The circumcision decision

If the decision to bring new life into the world is deemed one of life's toughest challenges, so too is the decision parents make about whether or not to circumcise their son.

"To cut or not to cut" has fast become one of America's most hotly debated parenting issues. Over the last fifteen years, hundreds of groups opposed to routine infant circumcision have sprung up around the country. Intent on educating parents and challenging medical and religious institutions, these concerned adults have gone so far as to sue doctors for inflicting harm against newborns. They have also effectively lobbied such health insurance companies as Blue Shield to delete circumcision from the "medically necessary" category.

This new movement to protect infants from the knife is clearly an outgrowth of similar initiatives to return to more natural birthing and childrearing experiences. Unlike past women-run campaigns dedicated to reclaiming breastfeeding and vaginal births, the pro and anti-circumcision movements are led by women and men, and most importantly, by the medical establishment itself.

Perhaps the most astonishing blow to pro-circumcision advocates was the 1999 statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), reversing its former endorsement of circumcision for medical reasons. In a press release dated March 1999, Dr. Carole Lannon, chairwoman of the AAP's Task Force on Circumcision, stated, "Circumcision is not essential to a (boy's) well-being at birth, even though it does have some potential medical benefits."

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