therapeutic surgery do not overcome the ethical violation inherent in imposing that non-therapeutic surgery on a non-consenting individual. He ignores the patient’s preference, the physical harm to each recipient, the implications of the complications that do occur to healthy children, and the physical differences between neonatal and adult circumcision. His approach implies that there are no trade-offs, that the potential benefits of non-therapeutic child circumcision are a surgical “free lunch”. He never acknowledges that the foreskin offers benefits, too. (He relies on the silly notion that the foreskin is an accidental leftover from evolution.) Dr. Schoen is either ignorant or dishonest.


Opponents of circumcision have no problem making up unintended side affects that can result from this safe and accepted procedure. …

This is ad hominem. For someone who cites women’s sexual preference for a circumcised penis as a benefit to neonatal circumcision, he should tread carefully with his ridiculous accusations. Either call out examples of lies, or don’t write the charge.

Defending circumcision as “accepted” is a logical fallacy. A popular position can be wrong. The principle matters, not the irrelevant opinion of everyone other than the male upon whom this violation is imposed.

The crux of his failure to address all aspects of this debate is this:

As study after study shows the benefit of circumcision throughout the male life span, one has to wonder what motivates supporters of this extreme initiative. No one is forcing them to circumcise their child, yet they will continue to take that choice away from other parents regardless of the available medical evidence.

“Throughout the male life span” includes the majority of his life when the male is an independent individual with the power to consent or refuse. Circumcising a healthy infant creates a circumcised adult, eventually. That is the ethical issue he fails to address. Yet, he only offers the irrelevant “no one is forcing them to circumcise their child” trope. True, but the actual issue is that someone is forcing another person to be circumcised forever, regardless of whether he wants to be or not, and in direct contradiction to his obvious, objective lack of any need for the intervention. That is unethical. Non-therapeutic genital cutting on a non-consenting individual is wrong.

Individual Preferences Need Not Be Cost-Effective

With an opening paragraph like this, I’m inclined to cheer:

A group of top world economists said Wednesday that adult male circumcision, a global priority for preventing HIV infection, is not nearly as cost-effective as other methods of prevention.

They’re economists. I generally expect sensible reasoning from economists, so this is good. Except, reading beyond this first paragraph reveals something unexpected:

The group told representatives of global organizations at Georgetown University that more cost-effective ways to prevent the spread of the disease are an HIV vaccine, infant male circumcision, preventing mother-to-child transmission of the disease and making blood transfusions safe.

Including infant male circumcision in that list is offensive. Like medicine there’s more to economics than just numbers. We cannot ignore the ethical human rights violation involved in non-therapeutic male child circumcision in favor of saving a few dollars.

To be fair, stating that (forced) infant male circumcision is more cost-effective than (voluntary) adult male circumcision is not an endorsement of the former. It will be read as such, and there may be some willingness amongst these economists to endorse that view. I don’t know, so I’m going assume the most charitable reading possible.

However, to demonstrate the importance of including ethics, consider a hypothetical: a bullet is cheaper than life-extending medical care for terminal patients. Is it reasonable (i.e. ethical) to state that euthenasia and suicide are more cost-effective than treatment unlikely to work without also acknowledging the very important ethical caveats in the cheaper solutions?

Consider this from the article:

A successful adult male circumcision effort would require “a large public campaign to get people into the clinic,” said Bjorn Lomborg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, a Danish think tank focused on cost-effective public spending that commissioned the panel.

Getting men to volunteer to be circumcised would not be easy and “it could cause more risky behavior,” Lomborg said.

If it won’t be easy getting men to volunteer, and I think he’s correct, then it’s unethical to force circumcision on a child. Circumcising a child removes the choice from that male to have himself circumcised or not as an adult when we readily understand and accept that he won’t likely volunteer if left with his choice.

Also, to my knowledge, there has been no assessment of whether forced infant male circumcision is effective at preventing reducing any risk of HIV transmission. Assuming that infant and adult male circumcision are the same is unscientific.

Truth and Loaded Words

There’s currently an image floating around that states “Circumcision without informed consent is surgical rape at any age.” The visual is intriguing, but this is a bad message to push. The only people to whom it will appeal are those who already understand that non-therapeutic child circumcision is wrong. Those who advocate for circumcision will not change their minds based on this, so those who have some qualms about circumcision are the only target audience. Will they think advocats for individual choice are rational, based on this message?

Taken literally, by definition, circumcision is a form of rape and the action is surgical. But most people will not associate “rape” as “to take”, but rather will think it’s wrapped up in assault and sexual gratification. Being literal is not useful on this point, which is about marketing. This image is meant to sell genital integrity and human rights. While there must be truth in advertising, the target audience matters. We have to work with the framework of their thinking, as well. If a slogan requires a disclaimer or clarification, it’s a bad slogan.

“Circumcision is surgical rape” suggests that parents intend to rape their children. That implication is that their intent is about power, control, and sexual gratification. There is power and control inherent in non-therapeutic child circumcision, but it’s not intended as harm. And there is no sexual gratification from circumcision in the general population of advocates. Accidentally implying it of anyone who circumcises their healthy son compounds the image’s damage.

Consider this, from the judge who sentenced an Oregon mother to probation for unsuccessfully circumcising her son at home with instructions from a video on YouTube:

Multnomah County Circuit Judge Eric Bergstrom told Peterson on Monday that “the reality is you love your children and had absolutely no intent to harm your child.”

Our default assumption should be that parents love their sons, that they do not intend to harm their sons. Too many circumcision advocates think that, because of this intent, circumcision does no harm. This is wrong. Despite these parental intentions, circumcision causes harm. That’s our message. Anything that distracts from that, or suggests evil intentions, diminishes our ability to convince. Reason and facts are on our side. Let’s use them.

Rejecting Majority Rule in Favor of Majority Rule

There is simply too much pro-infant circumcision talk within The Washington Post’s opinion sections recently to adequately address everything flawed within its pages. Instead, some quick hits.

From Dr. Mohammad A. Khalid:

In my opinion as a doctor, male circumcision should not be banned, and should not be in any way equated with female genital cutting (FGC).

He’s making a legal argument based on his medical degree. That is a logical fallacy The Washington Post shouldn’t have enabled. We don’t legally allow parents to cut their daughters’ genitals if that cutting will leave a “minor”, non-permanent wound. Legally, we know it is a violation of the child’s constitutionally-protected rights. The medical argument within the legal argument is settled once we approach the initial diagnosis of the child that any genital cutting would be non-therapeutic. Legally, there is no justifiable distinction to be made. That is the issue involved.


[FGC] is a violent procedure, often done in a primitive, non-medical setting and is mostly accomplished with crude instruments and performed without anesthesia.

Male genital cutting (MGC) is a violent procedure. That comparison works. The rest of the second paragraph doesn’t, but it proves nothing. No one would support FGC if parents have it performed in a modern medical setting with proper surgical tools and anesthetic. They shouldn’t, of course, because it’s wrong whenever it’s non-therapeutic and forced. But the principle is the same, regardless of gender: non-therapeutic genital cutting on a non-consenting individual is wrong. In this core, logical respect, Dr. Khalid is wrong. MGC equals FGC.

Next, from Dr. Aseem Shukla:

The data is mixed, there is no wrong or right answer. Families deal with the nebulous every day and make a decision that is right for their children. But to me, the inanity over the circumcision debate lies also in its ignorance of medical realities. If a child has had recurrent urinary tract infections or a lower urinary tract anomaly, circumcision can protect the child from the risk of renal damage by nearly 10 to 15 fold. If a child has a hypospadias, an anomaly where the urethral opening opens along the shaft of the penis rather than at the tip, then I will use the foreskin to reconstruct the urethra, and a circumcision results. And while my clinic is full of children, also, with partially done circumcisions, adhesions that have formed, and urethral openings that have narrowed after circumcision requiring additional surgery and health care dollars, my clinic is just as full of children with foreskin that is painfully infected, scarred with lichen sclerosis, ballooning, torn and tight that may necessitate a circumcision.. [sic]

Dr. Shukla is a voice of ignorance here regarding medical realities. If a child has recurrent UTIs, circumcision may be medically necessary. If a child has a hypospadias, circumcision may be medically necessary. The question is not “Should we treat patients who have medical needs”, but “Should we treat children who have no medical need?”. The issue at stake is non-therapeutic circumcision. Unless we start making a “logical” case for non-therapeutic appendectomy, cholecystectomy, or any other intervention that might solve some future problem, society abuses logic in defending non-therapeutic male circumcision. Even female genital cutting could be justified on the confusion Dr. Shukla creates by muddying the obvious distinction between therapeutic and non-therapeutic.

[As an aside, is it possible that some of the problems for the intact children he cites are created by premature, forced retraction of the normal foreskin by parents and/or pediatricians?]

Sticking with Dr. Shukla, he is arguing against a proposed prohibition that is not up for consideration:

… Any type of blanket ban on a circumcision until the age of consent so ignores the real medical necessities of circumcision in some cases, that the concept is beyond contemplation; it is medically irresponsible and dangerous.

The proposed law is not a “blanket ban on a circumcision until the age of consent”. It would prohibit non-therapeutic circumcision until the age of consent. Healthy children do not need surgery. Thus, it shouldn’t be imposed, even if that surgery might reduce the risk of some malady later. The only stance here that is medically irresponsible is Dr. Shukla’s. Until he reads the proposed law, he shouldn’t pontificate on his factual errors.

Next, from Charles C. Haynes, Director of the Religious Freedom Education Project:

The anti-circumcision referendum is both wrong and dangerous because it subjects religious freedom to a popular vote. As Justice Robert Jackson wrote in West Virginia v. Barnette (1943):

“One’s right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to a vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.”

Each healthy male child’s bodily integrity – his life, liberty, and property, as well as other fundamental rights – is submitted to a vote by his parents. If they vote “yes”, his rights are violated. Why should it be better that the vote belongs to his parents rather those who would protect his right to choose “yes” or “no” for himself? He is an equal individual, allegedly with the same liberty interests that his sisters have. Yet, his sisters are protected by law, regardless of parental wish. The use of an election here is because legislatures and courts are not doing their job to protect those rights equally for all citizens. The flaw is in the reason this method is necessary, not the method itself.

Of course, opponents of circumcision – who call themselves “intactivists” – are free to make their argument against a medical procedure they consider “male genital mutilation.” But what they should not be free to do is criminalize a religious ritual that medical authorities generally agree is not harmful.

It is harmful. It removes healthy, normal tissue and nerves. It leaves a wound that results in a scar. The only debate over whether circumcision is harmful is carried out by people who believe that subjective preferences are universal, and anyone who does not share one’s opinion is somehow misguided or uninformed. We don’t have to look for the examples of circumcision complications, including death, to understand the obvious truth that all surgery inflicts harm. Legally and medically.

As for Mr. Haynes’ implied rejection that male circumcision qualifies as genital mutilation, the World Health Organization defines female genital mutilation as follows (emphasis added): “Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” In other words, any surgical intervention less damaging than male circumcision, inflicted on females for the exact reasons we cite for male circumcision, would still qualify as genital mutilation. To avoid confusion, any reason for circumcising a healthy male child is non-medical. If we are to pretend that chasing potential benefits counts as a medical reason for surgery, then parents may impose any intervention they wish, unrestrained by society. We reject that, correctly, since children have rights. The only viable conclusion is that societal deference to non-therapeutic child circumcision is mistaken and should be corrected.

As a society we’re establishing that “one’s right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to a vote,” unless one is a male minor. That’s what all of these individuals advocates, albeit ignorantly. They argue for a viewpoint where male children do not possess the same rights as everyone else in society, because society’s opinion is the correct norm to which male children must conform forever, if demanded by their parents. That is wrong. Each of these advocates – Dr. Mohammad A. Khalid, Dr. Aseem Shukla, and Charles C. Haynes – is wrong on non-therapeutic male circumcision.

It’s Easier to Cut an Object

Here’s an unintentionally informative article titled “In foreskin fight, even terminology is being disputed”. Its basic premise is that the words used to describe male circumcision can influence how people think about it, and that these words may be misleading. Essentially, it amounts to the typical debate about referring to male circumcision as male genital mutilation. This is in spite of the obvious fact that circumcision fits the definition of mutilation. No amount of tradition or popular support changes that.

Late in the article, there is this quote:

“There’s a baby male, and that baby male — either for medical ritual or religious ritual — is having its foreskin removed,” Suzanne Wertheim, a visiting lecturer at UCLA, said, illustrating what a neutral description of the act in question might look like.

In her effort to reach a “neutral” description, Dr. Wertheim shows a reason why non-therapeutic male child circumcision continues. There’s a baby male, and that baby male is having his foreskin removed. He is a person, not an object. There is no valid reason to skip the correct gender-specific pronoun here. Doing so marginalizes the hypothetical child as something less than an individual with an equal right to be free from non-therapeutic genital cutting.

“May Help” Is Speculation, Not Science

This article in The New York Times covers the basic summary of the recent re-analysis that voluntary adult male circumcision in Africa can reduce the transmission of HPV to females. It has one inexcusable problem and an inference a thinking person should draw from it.

First, the problem:

Male circumcision, which has been shown to decrease a man’s risk of contracting the virus that causes AIDS, also appears to help protect his sexual partners against cervical cancer.

The study, led by researchers from Johns Hopkins University, did not last long enough to see how many women actually developed cancer; that can take years or decades.

HPV doesn’t appear in the article. Instead, voluntary adult male circumcision “appears” to help protect against cervical cancer. Yet, the reporter then states that the researchers didn’t actually study whether or not circumcision reduces the risk of cervical cancer because studying cancer can take years or decades. So why does the reporter write that circumcision protects against cervical cancer, rather than writing the actual suggestion that circumcision appears to reduce the risk of HPV transmission? HPV is not one virus, and not all strains cause cancer. This is irresponsible journalism based on the myth that circumcision is “good”.

The inference:

Cervical cancer was once a major killer in wealthy countries, but because of Pap smears it is now much rarer. In poor countries, it kills almost 250,000 women a year, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Papilloma vaccines like Gardasil and Cervarix provide much greater protection than circumcision does, but they are too expensive for most poor countries.

Cervical cancer is now much rarer in the Western nations because we have methods to detect it earlier. It is also less likely to kill in the future because now there are non-surgical vaccines that provide much greater protection than circumcision. So, the findings aren’t nearly as impressive for the readers of The New York Times because there are better detection and prevention methods. And the target audience for circumcision among the readers of The New York Times are parents of infants today. Those children will grow up in the same world where better detection and prevention methods exist, and will likely improve further by the time they’re at risk for sexual transmission of HPV.

Medically and ethically, this finding is irrelevant to the question of whether or not parents should consider forcing circumcision on their children.