I Wrote Me A Letter

Yep, I’m waxing poetic on keeping boys intact. For those that don’t know, my mother is a pediatrician in a rural, high-circ-rate county. She’s held for some time that circ is just fine, because it’s the family’s “culture” to do so. So I finally decided to write her a letter.

FYI: The comments about non-Hispanic moms are because the local Hispanic population generally keeps their sons intact and breastfeeds, as opposed to the common circumcising/formula feeding non-Hispanics. Interesting, no? Ryan is her associate in practice.

The letter:

I’ve thought a lot about this, and I really need to share my heart with you. You know I’m opposed to circumcision, and it absolutely kills me that you regularly perform them. I think you understand why I’m so against it, but I’ll spell it out in the paragraphs below.

Circumcision (here and throughout, I mean elective neonatal circumcision) is just plain wrong. It removes a healthy, normal body part, for no purpose other than the parent’s wishes. I know that you would never agree to remove a baby girl’s labia, for instance, or any child’s earlobe, merely because a parent wished it or because it was common in the parent’s culture (let’s say they’re from somewhere in Africa.) Why, then, is it OK to remove part of a baby boy’s penis?

Let’s talk about “culture” for a minute. You’ve mentioned before that circumcision is just fine, because it’s common in the local culture. Well, first of all, I think your perceptions are somewhat skewed being in rural **** – I’m sure the local circumcision rate is quite high in non-Hispanic families. However, nationwide, the rate approaches 50%, rather than 80 or 90% locally. Every year, the rate decreases. Why? Because parents and health care providers are being educated that circumcision is unnecessary (as supported by the AAP, AMA and others) and that the intact penis is no harder to care for than the circumcised one (in some ways, easier.)

But let’s ignore nationwide trends for a moment, and just consider the local views on the topic. You say that we should perform circumcisions because it’s common in the parent’s family, or because they wish it to be performed. Why? We don’t roll over and play dead when parents want to feed the child KoolAid in a baby bottle at three months, nor when they think it’s fine that Junior plays 20 hours of videogames a day. We strongly encourage parents to breastfeed, despite the overwhelming culture of formula in our society. Think about it, of your non-Hispanic moms, how many are still breastfeeding at say, three months. How many breastfeed at all? We know that’s best for babies, and we manage to encourage many to do it, but why bother even educating families that we know will turn to formula? It’s common and normal to use formula for them, so by the same logic as circumcision, we should just support them in that, take whatever they say at the prenatal visit or in the hospital, and automatically do it. But we don’t do that. We at least think about (and may actually, I don’t know) spending a few minutes talking about why breastfeeding is better for babies. And that’s a commitment of the mother’s time and energy, for months. That’s a hard sell, relatively speaking, compared to “We don’t do circumcisions anymore. They’re not medically indicated” on one occasion. One procedure, not performed. Boom. Done. And a child’s body is preserved whole, for a lifetime. I know you’re perfectly capable of being the “bad guy” when necessary (I’m sure Ryan is, too) – why not on this topic?

There’s quite a stack of info under this note, talking about the various physiological problems/changes due to circumcision (including an interesting one on problems with initiating breastfeeding, and another talking about recent MRSA infections in recently circumcised boys.) There’s also some interesting medicolegal information, as some men have begun suing due to being circumcised without their consent.

I know you’ve done circumcisions for years, and it’s very hard to decide that what we’ve done in the past is wrong, and to choose not to do it in the future. But really, when we know better, we do better. You know, in your heart of hearts, that this is a harmful act for these babies (and eventual men.) Please make the right choice.

I’m not really seeking editorial comments (although of course they’re welcome) but wanted to share this for anyone who might find it useful for one reason or another. 🙂

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