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28 January 2012: My Revulsion at HR 2400

There is a current bill in Congressional Committee, one that both shocks and frightens me.  It is as follows:

HR 2400 IH
1st Session
H. R. 2400
To prevent States from prohibiting male circumcision.
June 24, 2011
Mr. SHERMAN (for himself, Mr. ELLISON, Mr. WAXMAN, Mr. NADLER, Mr. BERMAN, Mr. ENGEL, Mr. LEVIN, Mr. CARSON of Indiana, Mr. ISRAEL, and Mr. ACKERMAN) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce

To prevent States from prohibiting male circumcision.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
This Act may be cited as the ‘Religious and Parental Rights Defense Act of 2011’.
Congress finds the following:
(1) Male circumcision carries significant medical benefits, including lower risk of sexually-transmitted diseases, certain kinds of infection, and overall improved hygiene.
(2) Male circumcision is an important part of many world religions, including Judaism and Islam, and observers have safely embraced its practice for generations.
No State or political subdivision of a State may adopt or continue in force a law, regulation, or order that prohibits or regulates the circumcision of males who have not attained the age of 18 years and whose parent or guardian has consented to the circumcision, unless such law, regulation, or order--
(1) applies to all such circumcisions performed in the State; and
(2) is limited to ensuring that all such circumcisions are performed in a hygienic manner.
There are constitutional problems with this bill right off of the bat.  The first red flag that this bill raises is with the 10th Amendment, which is as follows:
Amendment X
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
This amendment guarantees that Congress cannot interfere with state rights or powers, and that federal government cannot supersede this power unless under certain conditions enumerated by the Constitution.  States should maintain the right to ban practices that they find questionable or dangerous.

Another problem with this bill stems from another federal law, the Female Genital Mutilation law as passed in the US in 1997 in conjunction with Amendment XIV guaranteeing equal protection under the law.

The texts are as follows:



Sec. 116. Female genital mutilation

(a) Except as provided in subsection (b), whoever knowingly circumcises, excises, or infibulates the whole or any part of the labia majora or labia minora or clitoris of another person who has not attained the age of 18 years shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.

(b) A surgical operation is not a violation of this section if the operation is--

(1) necessary to the health of the person on whom it is performed, and is performed by a person licensed in the place of its performance as a medical practitioner; or

(2) performed on a person in labor or who has just given birth and is performed for medical purposes connected with that labor or birth by

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a person licensed in the place it is performed as a medical practitioner, midwife, or person in training to become such a practitioner or midwife.

(c) In applying subsection (b)(1), 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 person, or any other person, that the operation is required as a matter of custom or ritual.

(Added Pub. L. 104-208, div. C, title VI, Sec. 645(b)(1), Sept. 30, 1996, 110 Stat. 3009-709.)

Effective Date

Section 645(c) of div. C of Pub. L. 104-208 provided that: ``The amendments made by subsection (b) [enacting this section] shall take effect on the date that is 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act [Sept. 30, 1996].''

Congressional Findings

Section 645(a) of div. C of Pub. L. 104-208 provided that: ``The Congress finds that--

``(1) the practice of female genital mutilation is carried out by members of certain cultural and religious groups within the United States;

``(2) the practice of female genital mutilation often results in the occurrence of physical and psychological health effects that harm the women involved;

``(3) such mutilation infringes upon the guarantees of rights secured by Federal and State law, both statutory and constitutional;

``(4) the unique circumstances surrounding the practice of female genital mutilation place it beyond the ability of any single State or local jurisdiction to control;

``(5) the practice of female genital mutilation can be prohibited without abridging the exercise of any rights guaranteed under the first amendment to the Constitution or under any other law; and

``(6) Congress has the affirmative power under section 8 of article I, the necessary and proper clause, section 5 of the fourteenth Amendment, as well as under the treaty clause, to the Constitution to enact such legislation.'' 
Amendment XIV, Section 1.

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.
I especially highlight sections 1, and 3 through 6 because I feel that they are particularly applicable in this case for the prohibition of religious genital cutting of minors of both genders.

Now, bear in mind that this legislation is stating that genital cutting of females has religious significance, and the prohibition of religious genital cutting does insert government into matters of religion.  Is this a violation of the First Amendment, guaranteeing the right to practice religion?  

Before that question is answered, first consider the role of the law in our everyday lives.  The law a social code of ethics and rules that at its core functional level protects people from other people or sometimes themselves.  The federal outlawing of religious female genital mutilation does "brush shoulders" with the First Amendment, but this legislation seeks to protect unconsenting minors from harm and does not infringe upon the religious rights of the individual.  Essentially, this legislation prohibiting the involuntary genital cutting of female minors, including for religious reasons, does draw a proverbial "line in the sand" on the First Amendment.  In this sense, we all still experience our own personal freedoms of religion, but our freedom to practice our religious rituals ends where another person's body begins, and we are not to cause harm in its name.  This sounds reasonable, does it not?  It seems to say to us "Practice your religion however you please, but don't do body mods to baby girl's genitalia."  Piece of cake.

Now, this being said, Amendment XIV guarantees in its own words "equal protection of the laws."  The fact that there is a federal law protecting female minors from unnecessary genital cutting but not one for males is in violation of this principle, and in the case of religious male circumcisions, the aforementioned and previously established "line in the sand" on the First Amendment is crossed.  The very title of this bill, "Religious and Parental Rights Defense Act," is against this principle of protecting the child rights.

I now draw your attention to Amendment X, the one protecting citizen unenumerated rights:

"The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."  

Congressional passage of HR 2400 would abridge the rights of minor males to not have knives taken to their genitals without medical necesity.

This bill's constitutional problems aside, I draw your attention to the ethical problems with this bill.  The first and foremost thing is that Congress would essentially endorse religious genital cutting, which is of course, not ethical.

Another problem comes from the phrase: "Male circumcision is an important part of many world religions, including Judaism and Islam, and observers have safely embraced its practice for generations."  The fallacy comes from assuming that this procedure is safe, because, frankly, it isn't.

I draw your attention to this following study's abstract:
THYMOS: Journal of Boyhood Studies, Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 2010, 78-90
- Dan Bollinger
Abstract: Baby boys can and do succumb as a result of having their foreskin removed. Circumcision-related mortality rates are not known with certainty; this study estimates the scale of this problem. This study finds that approximately 117 neonatal circumcision-related deaths (9.01/100,000) occur annually in the United States, about 1.3% of male neonatal deaths from all causes. Because infant circumcision is elective, all of these deaths are avoidable. This study also identifies reasons why accurate data on these deaths are not available, some of the obstacles to preventing these deaths, and some solutions to overcome them.
Clearly, there is a present form of danger in circumcision.  Calling this safe would be a false claim, and it would allow Congress to endorse or accept such deaths as an acceptable loss.  I don't feel comfortable with our government condoning an unnecessary practice that causes death.

Apart from death, other life-altering problems can arise from male genital cutting, like skin bridges, uneven scarring, keloid formations, hypertrophic scarring, adhesions, partial amputation of any part of the shaft, denudation of the penis, iatrogenic hypospadias, meatal stenosis, and complete amputation of the penis, to name just a few physical complications.

Look at my story.  Look at the story of Dr. Shane Peterson.  Have you ever heard of David Reimer?  Clearly, this procedure has its share of risks.

Infections at the wound site also are common.  Gangrene, staph, and MRSA have all been documented as occurring at a circumcision wound.

Another fallacy arises from the phrase "Male circumcision carries significant medical benefits, including lower risk of sexually-transmitted diseases, certain kinds of infection, and overall improved hygiene."  First of all, there is a surgical open wound on the genitals during the healing phase of circumcision that is regularly exposed to feces and urine.  I fail to see this as hygienic.

Under this reasoning, we are better off without fingernails, ears, or arms, because our fingernails can get dirty, our ears get waxy, and our arms have stinky armpits.  Enough is enough.  We have soap.  We have water.  Hygiene should not be a problem.

Similarly, we have condoms.  We have sex education.  How can Congress somehow state that circumcision holds down rates of STDs and other infections when there is such a high rate of circumcision, and yet, a high rate of STDs and other infections present in our own back yard?  This is incongruous to say the least.

Furthermore, the AAP recognizes that there is not significant concrete evidence to outright support routine infant circumcision.  I thus find the Congressional endorsement to be, at the very least, unsettling.  Our politicians want to condone religious genital cutting.

1 comment:

  1. I can't stand the hypocrisy in America. For a country that's always preaching about "personal liberty", to then deny a child to the right to his own body, it's just a disgrace.

    These people should be legislating to outlaw any form of unnecessary surgery or body modification being performed on a child, regardless of gender, ethnicity or even religion.