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Circumcision and the Special City

A Commentary By Debra J. Saunders

Friday, June 03, 2011

In 2010, San Francisco supervisors banned Happy Meals. They showed no regard for parental choice. So it should not come as a shock that activists have managed to put a measure on the November ballot that essentially would outlaw the circumcision of baby boys.

If it passes, parents won't be able to choose to circumcise their infant sons. The penalty for the "genital cutting of male minors" will be a $1,000 fine and/or up to a year in jail.

The ballot measure bills itself as a ban on "forced genital cutting" and "mutilation." Clearly, the authors want to confuse voters by equating male circumcision to female genital mutilation, the barbaric, unsanitary butchering of a young girl's private parts in a procedure that has been known to leave girls severely infected and in pain.

The purpose of female genital mutilation is to reduce a woman's sexual pleasure. The World Health Organization says it has "no health benefits for girls or women." On the other hand, a WHO report recommended that male circumcision be recognized as "an efficacious intervention for HIV prevention."

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that parents be informed that "newborn male circumcision has potential medical benefits and advantages as well as disadvantages and risks."

Palo Alto pediatrician Erica Goldman follows the guideline. She informs parents of the plusses -- reduced chances of urinary tract infection and sexually -transmitted diseases -- as well as the risks -- it's a permanent cosmetic change.

"It really is a decision to be made on a personal and cultural basis," Goldman told me.

"I personally believe the medical benefits outweigh the medial risks," Goldman added.

I do not believe San Francisco voters will pass this measure. Yes, City Hall nags freely butt into people's private business. Witness Special City bans on Happy Meals, plastic supermarket bags and a law barring the sale of cigarettes at pharmacies. But city voters tend to demonstrate more common sense than the swells they elect to office. In 2008, for example, San Franciscans rejected ballot measures to name a sewage plant after George W. Bush and to decriminalize prostitution.

Sadly, because a fringe group garnered the necessary 7,168 signatures, San Francisco once again will be the butt of derision until common sense prevails on Election Day.

I saw the next few months of San Francisco looking silly rolled into one interview Friday. CNN pitted "intactivist" Lloyd Schofield against a rabbi. Schofield argued that if the measure passes, then males can get circumcised when they're 18. (He left out the part about the procedure being riskier and more painful for adults.) Rather than discuss Jewish and Muslim tradition concerning circumcision, the rabbi tried to stick to medical issues. Before asking the rabbi not to be "too graphic," anchor Drew Griffin observed, "I'm just floored that San Francisco's going to vote on this."

How wonderful it must feel to be floored at Ess Eff's latest exercise in self-parody. The bill fits. A busybody law? Check. Does it address a problem most folks did not know existed? Check. Pun opportunities? Oh, yeah. First they came for the Chicken McNuggets, then they came for my son's...

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