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Human Rights Lawyer Challenging AAP Pro-Circumcision Stance

"The AAP’s circumcision recommendations contradict its own bioethics policy statement, which requires pediatric care to be based only on the needs of the patient."


Photo Credit: Serge Attal/FLASH90

Religious Jews don’t circumcise their male children because of the alleged medical benefits of this Biblical rite, but because it is a Biblical rite. Over the generations, popular and medical views on circumcision have shifted from hearty endorsements to strong rejections and all the positions in between, and Jews just continued to circumcise their sons.

Still, it is fascinating to see how this area of human behavior is evolving in keeping with the shifting social mores. Today, in the midst of all out political attacks on circumcision in Europe and the U.S., yet another assault on Brit Milah is making headlines.

“Attorneys for the Rights of the Child” J. Steven Svoboda and pediatrician Robert S. Van Howe, M.D. have published a new article in the Journal of Medical Ethics (JME), arguing that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) position regarding male circumcision lacks credible support.

The article, “Out of step: fatal flaws in the latest AAP policy report on neonatal circumcision,” is being published online today (subscription required).

Svoboda and Van Howe criticize the AAP’s apparent cultural bias in favor of circumcision, which they note puts the AAP firmly out of step with world medical opinion on this issue. They argue that the AAP documents suffer from troubling deficiencies, ultimately undermining their credibility. According to the authors, these deficiencies include the omission of critical issues, biased use of the medical literature, and conclusions that are not supported by the evidence given.

Svoboda commented, “The AAP ignores so many important topics that it is hard to know where to begin. For example, the anatomy and function of the foreskin are not mentioned in their documents, even though they propose to cut it off without first considering the harm and pain that result from its removal. The AAP’s circumcision recommendations contradict its own bioethics policy statement, which requires pediatric care to be based only on the needs of the patient. Non-therapeutic circumcision is incompatible with widely accepted ground rules for surgical intervention in minors.”

Dr. Van Howe, a Clinical Professor at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, said, “When physicians decide whether to do a procedure, they must, and normally do, exclude from their medical decisions non-medical factors regarding the parents’ culture. Contrary to what the AAP suggests, doctors are not cultural brokers. Their duty is promoting and protecting the health of their patients, not following practices lacking a solid ethical and medical foundation.”

Svoboda asks, “Why is the AAP promoting public funding for an unnecessary and harmful surgery when we find ourselves struggling even to provide basic care for all our children? In these days of rising medical costs and scarce resources, we simply cannot afford to continue to carry out such a harmful and outmoded practice.”

The AAP‘s official position on this matter states:

The American Academy of Pediatrics finds that circumcision has potential medical benefits and advantages, as well as risks. A recent analysis by the AAP concluded that the medical benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks. We recommend that the decision to circumcise is one best made by parents in consultation with their pediatrician, taking into account what is in the best interests of the child, including medical, religious, cultural, and ethnic traditions and personal beliefs.

Your pediatrician (or your obstetrician if he or she would be performing the circumcision) should discuss the benefits and risks of circumcision with you and the forms of analgesia that are available.

A few months ago, the Royal Dutch Medical Association favorably cited an earlier version of Svoboda’s and Van Howe’s article, noting that even if benefits do exist the procedure can safely be delayed until the boy himself can make the decision.

Svoboda and Van Howe’s article appears at a similar publication date with a commentary to appear in the AAP’s own Pediatrics by thirty-eight leading European medical authorities, who have independently reached a conclusion consistent with Svoboda and Van Howe’s in criticizing the “cultural bias” in the AAP’s policy.

Much of what the two authors are arguing makes perfect sense, although the notion of delaying the decision of circumcision until the child grows up is disturbing, because the amount of pain endured by a grownup far exceeds the suffering of an 8-day old infant. But their argument regarding the inherent conflict in a doctor’s recommendation of a procedure that doesn’t have scientifically proven benefits appears cogent.

And as in so many other divine commandments Jews are embracing, our position is that we’re not doing it because of the benefits—should they exist—but to fulfill a commandment. As in “I would have loved to eat pork, there’s nothing wrong with it, but God has commanded me not to.”

Works for me.

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.

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106 Responses to “Human Rights Lawyer Challenging AAP Pro-Circumcision Stance”

  1. It is no biblical rite, it is a biblical WRONG!

  2. Arie's Pragmatic Politics, right, like they are going to talk to YOU about their most intimate details or problems. A lot of married couples don't even talk to each other about it!

  3. Roger DesMoulins says:

    In the USA, the circumcision of women is a felony under Federal law. Hence no need agitate against it.
    The SF referendum (which I did not support) did NOT propose to ban brit milah, only to delay it until after the 18th birthday.
    There is no desire to "ban" Judaism, only a desire to see it evolve.
    The main objective of the North American anticircumcision movement is the maniacal circumcisions performed by gentile doctors on gentile babies. This has no valid medical or public health justification, and can damage adult sexual pleasure and functionality.

  4. Roger DesMoulins says:

    There are also penises that very much desire to be left alone. And there are American women who have slept with both kinds of men and say out loud that they prefer the penis that God designed.

  5. Roger DesMoulins says:

    American hospitals used to ridicule mothers who did not want their sons circumcised. USA gentile popular culture for the past 70 odd years has assumed that the foreskin is a mark of socioeconomic deprivation. Of a deficiency in sexual sophistication. Intact men became a despised sexual minority. This was not right, and led millions of USA parents to accept the circumcisions of their sons. This whole situation reeks of bigotry. No human should ever feel ashamed for being what God intended him to be.

  6. Roger DesMoulins says:

    There are intactivists who are pro-life. Me for instance.
    To circumcise a gentile baby, without a compelling medical reason and without any understanding of the possible adverse sexual consequences, does indeed raise nontrivial human rights issues.

  7. Roger DesMoulins says:

    Dan Silagi : I broadly agree with you. I do believe that ObamaCare will not work, however. And the generosity of Social Security and Medicare will have to be trimmed. Most of all, it is high time that well off Americans and corporations pay at least $350B of additional income tax.

  8. Roger DesMoulins says:

    We deplore Islamic circumcision.

  9. Roger DesMoulins says:

    Arie's Pragmatic Politics : THe Schofield initiative, which I did not support, did not seek to ban brit milah, but only to require that it be done after the 18th birthday.

  10. Arie's Pragmatic Politics says:

    Rob RasCh Then don't circumcise your kids.There are more arguments justifying circumcision then against it. The State is empowered to protect my religious and parental freedoms. It's called the Constitution.

  11. Arie's Pragmatic Politics says:

    Dan Silagi Your angst appears posed against Jews and Judaism in general, not circumcision. If you hate being a Jew so much, you can either convert or declare you are not Jewish. Very simple. Amazing how Jew haters and self-hating Jews migrate to Jewish sites to spew their own hatreds cloaking their comments. "Under the bed, in the closet?" I bet you support jesse "hymie" jackson, al "massacre at freddy's" sharpton, and george "working with the nazis was the happiest time of my life" soros

  12. Arie's Pragmatic Politics says:

    Rob RasCh Typical of people like Rob declaring the COnstitutional Rights are only applicable if you agree with him, his fellow libs, and Jew haters. If you do not like Judaism robbie, convert or declare yourself a non-Jew. Simple as that. Although we all know you believe I should be denied MY freedoms to conform to yours.

  13. Arie's Pragmatic Politics says:

    Rob RasCh You should assert your beliefs and take it to Court. Admit it robbie…your attacks are not against male circumcision, it's against Jews. It's what you are

  14. Arie's Pragmatic Politics says:

    Dan Silagi dannie boy is out of the closet being the demoputz he is. He got caught in his own BS and can't respond intelligently (typical of his ilk) so he curses and attacks. Fact is Antisemitism is on the rise. But then, danny boy went to UC, home the disbarred obamas and cop-killer ayres so his policy and thoughts are not surprising. How about you go sit in the corner danny – adults speaking here and you have no intelligence to provide useful info

  15. Arie's Pragmatic Politics says:

    Dan Silagi It's good that the Jew hating danny boy is out of the closet. Caught in his won BS and like the good demoputz he is comes out with curses and personal attacks. It's all you have. They believe the Constitution refers ONLY to them.

    Yes Michael, Antisemitism is UP in the US. FBI stats prove it! And if you look at obama's inner-circle, we see a plethora of Jew haters! jesse "hymie" jackson, al "massacre at freddy's" sharpton, and george "working with the nazis was the happiest time of my life" soros; the rev wright and his 20 yrs long attack on Jews from his pulpit with obama in the front row.

    But then danny went to UC, home of the disbarred obamas, and cop killer ayres. He learned well at the feet of his masters

  16. Arie's Pragmatic Politics says:

    Mark Daniel McQuillen As I said Mark, you have your choice and if you have sons, carry them out. I had sons and carried out my faith my way. Again, the benefits of the Constitution – although danny boy continues to demand the COnstitution only apply to those that agree with him and his ilk

  17. Arie's Pragmatic Politics says:

    Rob RasCh Then take your parents to Court and charge them. Put the proverbial money where your mouth is. And I presume your angst with the Jewish Community includes your no longer identifying yourself as a Jew. We would hope so given how much you hate Jews

  18. Arie's Pragmatic Politics says:

    The liberals don't like to drill thru the REAL stats of unemployment. To the obamatons the truth is a four-letter word. If one goes to the BLS web site, get away from the home page and drill down thru the stats, the TRUTH shows up: REAL unemployment is close to 16% (including those that have given up and no longer receive unemployment insurance benefits); unemployment amongst Blacks is approx. 20%; underemployment is at 22%! Disability claims have skyrocketed, mainly by those who have lost their unemployment benefits and going to disability to collect.

    "Fuel independence?" Manufacturing in the US is down – less fuel consumed! The foreign cars being bought consume LESS gas, hence less used! The "moribund" car industry he referred to? GM is once again sliding to bankruptcy AFTER the TAXPAYERS paid over $1MILLION per UNION job to keep them afloat. The TAXPAYERS will still lose approx. $30BILLION as we expect GM to come and demand a double dip into our treasury.

    And of course, the recent Democratic Party tax hike on 77% of the US workers, with the working poor affected most (according to the CBO) with the same Democrats now demanding even more. Bottom Line: The economy is collapsing, and as it does the same old "let's blame the Rothschild Jew bank" attitudes surface. Rob and danny are pulling a pre-emptive shield to allege they "are not one of us" so they can be accepted by the Jew haters – much like the Jews of Berlin tried in 1939, just before they were herded to the ovens.

  19. Arie's Pragmatic Politics says:

    "The Jewish Community" but not the "Muslim COmmunity." Interesting how you differentiate. You remind me of the Jews of Berlin 1939, looking to blend to make sure everyone knows you are "not one of us but one of them." Put your money where your moth is rob: sue your parents and "the Jewish Community" for the "grievous harm." And make sure that no one would ever confuse you with a Jew. That is your intent isn't it?

  20. Hugh Intactive says:

    Arie's Pragmatic Politics The state is empowered to protect everybody's freedoms, not just yours, and that includes children, including yours. It already protects them from parents in many cases.

  21. Jeff Cowsert says:

    The original Jewish Genital Mutil – I mean Circumcision was a small ritual nick of the foreskin – not a complete amputation of an organ from the reproductive system as is performed today. This is due to 1,000 year old Jewish opinion regarding sexual pleasure. See for yourself in The Guide for the Perplexed by Maimonides, the great Jewish philosopher:

    “As regards circumcision, I think that one of its objects is to limit sexual intercourse, and to weaken the organ of generation as far as possible, and thus cause man to be moderate. Some people believe that circumcision is to remove a defect in man's formation; but every one can easily reply: How can products of nature be deficient so as to require external completion, especially as the use of the foreskin to that organ is evident. The bodily injury caused to that organ is exactly that which is desired; This is, as I believe, the best reason for the commandment concerning circumcision.”.

    This is a Jewish woman’s research into Jewish infant circumcision and her opinion of what is truly going on with regard to religious control:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/miriam-pollack/circumcision-identity-gen_b_1132896.html – It practically tells us that Jews have and do circumcise to break the bond of security and trust between mother and son. And later weaken the bond between husband and wife by making sex less pleasurable.

    "Circumcision subverts the community's relationship to the life-giving principle of the feminine, not only by obliterating the woman's rightful identity in structuring the historical social network of her tribe, but also by trivializing and implicitly forbidding her to acknowledge, much less act upon, her deepest mammalian instincts to protect her newly birthed child".

    "Typically, a mother's feelings are dismissed or ridiculed. Her voice is silenced, even to herself".

    "The wounding of circumcision irreversibly alters both mother and child: the mother is fractured at the base of her deepest womb-wisdom, which knows that she must protect her child no matter what; and the baby, shocked and traumatized, is fractured in his ability to absolutely trust the protective arms of the mother he has biologically and innately turned to as his primordial source of safety".

    “Additionally, the removal of the foreskin creates a secondary loss of sensitivity: not only has the most erogenous tissue of the male sexual organ been removed, but, as the man ages, the glans loses its mucosal covering, becomes dried out, and keratinizes over time. Typically by middle age the glans of the circumcised penis has lost much of its receptive potential and the man requires more abrasive stimulation to achieve orgasm.”.

    “In subtle but profound ways, circumcision functions to diminish a man's pleasure potential, allowing his bond to his partner to be subordinated to his bond to his tribal male peers.”.

  22. Jamie Smith says:

    Dan the medical benefits you speak of are much like the medical benefits the drs here tout as medical benefits to female circumcision.

    If you told me of the medical benefits as a intact female, I would tell you, very impolitely where to go. Just as you telling me my healthy normal intact son needs to be circumcised for medical benefit will get me to unleash a fury like you have never seen before. You circumcised your son out of your bias to your own genitalia and your refusal to see yourself as a victim of genital mutilation and nothing more.

  23. Jeff Cowsert says:

    Mark Lyndon What about the Muslims Religious rights. Don't you think the US Ban of Female Genital Mutilation makes the Muslims feel unwelcome or violated. The truly believe they need to amputate parts of their girls and boys reproductive system in order for them to be accepted by their god and community. Seems strange to me that Jewish are allowed to mutilate their boys for their god but Muslims aren't allowed to mutilate their girls to offer a little blood and flesh to their god. Do you think we should talk to local law about getting the FGM Ban reversed? I'm personally not in favor of ANY Genital Mutilation of ANY Child, but fair is fair – right?

  24. Jeff Cowsert says:

    Arie's Pragmatic Politics Because the SF attempt didn't need to include Female Genital Mutilation. FGM was outlawed in the US in 1997.

  25. Jeff Cowsert says:

    Are you suggesting that those fighting for genital autonomy are also pro-abortion?

  26. Jeff Cowsert says:

    Does anyone else notice those in favor of child rights have a photo of themselves, while the pro-cut comments all come from Guns, Paintings, No Face….. If the pro-cut folks feel so right about this argument, why do they hide?

  27. Jeanice Barcelo says:

    Two points I'd like to make — (i) Your notion that "the amount of pain endured by a grownup far exceeds the suffering of an 8-day old infant" is absolutely wrong. Infants are at the height of sensitivity and vulnerability. Sensory learning is at its peak while children are in the womb and for the first few hours and days after birth. Slicing off the most sensitive part of their penis while an infant is strapped to a board or while adult men forcefully hold him down and dribble wine in his mouths does not make for positive sensory stimulation. On the contrary. Cortisol levels in the brain rise to new heights during circumcision and do not return to baseline even six months after the trauma. We are talking about irreversible harm and brain damage because of this sadistic procedure. (ii) If you god demands that you cut off a piece of your infant son's penis in order to create a covenant with him, then it is time you questioned the god you are worshiping. The real Creator — i.e., the one who created the magnificent human body, with every inch receptive to human love, gave us everything we need to lead spiritually fulfilling, deeply meaningful lives. It only those who would benefit from destroying human love and the natural connection we have to each other and to all of life that would create a god who tells people to cut off the most sensitive part of their baby's penis. And it is only those who are under a spell and severe forms of mind-control that would mutilate and harm their children through circumcision.

  28. 1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pain_in_babies
    1a. adults can be given general anesthesia and narcotic painkillers; babies can not.
    1d. http://www.drmomma.org/2011/03/he-didnt-cry-babies-in-shock.html

  29. Arie's Pragmatic Politics says:

    You mean like the pedophile promoting pic you have. A legend in your own narcissistic mind

  30. Arie's Pragmatic Politics says:

    If you don't want your son circumcised, don't. That is your right. Thankfully, the US Constitution protects me from bigots like you.

  31. Arie's Pragmatic Politics says:

    Care to post a link to the RAMBAM quote? And I don't mean the stormfront site you frequent

  32. Arie's Pragmatic Politics says:

    Jeff, We are saying that given your bogus quotes – for which you refuse to provide a legitimate link, your angst is not about circumcision but about Jews. Thank you for outing yourself

  33. Arie's Pragmatic Politics says:

    As I read some of the postings, something quickly stands out: There are two types objecting circumcision. People like Mark, objecting for personal reasons, but accepting Freedom Religion and Beliefs and understanding his beliefs are different then those accepting of circumcision yet is not imposing of those beliefs.

    Then we have the likes of Jeff, who posts bogus quotes from nazi blogs to promote he DEMANDS whose attacks are not on circumcisions, but on Jews.But then, Jewish sites tend to attract Jew haters. I would dare Jeff to go to a Muslim site to condemn anything.

    As for Jamie, somewhere in between. I am "a victim of my own circumcision?" Thank you very much I like my circumcision! There are more doctors that agree with circumcisions being a health benefit then there are the euro doctors who oppose. And let's remember: THOSE are the same euro doctors that were visibly upset when the nazi medical experiments were stopped after the Shoah removing a (to them) great source of learning. The tradition of Jew hatred in the euro 'scientific' community is as old as science itself. Unlike female circumcision, circumcision of boys does not negate or diminish sexual pleasure. Keep your prejudices to yourself.

  34. Jeff Cowsert says:

    Arie's Pragmatic Politics I have yet to see anyone request a link for any of my comments – but I will look again. What information would you like to see? Your opinion that I have an issue with Jews instead of circumcision is incorrect.

  35. Jeff Cowsert says:

    I gave citation for the book and the author. Go to the library and look it up. I also gave a link to the article, written by a Jewish woman, in revolt to circumcision.

  36. Jeff Cowsert says:

    Arie's Pragmatic Politics Wow! Have you ever heard the term "slander"? You go pretty far out with your name calling, while hiding behind your gun pic and alias. Nice touch with the Politically Inorrect Comment bud!

  37. Jeff Cowsert says:

    I am not a Nazi or have I ever visited or quoted from a Nazi site. You don't have to dare me to speak in revolt to child mutilation on Muslim sites because I have already done this. I also speak out against the actions of many hospitals, for MGM who happen to be Christian, Community, Federal. You really don't know me well enough to be making the attacks and accusations you are making.

  38. Jeff Cowsert says:

    I am not a Nazi or have I ever visited or quoted from a Nazi site. You don't have to dare me to speak in revolt to child mutilation on Muslim sites because I have already done this. I also speak out against the actions of many hospitals, for MGM who happen to be Christian, Community, Federal. You really don't know me well enough to be making the attacks and accusations you are making.

    You seem to have conventiently left Rob out of your "sizing up" of those in this conversation whom you disagree with. What about Robs cries that he has been robbed of a body part he never wanted to lose because the Jewish community felt the need to take it from him to mark him for their chosen religion. What about the fact that his religious freedom has been violated? What words to you have to make it right for him? How does the Jewish faith make it right for all the other men and children who feel the same as Rob? Are they mere caualties of the faith?

  39. Tamara Murphy says:

    Your religious freedoms do not extend to the genitals of children- male or female.

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