Making America Safe for Foreskins

Is Infant Circumcision a Moral/Ethical Issue

To Genesis/ASPO/Lamaze (6/21/83):

I recently read "An Alternative Circumcision Procedure," by Louise and Roger Cox, in your April/May issue.

I would like to comment on their statement that infant circumcision is neither right nor wrong.

Consider what infant circumcision actually means: the amputation and irreversible destruction of a healthy, sensitive, normal part of someone else's body, that is rightfully his and that he instinctively wants to keep intact, at a time in his life when he can't understand what is being done to him -- or why -- and can't speak for or protect himself.

Roughly four out of five males in the world reach adulthood with their foreskins intact. The vast majority of them keep their foreskins intact, even in societies in which most males are circumcised. It seems reasonable, therefore, to assume that the vast majority of males circumcised in infancy would keep their foreskins intact too -- if they were given the choice. Circumcising a male before he can make that choice deprives him of a part of his body -- and the part of his life he would have experienced with it -- that it's almost a certainty he would rather have kept.

(No one seems to know how many males in the U.S. circumcised in infancy would rather have their foreskins intact. A low guess of only one percent would be about a million men. Now that the protective, sensory and sexual functions of the foreskin are becoming more widely known and understood, the actual number of men in this country discontent with their circumcised state is probably much higher.)

If the way the baby will eventually feel about having or not having his foreskin intact matters to whoever decides whether he will go through life with or without it, the odds greatly favor leaving the baby's foreskin intact -- for at least three reasons: 1) because an uncircumcised male is more likely to be glad that his foreskin is intact than a circumcised male is likely to be glad that his foreskin is missing; 2) because a circumcised male is more likely to regret that his foreskin is missing than an uncircumcised male is likely to regret that his foreskin is intact; and 3) because an uncircumcised male who would rather not have a foreskin can be circumcised, but a circumcised male who would rather have a foreskin cannot become intact.

Is infant circumcision neither right nor wrong? Ask the question another way: Is it neither right nor wrong to cut off a part of a baby's penis that the vast majority of males who have that part of their penis intact value and prefer -- infinitely prefer -- to keep?

Considering how many males have been forced to go through life with that part of penis missing, the answer is as painful as it is clear.