ACOG 2013: INTACTIVISTS GATHER IN NEW ORLEANS TO TELL AMERICA'S
OBSTETRICIANS TO STOP CUTTING BABY BOYS!
On May 4, 2013, Intact America sponsored a sidewalk demonstration and press conference in New Orleans outside the annual convention of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). During this one-day event, we protested the role of obstetricians in perpetrating circumcision in American hospitals. Read the press release.
Our mobile billboard, which patrolled the streets of New Orleans (photos courtesy of James Loewen), was a huge success, sparking countless conversations with doctors, tourists, and local residents. Even the driver, Roger, helped forward the cause by handing out information and telling people about Intact America! Many thanks to James Loewen, who took the photo above as well as these of our billboard.
STORIES FROM THE FIELD
We had a fantastic turnout at our protest, with supporters traveling from all over the country. Intact America's Executive Director, Georganne Chapin, spoke at our press conference, along with bestselling journalist Jennifer Margulis and Intaction.org founder Anthony Losquadro. So many familiar faces joined our ranks, including Marilyn Milos, Dan Bollinger, the Barefoot Intactivist, James Loewen, Chris Maurer, and Adam Zeldis. We were also delighted to meet dozens of new faces, including a young family who drove all the way from North Carolina with their five children, one of whom suffered from a botched circumcision—which led to his parents' dedicated support of the intactivist movement.
An update from Georganne Chapin
Our protest, signs, and mobile billboard were seen by thousands of people, which sparked lots of questions and interest. Intactivists walking through the French Quarter with signs had dozens of conversations with doctors and other passers-by. We met a number of doctors who said they had been thinking about circumcision, and were uncomfortable with what they are doing—which was a GREAT START to a conversation, and exactly what we hope for with demonstrations like this!
We knew we were making an impact from the moment we arrived. When a member of the hotel's staff brought our banners and T-shirts up to my room, he asked what it was all about. Not only did we explain to him the importance of intactivist—we converted him, and gave him our first two T-shirts!
During the protest on Saturday, a pickup truck full of guys who turned out to be obstetricians was parked near our protest. As Dan Bollinger and Marilyn Milos walked by, one of them yelled out, "I peed better after I was circumcised!"—which started another great conversation, as you can see in their stories below. After encounters like this die down, everybody goes on his or her way. BUT the arguers go away thinking about it, and I can guarantee you, they don't forget. Once a mind has been opened to thinking about why we practice this mindless custom, it can't just clamp shut, ever again.
Thanks again to everyone who helped make our presence in New Orleans possible, from our postcards and newspaper ads to the amazingly powerful mobile billboard. Together we really are changing the way America thinks about circumcision!
An update from Marilyn Milos
When we first met Roger—our mobile billboard truck driver—the morning he arrived in New Orleans, I asked how he was doing with the reactions to our signs [since he had to drive down from Atlanta]. He told me the negative ones didn't bother him but he appreciated the positive comments and thumbs up! When I told him that we were doing this work to protect baby boys until they were old enough to protect themselves and make important decisions about their own bodies, he got it immediately. I told him I wished everyone did, because I've been doing this work for 34 years!
On the first day, Georganne and I went to stand in front of the Hilton. Others joined us there. One woman said, "I want to take a photo of your freak show," from her automobile as they waited at a stop light. I said, "We're not the freaks. We don't strap babies down and cut a normal part of their penis! We're here to protect babies and inform the public." All the photos that were taken of us will be shown to others. Imagine the impact these outreaches have! And, it's not surprising to have people scoff at us the first time around. As Gandhi taught us, "The acceptance of a new truth goes through stages: first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win!"
Then, too, there was the taxi driver on the way to the airport. I asked if he'd like to know why we were in New Orleans. At the end of our conversation, which was when he dropped Georganne and me off at the terminal, he told us that it was a pleasure to speak to people who had a message that made perfect sense. Can't ask for more than that!
Everywhere I went, I told people why we were there and what we're doing, just like I told Roger. That's my M.O. In order to stop circumcision, everyone needs to be informed, so I just talk, talk, talk! I did get into it with a truckload of doctors but Dan might very well want to tell that story...while I talked, he worked the crowd! That was fun!
An update from Adam Zeldis
The highlight of my trip to the ACOG convention actually didn't occur on the battlegrounds outside of the NOLA Convention Center, but rather on the plane ride from NYC to New Orleans. The young, recently-engaged woman seated next to me asked me if I was flying to NOLA to attend Jazzfest. I always seize an opportunity to educate someone— especially when they are stuck with me for the next 3 hours with no option to leave. I learned that she was raised Jewish but didn't practice anymore. We conversed about circumcision, the harm it causes, the hidden trauma that exists, the psychology behind its perpetuation, and my involvement in the movement. She told me she'd thought about it a few times, mainly when friends of hers were having boys. She said some of them chose not to circumcise. This in itself is always nice to hear. But at the end of our circumcision conversation she paid the compliment of all compliments for an intactivst — "Well, you definitely converted me."
The overwhelming feeling at the New Orleans ACOG protests among intactivists was solidarity. However, the general feeling I received from doctors was trepidation. As always, the OB/GYNs tend to scoff, look away, or laugh at our message. They are, after all, the purveyors of the genital cutting that we so desperately want to eradicate. That said, there were a few doctors who were interested in hearing what we had to say. They would approach our area to ask questions or to debate. I appreciate any of these doctors who were willing to speak to us. Just by approaching, it showed a certain open-mindedness that is not common within the medical community at large. What gave me hope was the few doctors who told us they agreed that circumcision was wrong. Surely, there will be many more of these doctors to come in future generations!
An update from Dan Bollinger
Here's what happened with the truckload of doctors. There were about 24 obstetricians. They saw our signs and began making jokes and the like. We began replying light-heartedly. After a few moments, it was just Marilyn and one guy. He was a jerk, just trying to impress his buddies. And, I'm sure he did a lot of circumcisions, too, so was invested in "winning" the argument. As they bantered, I passed out our handout. About a third wanted it. I could tell the OB realized he had taken on more than he could handle with Marilyn and, to me, was prepared to win at all costs, which meant he began insulting Marilyn. So I stood by to prevent that.
As the discussion reached a crescendo, with Marilyn in the lead by recounting all the complications of circumcision, I said, "Marilyn! That's such a downer! Now I need a drink!" Everyone laughed and it broke the pattern. We walked away knowing they'd all been forced by their own hubris to question circumcision. I'm sure they are STILL talking about it, too!
THE ACOG PROTEST PHOTO ALBUM
Dozens of intactivists took photos of the event, including the movement's own documentarian, James Loewen. here are a select few; you can see more in our Facebook album. (You can see more of James's photos here.)
Jennifer Margulis, Georganne Chapin, and Anthony Losquadro (photo by James Loewen)
Marilyn Milos and Jennifer Margulis
Jeff Coswert (photo by James Loewen)
Rachel Reyes and Adam Zeldis
Intact America's ad in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and our informational postcards.
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- Intact America press release about our New Orleans protest
- ACOG's denial of our request to exhibit at its convention
- Intact America Statement of Principles
- About Georganne Chapin, Executive Director, Intact America
- Dr. Robert Van Howe: Sexually Transmitted Infections and Male Circumcision: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
- European Report: Cultural Bias in the AAP's 2012 Technical Report and Policy Statement on Male Circumcision