Intact America and Georganne Chapin make a bold statement to the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists tell them to “Put down the knife.”

American women entrust their obstetricians with the most important event in their life – childbirth. In turn, the obstetrician’s primary concern must be the safety of the mother and her unborn child. But once that child is born, he or she is an independent person with separate needs and rights.

This is why, as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists gathers for its Annual Clinical Meeting, Intact America is calling on ACOG members to “Put Down The Knife!” and stop circumcising baby boys.

It is a cultural peculiarity that America’s obstetricians – trained to operate only on women’s reproductive organs – perpetuate infant male circumcision. As though to illustrate this paradox, ACOG denied Intact America permission to exhibit at their convention, taking place now in Washington, DC. Their reasoning? Our “product and services” (referring to our advocacy concerning the harm and the ethics of neonatal circumcision) is “beyond the scope of the
practice of obstetrics and gynecology.”

Circumcision as a medical practice began in the mid-1800s in North America and England, with doctors proclaiming that it “cured” the “disease” of masturbation (thought at the time to cause insanity, unusual hair growth, and blindness) among other maladies. As modern medicine evolved, new rationales for the surgery proliferated as old ones were disproven. By the 1940s, circumcision had become the norm in the United States – despite a lack of evidence for the need – just as other English-speaking countries began to abandon the practice as both medically useless and wasteful of health care
resources (non-Anglo countries never adopted or practiced medical circumcision of children).

Today, the United States is the only Western nation in which doctors – whose member organizations, including ACOG, admit that infant circumcision is not medically necessary – continue to routinely alter the genitals of baby boys. Infant circumcision violates the very bioethical principles that doctors are bound by their profession to uphold:

Autonomy and Informed Consent mandate respect for a patient’s self-determination and the assurance that he or she has the capacity to act and decide intentionally, without coercion. For medical procedures contemplated for children, because the child cannot be “informed,” the right to decide is given to the parent. The scope of parental consent, however, is limited to situations of medical necessity. The foreskin is a normal, functional, anatomical structure, and neonatal circumcision has no therapeutic benefit. Therefore, parental consent for “routine” circumcision is invalid, and a physician who performs the procedure violates the principles of autonomy and informed consent.

Nonmaleficence is the principle requiring that medical practitioners avoid causing needless harm or injury. Infant circumcision involves the permanent surgical removal of healthy, protective, nerve-laden tissue. Medically unnecessary childhood circumcision violates the
principle of nonmaleficence.

Beneficence is the principle that states it is the physician’s duty not only to provide a benefit to a patient, but also to take positive steps to prevent harm. It does not include the felt needs, concerns, or cultural preferences of anyone other than the patient. Because “routine” infant circumcision does not seek to remedy an ill and exposes babies to unnecessary risk, trauma,
and pain, the doctor who unnecessarily circumcises a baby violates the bioethical principle of beneficence.

Justice in health care implies fairness, equal treatment, and equal protection. In the United States, girls are protected against cultural or religious genital surgery by Federal law. There is no acceptable rationale for distinguishing between female and male genital modification. The physician who circumcises a baby boy violates the principle of justice.

The U.S. circumcision rate is falling rapidly, as American parents learn that amputating a baby boy’s foreskin is not medically necessary, causes permanent harm, and violates established bioethical principles. Intact America hereby calls upon our nation’s obstetricians to adopt the only ethical stance:

Stop circumcising baby boys.

Put DownTheKnife!

Georganne Chapin, MPhil, JD
Executive Director
Intact America