NCFM NOTE: On September 22, Mr. Svoboda sent a letter to Canada’s leading newspaper, the National Post, and to Slate, in response to Mark Joseph Stern’s horrific article, “‘Intactivists’ Against Circumcision.” Below is the text of the letter. The letter sent to Slate is virtually identical.
We need to let children reach the age of majority and let them decide whether circumcision is right for them.
There are facts about circumcision — but you won’t be able to learn any of them from Mark Joseph Stern in his article for the National Post (“‘Intactivists’ Against Circumcision, September 19). Instead you will find an astonishing compilation of outright falsehoods about thousands of dedicated, unpaid volunteers from many walks of life who are working to protect children from an unnecessary and irreversible surgery that many of them grow up to resent.
Far from dismissing science, individuals committed to protecting children include leading scientists, pediatricians, public health researchers, and medical ethicists in countries around the world. Recently a team of 38 European scientists wrote in Pediatrics that the only possible medical justification for circumcision is reducing urinary tract infections (UTIs), which are not only rare for boys, but can be effectively treated with antibiotics—just as they are for girls.
Even the American Academy of Pediatrics—which has been criticized by these same experts for having a pro-circumcision bias—agrees that medicine does not justify routine circumcision. The Royal Dutch Medical Association found in 2010 that the foreskin is “a complex, erotogenic structure that plays an important role” in sex, concluding that “circumcision of male minors is a violation of children’s rights to autonomy and physical integrity.”
In 2011, a paper by Frisch in the Oxford International Journal of Epidemiology found that “circumcision was associated with frequent orgasm difficulties in Danish men and with a range of frequent sexual difficulties in women…” That same year, the Journal of Law and Medicine published a detailed survey of the numerous fatal flaws in the African trials that purported to support male circumcision as a preventive measure against HIV infection. Simply put, empirical data does not support the proposition that circumcision improves child health outcomes.
Far from being the concern of “fringe” activists, circumcision has caught the attention of renowned experts in child welfare and human rights. The Journal of Medical Ethics, the world’s top journal in medical ethics, recently published a special issue on circumcision including several articles by leading scholars who are opposed to the nonconsensual removal of healthy, erogenous tissue from children’s genitals.
“Intactivists” are winning because more and more people are investigating the issue for themselves and are coming to realize that a pre-Enlightenment religious ritual has no business masquerading as medicine in the 21st Century. Countless men are extremely dissatisfied that a part of their body was taken away from them without their consent.
The false information and worst ideas mentioned by Stern are in fact coming from him and, sadly, from one of Canada’s premier newspapers.
J. Steven Svoboda
Attorneys for the Rights of the Child