90% of parents in California's Bay area already say "NO!" to circumcision and take their babies home whole. Now, after months of signature gathering, supporters of the San Francisco MGM Bill turned in 12,265 signatures to the Department of Elections today at 11:05am to place Article 50 on the ballot in November. This will ensure that 100% of babies in the city are granted the same basic protection under law: no genital cutting unless medically necessary.
ARTICLE 50: GENITAL CUTTING OF MALE MINORS
SEC. 5001. PROHIBITION OF GENITAL CUTTING OF MALE MINORS.
Except as provided in SEC. 5002, it is unlawful to circumcise, excise, cut, or mutilate the whole or any part of the foreskin, testicles, or penis of another person who has not attained the age of 18 years.
SEC. 5002. EXCEPTIONS.
(a) A surgical operation is not a violation of this section if the operation is necessary to the physical health of the person on whom it is performed because of a clear, compelling, and immediate medical need with no less-destructive alternative treatment available, and is performed by a person licensed in the place of its performance as a medical practitioner.
(b) In applying subsection (a), no account shall be taken of the effect on the person on whom the operation is to be performed of any belief on the part of that or any other person that the operation is required as a matter of custom or ritual.
SEC. 5003. PENALTY.
Any person who violates any provisions of this Article shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction such person shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $1,000 or by imprisonment in the County Jail for a period not to exceed one year, or by both such fine and imprisonment.
Left to Right: Jonathon Conte, Richard Homayoon Kurylo, Lloyd Schofield, Matthew Hess, Marilyn Fayre Milos, Frank McGinness. ABC Channel 7 News and the San Francisco Chronicle were present to witness history in the making.
We have recognized that the federal female genital cutting laws, in combination with the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, render the unnecessary genital cutting of minor male babies and children illegal as well. Boys born after March 30, 1997, will have an easier time suing and winning against those who cut or amputated parts of their genitals when they were minors and unable to defend themselves. Beginning on March 30th, 2015, these boys will turn 18 years of age (legal adults able to press charges in the U.S. court system), and have attorneys specializing in human rights ready and willing to support them, should they elect to take legal action in what was done to them.
Section 1 of the Constitutional Amendment XIV reads (bold mine):
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.
In this video, Freedom of Speech discusses the various forms of FGC and MGC, and highlights the fact that sex-based discrimination under law, or in argument, is both futile and illogical.
One of the most popular excuses that some parents and doctors use in their decision to unnecessarily amputate the healthy prepuce of a newborn male is the mythological argument that "babies do not feel pain."
There seems to be a general consensus that the pain babies feel is negligible and "not remembered." Worse is the lie some parents are fed when they are told their newborn "cannot even feel pain because his nerve endings have not yet matured," or similar fallacies.
Let's pause for a moment to think about this. Repeat it with me: Newborns cannot feel pain. Newborns cannot feel pain. Newborns cannot feel pain. Therefore, it must be perfectly ethical (and certainly permissible) to slap my newborn baby, leave him to cry alone, pull his hair, step on his toes, or put my cigarette out on his skin. If I restrain him to a board, terrify him, amputate part of his genitals (with or without anesthesia) it doesn't matter - because this not-fully-developed-bundle-of-cries "cannot feel any pain." He's not yet really human. At least not all the way.
That babies cannot feel pain is of course horrifyingly false. I wish I did not have to resort to links, but video clips often say more than I possibly can with even a thousand words. Please, watch these and tell me that newborns feel no pain:
It is one thing to say that babies cannot feel pain, and another thing to say that they will not remember the pain they feel. Let's look for a moment at memories. I do hope that the fields of psychology and psychiatry continue to advance so that we finally come to a collective understanding that even if we do not consciously remember every single experience in our lives, they all impact us in one way or another. Each experience shapes who we are and who we become - whether or not it is on the forefront of our conscious memory. And yes, this includes our time inutero, even before we are born into this world.
In fact, the newborn experience of pain may be even more transcendental than in an older child or adult. The reason is simply that a baby cannot rationalize the pain he is feeling - he cannot name it - he cannot articulate it, reflect on its origin, have any idea of the root cause, or how to avoid or escape the pain. This is the big difference between merely experiencing pain versus enduring intense trauma.
A young girl who desires for herself to have pierced ears knows that it will hurt, but she can recognize the source of the pain, rationalize it, measure it, and face it as a sacrifice in exchange for something positive, something she desires: to wear earrings.
A two-year old accidentally bruises his finger while playing with the door. He cries and is very upset, but he begins to understand that his pain had a cause, and that the cause is avoidable. Next time he won't play with the door like that.
The preschooler who falls from the stairs feels pain, but it is not traumatic as she knows what the stairs are, what falling down is, and can recognize the connection to the pain she feels. She is able to learn how to manage the stairs so that falling down and pain are not consequences of using them.
A baby cannot do any of these things. For the days- or weeks-old baby, any pain can be traumatic because he is unable to identify causes, consequences, and ways to avoid and escape. He cannot rationalize the pain, or understand why he is feeling such things. Any pain that a baby feels is a first-time pain: it is downright terrifying. Furthermore, his world revolves around his mother, her warmth, milk, comfort, voice, smell, protection and nothing more. She is everything to him. Any traumatic pain experienced will be associated with her - the only person and thing he knows in the world at this point. It is yet another reason that we see an increase in failure to thrive, breastfeeding complications, "colic," and insecure attachment post-genital cutting.
From the first day they discover they are pregnant, many mothers go about doing special prenatal activities that are said to enhance their baby's brain development and memory. Prenatal exercises, listening to relaxing music, reading to baby inutero, and tuning into Mozart and Bach and Beethoven in hopes of raking up baby's I.Q. points are commonplace today. At birth, mom will use special message, or early babyhood stimulation to enhance learning and memory. Mothers readily recognize that all of these early experiences - from inutero to the postnatal days - impact and influence their baby. How is it then that we could choose to recognize positive impacts on the brain and body leading to benefits for baby, while negative impacts on the brain and body (such as genital cutting) are ignored or dismissed? If we know that gentle massage, and touching a baby softly and warmly leads to improved digestion, hormone balance, neurological firing, awareness, better sleep, alertness and attachment, how could we not also recognize that intense pain and brutality upon the body of our baby also impacts him in many real and profound ways?
Male circumcision is considered by many to be genital mutilation, a non-consensual surgical amputation that does the child (and the man he will become) much harm and no “good.” It is a completely unethical act to take a healthy male, of any age, from two hours old to one hundred years old, and forcibly amputate a healthy and useful part of his anatomy against his will or without his consent when there is no medical need to do so. This would remain true even if circumcision surgery was entirely pain free. Even without pain, genital cutting - forever altering the penis and its form and function - would be a violation of a man's fundamental human right to bodily autonomy. To amputate a healthy, functional body part without medical need is harmful, and it carries negative consequences, regardless of whether there is pain in the amputation process or not. It is wrong to harm, even if the act itself is a painless one. To sexually assault an adult who cannot feel anything, and will not remember anything, because s/he is drugged… Is this right? Or wrong?
Back to reality: Circumcision does hurt. And it hurts quite excruciatingly. This brings us back to the double excuse commonly given for this amputation: that the baby’s pain is negligible because it will be forgotten, and second, that it is a "brief pain."
It seems we have forgotten the fundamental principle of time being relative to our ages. Where did the old "time passes by so fast as we age" go? Have we truly forgotten? Time seems to pass faster as we age because it is relative to our lived experiences to this point. It is such a simple principle, that every one of us has noticed, and can understand using elemental math: the more years we live, the smaller proportion of our lives each year represents. A year seems like an immeasurably long time when we have only lived four of them; yet it goes by like a whisper when we have been through eighty of them. Every year of our life seems shorter because each of them represents less and less of the percentage of time we have lived. In elementary school, the class hours feel endless; yet there are scarcely enough of them to do anything with by the time we’ve graduated college. When you have only lived several hours, each of them is for you what a quarter-century is to Grandpa. And if you’re a newborn, then you’re basically stuck in an endless "right this very instant."
For a newborn then, a painful experience is not only traumatic because he cannot explain it, understand it, or justify it, but also because in his perception of time the pain is endless.
Let’s calculate some simple proportions and compare the length of a fifteen-minute operation (more or less what the tearing and cutting portion of a standard circumcision surgery lasts), proportional to the lifespan of a two-day old baby; and extrapolate it to the length of a 30 year old adult. The adult has lived for 30 years, which are roughly the equivalent of 10,950 days (only taking into consideration 365 days per year), which is 262,800 hours, or 15,768,000 minutes. An intense pain that lasts fifteen minutes only represents, to this 30 year old, 0.000095% of his life. Manageable, I suppose.
But a two-day old baby has lived for just 48 hours, and a grand total of 2,880 minutes. To bear genital tearing and cutting for fifteen of them, is the equivalent to 0.52% of his lifespan. Does it still sound quite small? Like a minuscule number? Let’s see what happens if we expect a thirty-year old adult to bear excruciating pain for 0.52% of his life. We would be asking him to bear a pain that lasts for 81,993.60 minutes - 1,366.56 hours, or 56.94 days. Any volunteers who will be willing to feel knives and clamps on their penis or clitoris for almost fifty-seven straight days? But it’s such a simple and quick procedure!
Imagine this, for fifty-seven days and nights straight:
For argument's sake, let’s assume our baby is not two days old, but eight - the age at which genital cutting occurs in some households. And let’s say the procedure does not last for fifteen minutes, but only five minutes. (Some mohels claim to be able to "cut faster.") We’d be asking our baby to bear pain equivalent to 0.43% of his life. For the thirty-year old, this would be like feeling the scalpel (with no anesthesia) for 113 hours - only 4.7 days and nights! That’s much better! Right? A torture that lasts for 5 days and nights straight, without a break, is a practice belonging to the most atrocious of wars.
What if our baby is six months old? Fifteen minutes are for him 0.0057% of the life he has known. For a thirty-year old adult, this would be like a skinning that lasts for fourteen hours. Interestingly, very few women in North America today even elect to go through natural labor "pains" (functional, necessary, beneficial pain) for fourteen hours straight without intervention and pain relief...
The conclusion in this matter, then, is not that we must wait a longer time before performing an unnecessary, painful and harmful amputation (although doing so at 30 would certainly make the pain more "brief" than to do so at birth). Rather, it is that this is a pain that babies should never be subjected to in the first place - a suffering that no one should be forced to endure without their full and informed consent or certain medical necessity.
The fallacy of believing "it is better to cut early, because our baby won’t remember and it’s quite brief," is a falsehood that takes little logic to debunk and see through. On the contrary, to cut the genital organs of a baby who cannot even understand what is happening, and to put him through a horrific pain that represents, for him, a grotesquely long time, is much more harmful and cruel than it would be to subject even a non-consenting adult to the same.
Despite the fact that no medical or health organization in the world recommends infant circumcision, it is not advised by the AAP, AAFP, or any other pediatric society, and it is considered "cosmetic" surgical amputation and therefore not covered by insurance or Medicaid in many states, Pediatrics in Brevard (Florida) offers a special deal... For just $250 staff will cut off a part of your son's penis for you (and spare you the criminal charges you would face if you cut him yourself as Keemonta Peterson did last October). Ignoring the need to fully inform parents of the many functions of the foreskin, and the benefits of keeping children whole and intact as they come into this world, Pediatrics in Brevard banks on the lowest rate we've seen across the nation to strap, restrain, slice and dice newborn babies. And this is America?