Male Circumcision Ban Blocked by California's Governor Jerry Brown
A male circumcision ban was recently blocked by California Governor Jerry Brown. The ban was initiated by San Francisco anti-circumcision activist Matthew Hess, president of the MGMbill.org (Male Genital Mutilation Bill) website that has made news nationwide for its anti-Semitic views.
Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill (AB 768) recently blocking efforts to enact a law that makes male circumcision a misdemeanor punishable by fine and/or incarceration. Earlier efforts to put anti-circumcision laws on the November ballot were quashed by judicial leaders who based their opposition to such measures as being against Constitution-backed religious and civil rights.
People whose religious beliefs would be significantly affected by anti-circumcision laws include Muslim and Jewish communities where circumcision is an ancient religious ritual. In the United States approximately 80 percent of males are circumcised. However, current numbers indicate a significant trend toward a decrease in the number of American infants being circumcised today.
In a letter to MGMbill.org in response to a request for support of an anti-circumcision law, Senator Tom Coburn (R) Oklahoma, writes in part:
“As a practicing physician with a specialty in obstetrics, I know firsthand the medical issues related to circumcision. There are a number of potential medical benefits for circumcision. In addition to making proper hygiene easier for young males, the procedure has also shown to decrease the risk of urinary tract infections (UTI). Severe infections early in life can lead to kidney problems late in life, and a meta-analysis of 12 studies of over 400,000 children determined that circumcision was associated with a significantly reduced risk of UTI. Circumcision has also been shown to prevent other penile problems such as phimosis (when the foreskin will not retract), which can also lead to inflammation of the head of the penis, and decreases the risk of penile cancer.
Circumcision has also been shown to reduce the risk of sexually-transmitted diseases. Three controlled studies in Africa demonstrated that circumcision reduced vaginal-to-penile transmission of the HIV virus by 60%, 53%, and 51%, respectively. WHO and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) have stated that male circumcision is an efficacious intervention for HIV prevention when carried out by well-trained medical professionals.
As a physician, I believe that it is important to inform my patients of both these medical benefits and risks. The decision, however, whether made for medical or religious reasons, rests with the child's parents. Parents are expected-and obligated-to make the best medical decisions for their children, based on sound advice from their doctors. Rather than pursue a federal prohibition with significant medical, religious, and parental authority concerns, I believe we should seek to provide individuals with the necessary scientific information.”
Senator Coburn’s view of circumcision being a matter left to parents was echoed in similar letters from other legislators who were asked to support an anti-circumcision law. One of the main tenants that other legislators pointed out is that contrary to anti-circumcision supporters’ claims, male circumcision is not mandated by state laws. Nor, is male circumcision equal to female genital mutilation, which is outlawed in the United States.
While there are some current reports debating whether circumcisions are medically necessary, the president of MGMbill.org has not helped his movement with his anti-Semitic views. One example of anti-Semitic behavior is Matthew Hess’s bizarre comic book creation that features an over-sexed hero named “Foreskin Man” who battles a Jewish villain called “Monster Mohel.” A mohel is a Jewish individual specifically trained to perform the ritual circumcision of infant boys, and is characterized in the comic with machinegun-armed Jewish henchmen forcing mothers to have their infants circumcised.
According to Nancy Appel, the associate regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, “This is a sensitive, serious issue where good people can disagree and which the Jewish community feels is an assault on its values and traditions going back thousands of years and centered in the Hebrew Bible. It is one thing to debate it. It is another thing to degrade it. Foreskin Man, with its grotesque anti-Semitic imagery and themes, reaches a new low and is disrespectful and deeply offensive."