Should circumcision be banned?

A San Francisco man wants parents who circumcise their babies to be fined, or even imprisoned — reigniting a debate over "genital mutilation"

(Image credit: Corbis)

A San Francisco man, Lloyd Schofield, is trying to get his city to ban circumcision. If he can somehow gather about 7,100 signatures, San Franciscans will vote next November on whether parents who "circumcise, excise, cut, or mutilate the foreskin, testicle, or penis of another person who has not attained the age of 18" should face a $1,000 fine and/or a year in jail. Is Schofield — who contends that circumcision is a cosmetic-surgery decision a man should make for himself — justified in fighting "genital mutilation," or is his proposal just another government intrusion into parenting, like San Francisco's (vetoed) Happy Meal ban?

Has San Francisco gone mad? Seriously, San Francisco, "WTF"? says Julie Ryan Evans in The Stir. "Circumcision is a hot parenting topic," but that's because it's a parent's "deeply personal decision," not the government's. Happy Meal toys, circumcision — what's next in the city's "ridiculous extremist approach" to parental oversight? Criminalizing little girls' ear piercings? "How about braces"?

"Now a circumcision ban? Stop it San Francisco!"

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

The idea isn't so crazy: The Happy Meal ban is one thing, but "a circumcision is not like a cheap plastic toy," says Sierra Black in Strollerderby. It's a permanent surgical procedure, with no real medical purpose. Besides, the government meddles in "traditional" parenting decisions all the time: Just try to "pull your daughter out of school to work in a factory at age 6," arrange her marriage, or, more to the point, submit her to "the ritual bloodletting of girl's genitals."

"San Francisco considers a ban on circumcisions"

The ban wouldn't survive in the courts: It doesn't really matter how, or if, San Franciscans vote on the measure, says Joe Eskenazi in SF Weekly. Circumcision is a religious obligation for Jews and some other religions. Schofield may not care about banning religious practices, but the courts will: "San Francisco can have its proposed circumcision ban, or it can have the First Amendment. But it can't have both."

"San Francisco circumcision ban unconstitutional..."

To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us