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Will San Francisco Ban Circumcision via the Male Genital Mutilation (MGM) Bill?

Posted Jan 26 2011 12:00am
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Photo:   AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by  Franco Folini Will the AAP take a strong stance against circumcision?

Will San Francisco outlaw circumcision?

According to the San Francisco Male Genital Mutilation (MGM) bill , 90% of baby borns born in the city leave the hospital intact.  Lloyd Schofield would like to raise that figure to 100% by putting a bill on the November 2011 ballot.  The initiative language, which would make circumcision a misdemeanor offense, includes:


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.

(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.

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.

This bill is in the signature gathering phase requiring 7000 signatures to be placed on the ballot.

The Deranged Housewife writes on the bill:

In this case, it seems that Lloyd Schofield – the guy who is bringing the debate to the forefront – thinks it does indeed take a “village to raise a child.” Should that village have a voice in your parenting decisions if this issue is on the ballot?

I think that if this measure passes, it could be a mixed victory for circumcision proponents.

Whether you think it’s right or wrong, it’s really not your decision to make. Whether it’s for cleanliness issues, a matter of religion or just because, when it comes down to whether it should be done or not is not a decision the public at large should have a say in.

If you view circumcision as genital mutilation, as I do, then the above statement makes little sense. Laws should protect citizens, no matter their age.  When religion enters the picture, things do get a little fuzzy.

In fact, even if this bill does make it on to the ballot and is passed, it will most likely not stand up in court.   SF Gate explains:

The city attorney’s office wouldn’t comment on the legality of such a ban, but we hear it’s unlikely to stand up in court even if it does pass because it would violate the freedom of religion clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Schofield argues that since female genital mutilation was banned under federal law in 1996, practicing male circumcision violates the equal protection clause.

Are there any religions that practice female genital mutilation (FGM)?  According to Jacqueline Castledine of Mount Holyoke College , FGM is an Islamic “law by custom”:

Neither of the two main sources of  Muslim law , the Koran and the Sunnah, mention the practice, and most Islamic scholars agree that it is not an Islamic religious rite. The practice has become important to Islam because it is associated with female sexual purity. FGM is intended by its practitioners to both control women’s sexual drives and also to cleanse women’s genitalia by removing the clitoris which is seen as masculine, a female penis. Because of its association with purity, young women who have not been excised have little chance of marriage in the countries where FGM is practiced

It is important to point out, however, that FGM has also been practiced in the  West , and that “the practice of clitoridectomy was actually promoted in the United States and Britain during the 19th and early 20th centuries as a cure for lesbian practices or suspected inclinations, masturbation, hysteria, epilepsy, and nervousness.” This fact brings up interesting issues about the cultural relativity of this practice.

Does this mean the 1996 law protecting against female genital mutilation could be overturned in court?  According to Wikipedia , “The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that the custom of FGC ‘cuts across religions and is practiced by Muslims, Christians, Jews and followers of indigenous religions.’”

Our little boys deserve the same protection as our little girls!

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