Intact America’s Statement in Response to the Release of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Policy Statement - Ritual Genital Cutting of Female Minors

Issued May 6, 2010

Intact America, an organization that envisions a world where children are protected from permanent bodily alteration inflicted on them without their consent, irrespective of cultural, religious, or parental preferences, is outraged by the recent “Policy Statement—Ritual Genital Cutting of Female Minors”[1] issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics on April 26, 2010.  In this Statement, the Academy calls for changes in a Federal law banning all forms of female genital cutting (FGC; also known as female genital mutilation or FGM).  Intact America holds that this new policy from the Academy is a profound affront to 30 years of progress in the global fight to end FGM, waged by scores of international organizations on behalf of millions who oppose this practice for being a gross violation of human rights.

In its Statement, the Academy recommends that pediatricians be allowed to offer families a “ritual nick” procedure as a way of “remaining sensitive to the cultural and religious reasons that motivate parents to seek this procedure for their daughters” – despite the fact that FGM is expressly prohibited by a Federal law stating, specifically, that the outright ban on this procedure exists without any accommodation to “custom or ritual.” The Academy’s new position, formulated by its Committee on Bioethics and published in the May 2010 issue of the journal Pediatrics, places the Academy in the ethically questionable position of recommending a medically unnecessary surgical procedure that is not only illegal in all 50 states, but one that its members could collect fees for performing.

Intact America maintains that any alteration or cutting performed on the normal, healthy genitalia of minors is an unethical act that ignores the well-established right of all individuals – male, female, or transgender – to bodily integrity. Intact America also believes that the Academy was motivated to weaken its previous unequivocal opposition to FGM (July 1998)[2] precisely because of the blatant double standard it applies in its acceptance of infant male circumcision as a legitimate surgical intervention. (The new AAP Policy tacitly acknowledges this double standard in stating, "Some forms of FGC are less extensive than the newborn male circumcision commonly performed in the West.")

In its April 26 Statement, the Academy further claims that its policy concession to permit FGC procedures in the United States is a way to potentially forestall what it sees as the more dire consequence of outright prohibition – that is, encouraging families to send their daughters outside the U.S., where they would be subjected to “disfiguring and life-threatening procedures in their native [sic] countries.”  However, in the same breath, the Academy cites evidence that in Scandinavia, strict prohibition of FGM, accompanied by the attendant risk of custodial loss of one’s children, has been effective in leading to the “abandonment of this tradition among Somali immigrants.”

Intact America finds the timing of the Academy’s new position advocating for legalization of some forms of female genital cutting to be particularly bizarre, given that it was released on the same date – April 26, 2010 – as the introduction of bipartisan Federal legislation that would make it illegal to transport a minor girl living in the United States outside the country for the purpose of FGM.  One may only assume that the Congressional Representatives who crafted the proposed law, known as The Girls Protection Act (H.R. 5137), believed they were building on the human rights position that any forced female genital modification of girls born or living in the United States should continue to be outlawed.

The Academy’s previous unequivocal opposition to FGM was expressed in terms that were in keeping with the positions of the World Health Organization and the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, which view FGM as “medically unnecessary” – and with the anti-FGM movement overall, which views it as a form of gender-based violence.

Along with its primary effort to protect baby boys from an unfortunate and mounting trend in the U.S. medical community to justify routine infant male circumcision, Intact America supports the world-wide movement to protect the genital integrity and autonomy of all children.

Intact America demands that the American Academy of Pediatrics revoke its current Statement, issued irresponsibly and in extremely poor judgment, given the dangerous implications of medicalizing a suite of unethical procedures that violate the universal basic human rights of infants and children.

 

Georganne Chapin
Executive Director, Intact America

TAKE ACTION: Tell the AAP not to cut infant girls, and demand that they retract their statement immediately.

PRESS RELEASE: Intact America Blasts the American Academy of Pediatrics' Call to Weaken U.S. Ban on All Forms of Female Genital Cutting as Outrageous and Unethical

POSTSCRIPT: Read here, AAP Executive Director Dr. Errol Alden’s official email response to the thousands of emails the AAP has received demanding a retraction of the new statement, as well as Georganne Chapin’s official email response to his email.

 


[1] American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Bioethics, April 26, 2010.  Also published in Pediatrics vol. 125, Number 5, May 2010. See http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/reprint/pediatrics;125/5/1088.pdf

[2] American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Bioethics, July 1998. Also published in Pediatrics vol. 102, Number 1, July 1998.  See http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics;102/1/153