RSS
Is circumcision good medicine?
An effort to ban the procedure in San Francisco gets a step closer to earning a spot on the ballot
 
Though medical studies show that circumcision can help prevent sexually transmitted diseases, critics argue that the procedure does more harm than good.
Though medical studies show that circumcision can help prevent sexually transmitted diseases, critics argue that the procedure does more harm than good.
Corbis

San Francisco activists say they have gathered enough signatures to earn their circumcision-banning proposal a spot on the city's November ballot. "It's excruciatingly painful and permanently damaging surgery that's forced on men when they're at their weakest and most vulnerable," Lloyd Schofeld, a proponent of the ban, told Reuters. If the measure is approved, anyone who performs the procedure on a boy under age 18 would face up to a $1,000 fine or a year of jail time. The effort has renewed a debate among doctors and parents about whether there are health benefits to snipping the foreskin off the penis of a newborn boy. Aren't there medical reasons to keep circumcision legal?

Yes, circumcision can prevent disease: Researchers have shown time and again that circumcision can have sexual health benefits, says Michelle Bryner at Live Science. "Three studies published in 2009 in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews revealed that circumcised men were 54 percent less likely to get HIV than uncircumcised men." There's also some evidence that it can reduce the risk of transferring HIV from a man to a woman.
"Does circumcision have health benefits?"

Actually, the medical record is mixed: Yes, circumcision can reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, and bladder infections, says David W. Freeman at CBS News. But it has plenty of "potential downsides," from the possibility of reduced sexual sensation to "complications like bleeding and infections — and in rare instances, to partial or complete amputation of the penis. Yow." That's why, "given the pros and cons," pediatricians say it's not essential to a baby's well-being.
"San Francisco mulls circumcision ban: Is procedure mutilation — or good medicine?"

Regardless, it's not the government's decision to make: The clown pushing this nanny-state nonsense is no medical expert, says Jazz Shaw at Hot Air. And no matter where you stand on the health question, "obviously the practice is important to many families," particularly Jews and Muslims. This is a personal decision for parents, not the government, "and the fact that San Francisco would even consider the idea is outrageous."
"Fabulous! San Francisco to ban circumcision?"

 

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week