The National Anti-Circumcision Movement: An Attack on Men and Women, Science and Religion

The practice of infant male circumcision is under assault, and though a proposed bill to ban circumcision in Santa Monica, California was withdrawn, the battle is far from over.

Opponents of circumcision are relying on gross misstatements of scientific fact to launch, what is in effect, an attack on organized religion and the health of the American people.

The anti-circumcision movement has its origins in San Francisco, and in recent years has become national in scope. MGMBill is one of the leading organizations in the movement, and is responsible for the anti-circumcision San Francisco and Santa Monica bills. According to MGMBill’s website, a few months ago “every member of Congress, state legislators in Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and Washington,” received an anti-circumcision proposal.

Last year, Democrat Michael W. Morrissey proposed an anti-circumcision piece of legislation in Massachusetts: S1777, which was defeated. The anti-circumcision movement recently collected enough signatures (7,168) to get the measure on the November 2012 ballot in San Francisco.

Matthew Hess of MGMBill is one of the leaders behind the proposed circumcision bans. Hess is also the writer and editor of “Foreskin Man,” a comic book published by MGMBill. Two of the illustrations here from his comic book show blatant anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism of this nature is unheard of in the U.S. and should be an alarming red flag to all.

The bills explicitly state that it would not make exceptions for religious “customs” or “rituals,” and a violator would be subject to “a fine of up to $1,000 or imprisonment for up to a year or both.”

Hess’ MGMBill website claims that circumcision does not reduce the spread of HIV infection:

The United States has one of the highest rates of male circumcision and also one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the developed world, suggesting that circumcision is not helping.

In the above statement, Hess links to a Reuter’s article, titled “Circumcision does not affect HIV in U.S. Men: Study.” The title is misleading: the study it reports on, a 2007 Center for Disease Control study, actually involved bisexual and homosexual men only, rather than all U.S. men. While the health of bisexual and homosexual U.S. men is important, they comprise only a small subset (3%) of the population. The health and welfare of the other 97% of the U.S. population, is also important.

Contrary to the inaccurate claims on the MGMBill website, Time magazine chose “Circumcision Can Prevent HIV” as #1 in the “Top Medical Breakthroughs for 2007.”

The greatly beneficial health effects of circumcision on heterosexual men were demonstrated by a key 2008 study conducted by Gregorio Millett, who is a Senior Behavioral Scientist at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Millett is currently serving as Senior Advisor on the Office of National AIDS Policy. This 2008 study was of male heterosexuals in Africa and their risk for HIV transmission and its implications for the United States. In the CDC report Millett stated that “substantial protective effect of male circumcision on risk for HIV infection was noted.” Millett continued:

The relative risk for HIV infection was 44% lower in circumcised men. The strongest association was seen in men at high risk, such as patients at sexually transmitted disease (STD) clinics, for whom the adjusted relative risk was 71% lower for circumcised men.

It has long been understood that circumcision among heterosexual males, greatly reduces the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. Circumcision is advocated by USAID in Africa because of this effectiveness. USAID documents that African countries with a high incidence of circumcision have a far lower incidence of HIV. Unfortunately, a joint report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations, (UNAIDS) estimates that only 30 percent of males worldwide aged 15 and up are circumcised.

The proposed anti-circumcision bill is a danger to women in the U.S. and around the world. Recent studies in Africa have shown that male circumcision reduces the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases, including cervical cancer in women. One such study by Dr. Thomas Quinn, a senior investigator in infectious diseases at the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, found that circumcision reduces the rates of certain prevalent sexually transmitted diseases by up to 35 percent.

In 2009, MGMBill’s Hess collaborated with Intact America, another organization engaged in misleading the public about circumcision, in an attempt to ban circumcision in Massachusetts.

The Intact America website shows an African-American woman holding her baby boy. Intact America asks the question, “Did you know? Studies show that circumcision does not prevent AIDS or other STD’s. Only safe sex and condoms can do that.”

Here we see the identical lie, that “circumcision does not prevent AIDS.” In addition, the very woman in the picture would be placed in a higher risk category for sexually transmitted diseases and cervical cancer if her husband was not circumcised.

As a result of the movement against circumcision, Medicaid has ceased covering circumcision in sixteen states. Arleen A. Leibowitz, a Professor of Public Policy and a Researcher with both the UCLA Center for HIV Identification, Prevention and Treatment Services and the UCLA AIDS Institute, states that “State Medicaid plans that attempt to reduce costs in the short run by not covering the cost of infant male circumcision may be generating higher health care costs for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections in the future.”

According to a report presented at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna, over the last three decades, among newborn infant boys born in conventional hospitals, circumcision has fallen to less than 50% of newborn babies (2006-2009) from about two-thirds through the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Executive Director of Intact America, Georganne Chapin is also President and CEO of Hudson Center, which provides healthcare for low-income residents. By participating in a movement that has reduced the accessibility, via Medicaid, of low-income citizens to circumcision, Intact America is actually putting those very same low-income citizens at risk.

The anti-circumcision movement hides behind the false veneer of human rights. Opponents of circumcision show a blatant disregard for both science and religion.

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