I believe that circumcision is unnecessary.
When I was pregnant with Olivia, I did not dedicate a single thought to the topic of circumcision. If you would have asked me, I would have said, “Why of course we would circumcise our boy! It’s just not healthy not to. And besides, it might hurt his self-esteem to look different from the rest of the boys.” But, like I said, I did not have to make that decision. Yet.
Two years later, I did.
When I found out I was pregnant with a boy, I was still assuming that I would have to endure the ancient process of circumcision. I was not happy about it. I knew by then what the sound of a screaming baby does to a mother’s heart. I was not looking forward to my baby boy being hurt. But what could I do? It was for health purposes, after all.
Then a friend emailed me and asked me if we were planning to circumcise. When we told her we were, she wrote back telling me to “just look into it” and gave some informational sites: www.mothering.com, www.cirp.org, www.nocirc.org, and www.aap.org.
But, I have to admit, the first site I went to was Dr. Sears’. He is pretty much my “go-to guy” concerning anything child-related. He was the one who taught me about co-sleeping and breastfeeding. He was the one who taught me how to handle my “fussy child.” I have a lot of respect for Dr. Sears. You’ll hear me mention him a lot when it comes to What I Believe.
On his site, Dr. Sears addresses each medical reason used for circumcision. And he refutes each and every one of them. For integrity purposes, I found another reliable source by the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) that admits circumcision is not medically necessary any longer (if it ever really was).
Below are the reasons used for circumcision and the arguments I found that disproved them:
- Cleanliness. One of the most common reasons for circumcision is because a circumcised penis is easier to clean than an intact one. And your mouth would be easier to clean without teeth. Should we remove them too? (Here, you might argue that teeth have a specific purpose and wonder what purpose a foreskin would serve. I will get to that later.)
- Decreased risk of STDs. The American Association of Pediatrics disagrees: “…behavioral factors appear to be far more important risk factors in the acquisition of HIV infection than circumcision status.”
- Decreased risk of penile cancer. A report by the AAP claims that worldwide, the rate of penile cancer is 9 to 10 cases per 1 million men. And while they admit that the risk among uncircumcised men might be as much as three times higher, they also say that good hygiene may be the only preventative measure needed. They end with this conclusion: “Nevertheless, in a developed country such as the United States, penile cancer is a rare disease and the risk of penile cancer developing in an uncircumcised man, although increased compared with a circumcised man, is low.”
- Avoiding infections in the foreskin. Dr. Sears takes care to differentiate between infections and irritations for this section. He states that, yes, an irritation may occur, but it can be cured with a simple washing (and most likely prevented with a simple washing). Infections, on the other hand, are rare. And they are easily cleared up with antibiotics. And, by the way, did you know that infection is also a side-effect of circumcision? But we’ll talk about that later.
- Avoiding the need to do it later on. Very rarely, infections in the foreskin require circumcision later in life. And this would require general anesthesia. But it is so rare, it is not a valid reason for neonatal circumcision. In fact, again, circumcision itself can go wrong, heal poorly, and require a second time under the knife.
- Avoiding bladder infections. It used to be thought that circumcising would reduce the risk of bladder infections. However, Dr. Sears refers to the AAP when he claims the risk is too small to worry about and occurs only in the first few years of life.
- Want him to look like Dad. If a young uncircumcised boy is comparing himself to his circumcised father, Dr. Sears raises a good point in that he is likely to notice other things before he notices any extra foreskin – let’s just leave it at that.
- Don’t want him to be teased. In this site, Dr. Sears claims the rate of uncircumcised infant males in the United States to be as high as 50%. And his odds of being different are decreasing every year.
- An intact penis requires too much care. The truth is, a circumcised penis requires more care than an intact one. Until the foreskin retracts on its own (anywhere between three years old and adolescence) no extra care is required. After that point, cleansing is very simple. A circumcised penis must have a protective lubricant applied at every diaper change. And it becomes more difficult if an infection occurs.
Now, the reasons to keep your baby boy intact:
- God put that foreskin there for a reason. Yes, in His covenant with Abraham, He told His Chosen People to remove it. He did not explain why. It could have been for hygienic reasons, as there were no showers back then. Or it could have simply been a way to set them apart.
As a gentile family, our covenant with God is not through Abraham, but through Jesus, who does not require circumcision. In fact, Romans and 1 Corinthians both state that circumcision is not as important as following the law. Galatians declares faith more important than circumcision. Paul goes as far as to say that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. But the point in those verses is merely that our hope and salvation is no longer dependent upon circumcision.So now that we have established that the foreskin was never meant to be removed on gentiles, we can assume that it has a purpose and there is no reason to remove it.
- The foreskin is filled with nerves. These nerves are rather useful… later in life. That is all we will say about that.
- The foreskin is protective. Rubbing and chafing against clothing can desensitize a man over the years. The foreskin, when left on, can protect against this.
- Ethical issues. A popular reason not to remove an infant’s foreskin is the simple fact that he has no say in the matter; it is decided for him. If he decides later in life that he would prefer this cosmetic procedure, then it can be done. But the ethical thing to do until then would be to keep him intact.
- The pain. The pain of circumcision can put a baby boy into shock, affecting his ability to nurse in those first crucial days. Yes, topical anesthetics are applied, but they cannot possibly last as long as the pain does. And look further into this site to see how circumcision is performed if you want a better idea of the true ordeal that it is.
- The complications. I have a friend who had to have her little boy re-circumcised because it healed poorly. And this had to be done when he was over a year old, with general anesthesia. This site lists more complications that I will not get into. Suffice it to say that whenever a knife is involved, mistakes can be made.
So, no. Benjamin is not circumcised. I am sure, when he is older, he will love the fact that I told the Internet that. But my point is not to embarrass him, but to inform you. I believe circumcision is unnecessary, and more harmful that leaving your baby boy as he was created to be.
What do you believe? Remember to link back to this site in your WIB posts. Thanks for playing!
Filed under: What I Believe on October 11th, 2007