And Other Letters
To the American Academy of Pediatrics (8/30/83):
Please tell me what it would take to impel the American Academy of Pediatrics to issue a statement affirming the thoroughly documented but apparently little-known fact that the foreskin is a normal, sensitive, functional part of the human body, and recommending positively, therefore, that the foreskins of babies routinely be left intact.
[No answer received. Similar letters sent Feb. 6, 1985 to Surgeon General Koop, the American Medical Association, and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. No answers received. In 1984 the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a pamphlet, Care of the Uncircumcised Penis, which contained a paragraph under the heading, "The Function of the Foreskin," which states: "The foreskin shields the glans; with circumcision this protection is lost ... The foreskin protects the glans throughout life." That paragraph was omitted without explanation from subsequent printings.]
To James E. Strain, MD, President, American Academy of
There is a question I would like to ask the American Academy of Pediatrics.
That the foreskin is a normal, sensitive, functional part of the human body is a thoroughly documented fact.
Report of the Ad Hoc Task Force on Circumcision, issued by the Academy in 1975, states: "there are no valid medical indications for circumcision in the neonatal period ... circumcision of the male neonate cannot be considered an essential component of adequate total health care."
Care of the Uncircumcised Penis, issued by the Academy in 1984, acknowledges one of the foreskin's functions with the statement, "The foreskin shields the glans; with circumcision this protection is lost ... The foreskin protects the glans throughout life."
My question is this: If a healthy, sensitive, normal, functional part of a baby's body that shields and protects the glans of his penis and that there is no valid medical reason to cut off, is cut off anyway, hasn't that baby, from a purely medical viewpoint, been harmed -- even if he never realizes it?
To James E. Strain, MD, President, American Academy of
Thank you for your note responding to my October 22 letter asking if depriving a baby of his foreskin doesn't harm him even if he never realizes it.
You state: "With so many major problems in the world today, I can't get overly excited about the circumcision issue."
I can only wonder what problem in the world you would find most pressing if, like more a million babies in this country every year, you suddenly found yourself strapped down by someone cutting part of your penis off.
To The Johannesburg Star (9/17/86):
A recent issue of The Star reports that an estimated 3,000 men and boys in Venda were abducted and circumcised by force.
In the United States more than 3,000 babies are circumcised by force every day.
To The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Mississippi (printed 12/1/87):
What's the point of The Sun Herald's October 7 headline, "Uncircumcised men face greater AIDS risk"?
Couldn't the same be said about men who are uncastrated?
Rather than have a healthy, sensitive, normally functioning part of your -- or your baby's -- penis cut off, wouldn't it be safer, surer and saner just to avoid contact with the virus?
To The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Mississippi (8/29/88):
Is the risk of catching AIDS from an infected partner in Nairobi also higher for uncircumcised women? ("Risk higher for uncircumcised," August 7)
The greatest risk an uncircumcised male faces in a society in which most males have been circumcised, is having a healthy, normally functioning part of his penis cut off when he's too young to protect himself -- by a male who had the same done to him when he was too young to protect himself.
The fallacy of the circumcision mystique is that the foreskin -- a uniquely specialized, uniquely sensitive, uniquely functional organ of touch -- is denigrated as abnormal, dangerous, and harmful; and circumcision -- which literally censors a male's life by irreversibly destroying that organ -- is extolled as normal, safe, and beneficial.
One can only wonder about the effects of such a misrepresentation over several generations on an entire nation -- much less on a single human life.
To The New York Times ("Studies Support Benefits of
Circumcision," Letters, 2/29/88) (3/31/88):
If someone restrains you -- at any age -- against your will, ignores your screams, and -- with or without an anesthetic -- cuts, tears, crushes, or burns healthy, sensitive, normally functioning tissue -- living flesh -- from your genitals without your consent-- consent not one person in a hundred with the choice is, would be, or ever has been willing to give -- how are you benefitted?
To the American Cancer Society (5/1/87):
Can you tell me if it's true, as I recently heard, that one of the sources of the interferon used in cancer research in this country is the foreskins of circumcised human babies?
[A few days after mailing this letter I received a phone call from John Stevens at the American Cancer Society, who told me that the answer to my question was yes.]
To The San Francisco Examiner (12/14/88):
If a circumciser circumcises an adult with the adult's consent, that's one thing -- at least an adult has a choice and a chance. But to circumcise a baby, knowing that theonly reason he can circumcise the baby is that the person he's circumcising is a baby -- that, surely, is the ultimate perversion, child sexual abuse in its most vicious, most degenerate form.
Yes -- of course -- anyone who commits such an act is sick and needs help. But doesn't he first need to be stopped?