Proposed Circumcision Ban Struck From San Francisco Ballot


S.F. Won't Vote on Circumcision Ban

But Dr. Douglas Diekema, director of education for the Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics at Seattle Children's Hospital, said that the procedure has been shown to reduce the risk of infections.

"Boys who are circumcised have fewer urinary tract infections during infancy," said Diekema. "These are serious infections that require hospitalization."

Some data also suggest that circumcision reduces the risk of contracting HIV, HPV and penile cancer.

"Serious complications related to circumcision are very rare," said Diekema. "The most common complications include minor bleeding after the procedure, which is usually easily stopped with some pressure, and superficial skin infections requiring an antibiotic cream."

Arguments against circumcision include the risk of surgery, penile adhesions, reduced sexual pleasure and "the hidden penis."

"It sounds like a concealed weapon, doesn't it?" Dr. Ari Brown, a pediatrician in Austin, Texas, wrote in his book, "Baby 411." "Chubby baby boys have a fat roll above their genitals. It causes the circumcised penis to get sucked inwards. The penis looks normal as the boys grow up, but it's always concerning to parents."

Most experts do not make a recommendation about circumcision, leaving it up to the parents to decide.

Circumcision: A Family Decision

Dr. F. Sessions Cole, a professor of pediatrics and assistant vice chancellor for children's health at Washington University School of Medicine, said most doctors have a full discussion of the medical benefits, potential complications and long-term impact.

"Most families, in my experience, make their decision based on cultural, religious or social considerations," said Cole. Circumcision=Female Genital Mutilation? Doctors Say No

But Schofield believes cultural and religious considerations should not matter, just as they don't in arguments against female genital mutilation.

"When you take an infant, hold them down and give insufficient or no anesthesia and you cut off the most sensitive part of their body, there's no question it's exactly the same [as female genital mutilation]," said Schofield.

However, experts say female genital mutilation is in no way similar to circumcision, and it's misleading to equate the two.

"The anatomic female equivalent of the male foreskin is the clitoral hood," said Diekema. "Most forms of female genital cutting involve excision or far more than the clitoral hood, often excising the clitoris with or without portions of the labia.

"The male equivalent of those would be removal of the penis with or without the scrotum," said Diekema. "Female genital cutting and male circumcision are not comparable procedures."

Diekema said that there were some demonstrated health benefits to male circumcision but not for any kind of female cutting.

Intactivists Take It One Day at a Time

Schofield had said that he and the "intactivists" have a broad range of support among a variety of demographic groups.

"We're taking it one step at a time," said Schofield. "If it doesn't pass this time, then I'm sure it will be tried again."

Schofield refused to say whether he is circumcised or not.

"I don't want the focus to be on me and have people use it as an excuse not to look at the issue itself," he said.

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