INTACTIVIST OF THE MONTH: Mothers of the Movement
One of Intact America's greatest strengths is the diverse and supportive intactivist community. Our "Intactivist of the Month" series highlights some of the most ardent opponents of infant and childhood circumcision, whose tireless efforts will ensure a future where all babies are kept intact.
MAY 2014: This month we're proud to publish a special Mother's Day edition of the Intactivist of the Month series, because so many of our supporters—birth mothers, adoptive mothers, aunts, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, and friends—give so much of their time and devotion to protecting baby boys from genital mutilation.
From mothers who fight tooth and nail with insistent doctors and nurses, to mothers who, after allowing their son to be circumcised, later came to regret it, and then decided to speak out to prevent other moms from making the same mistake—we thank and applaud all of you!
For many mothers, the journey to intactivism comes with the birth of their first child. For others, it becomes a thorn in one’s sense of justice. When Georganne Chapin, founder and executive director of Intact America, had her son, it never occurred to her to have him circumcised. Intact was normal.
Over the years, she thought more and more about the problem. “I just couldn’t understand the rationale behind chopping off perfectly healthy body parts right after a baby’s born,” she says. But it wasn’t until she began attending law school in 1999 that she began to become truly outraged – seeing circumcision as a mindless infliction of distress on a newborn, as well as a blatant violation of that child’s basic rights. She began writing about circumcision, and sought out other like-minded people, including John Geisheker and Dr. George Denniston from Doctors Opposing Circumcision, Steven Svoboda from Attorneys for the Rights of the Child, Amber Craig who was working on Medicaid defunding of infant circumcision, and—of course—Marilyn Milos, the “mother” of intactivism. Georganne took up the cause of saving babies, and has made it her life’s work ever since.
THE POWER OF REGRET
Marilyn Milos is a registered nurse who started a revolution in California’s Marin County nearly four decades ago. Marilyn had three sons, all of whom had been circumcised at birth. It took witnessing an actual circumcision procedure during her nurse’s training—when the doctor admitted there was no medical reason for what he was doing—for Marilyn to become horrifyingly aware what this supposedly “minor procedure” really was. A few short years later, Marilyn founded the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers (NOCIRC), and thanks to her vision, passion, dedication and leadership, thousands of people across the country have, over the years, found the courage to stand up for the rights of newborn children.
Marilyn braved ridicule, even got fired for her job for speaking out on the issue of boys’ rights—but because of her, countless babies have been spared the knife. And in 2009, Marilyn joined forces with Georganne and others, and helped establish Intact America.
IT TAKES COURAGE TO BE AN INTACTIVIST
Protesting on street corners, engaging in debates on Facebook—it gets very, very intense. People on both sides of the issue get very upset; there are those who can’t understand why we make “such a big deal” out of the issue, and intactivists get frustrated when others are so blinded by culture and tradition, they can’t see the truth. But when a mother—like Annie Wendt, pictured above with Georganne Chapin and Marilyn Milos outside Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati last fall—stands out in the rain with her baby on her chest, holding a sign that says “CIRCUMCISION HURTS BABIES, PLEASE DON’T HURT BABIES,” you can’t look away. Thanks to her courage, people are forced to think about those words: circumcision + baby = hurt and harm.
“I am so grateful for all of the mothers out there who’ve joined the ranks of intactivists,” says Georganne. “Just a decade ago, there were relatively few of us who were visible. Now there are more people than I can count, many of them mothers who’ve regretted their decisions and helped us fight to protect the babies of the future. It’s so gratifying to see us all come together and change the world, one baby at a time!”
Visit our Intactivist of the Month Archive page to read about previous intactivists we've highlighted.