TESTIMONY OF GEORGANNE CHAPIN, J.D., EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF INTACT AMERICA BEFORE THE MASSACHUSETTS LEGISLATURE’S JOINT COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY CONCERNING SENATE BILL 1777

 MARCH 2, 2010

My name is Georganne Chapin, J.D. and I am the Executive Director of Intact America, an organization formed last year to change how Americans think about neonatal male circumcision. We have a website at www.intactamerica.org to serve as a clearinghouse for information on the ethics, risks and harms of infant circumcision, and the advantages of the normal, intact male body.

This hearing comes at a key time in the growing movement to protect the human rights of baby boys from a medically unnecessary, painful and risky procedure that removes healthy, functioning human tissue. The procedure is unethical at its core. Medical ethics requires benefit to the patient and informed consent before something as invasive as surgery can be justified. Obviously, informed consent is not possible with a newborn baby.

No reputable medical authority – not the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control or the American Medical Association, which calls male circumcision “non-therapeutic” – has ever recommended in favor of the surgery.

The United States is the only western nation that practices medical circumcision on a majority of newborn baby boys. In Europe, circumcision rates are below five percent. Even here, the rate has dropped from nearly 90 percent thirty years ago to around 55 percent today. The increase in baby boys who remain intact is due to a growing awareness among expectant parents that the surgery is unnecessary, and that the foreskin is a natural, healthy functional body part that should not be removed absent some unusual and compelling medical reason.

However, parts of the medical establishment are now considering whether to recommend for the first time in favor of this unnecessary and risky surgery, which – by the way – adds more than a billion dollars a year to physician and hospital revenue and thus to the nation’s health care costs.

These promoters of infant circumcision are basing their consideration on studies conducted among consenting adult African men on the role of circumcision in mitigating HIV transmission. Those African studies showed while female to male transmission decreased with male circumcision, the surgery did nothing to reduce HIV transmission from males to females or between males – still the most prevalent transmission modality in the United States. In fact, the most recent African studies ended early because women contracted HIV at alarmingly higher rates from circumcised men, presumably because the men were not using condoms – the only effective means to prevent HIV transmission.

If there were a link between circumcision and HIV, why does this country have both the highest HIV rates and highest circumcision rates among industrialized countries?

One should no more argue for male circumcision because babies might engage in unsafe behavior decades into the future than one would recommend removing fingernails to prevent them from scratching themselves, removing teeth to prevent dental caries, or removing a healthy appendix because it might one day burst.

Forced female circumcision is properly viewed with revulsion – and in fact is banned – in this country. Soraya Miré, the Somali filmmaker who is a worldwide leader in the fight to end the brutal “cultural” practice of female circumcision, has eloquently stated that the same human right to an intact body should apply to boys.  How can we argue otherwise?

More than 500 of our supporters – including doctors, nurses, parents and men who regret having been circumcised without their consent – have submitted written testimony through the www.intactamerica.org website and we are making those available to you.

Physicians must embrace the fact that their patient is the baby, not the parent, and that their patient cannot consent to circumcision. They must honor the oath they take to heal the sick and do no harm, by saying no to neonatal male circumcision.  As a society, we should do the same.

 

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Additional testimony from Matthew Hess and others can be found here. Here is a photo of Matthew Hess testifying, courtesy of Georganne Chapin: