INTACTIVIST OF THE MONTH: Petrina Fadel

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.

JANUARY 2013: To be an intactivist is to be dedicated to protecting infants from the harm and trauma of circumcision. For some, this is a full-time, lifelong passion. Petrina Fadel—mother of four and grandmother of six, all intact—is a staunch defender of babies’ rights, a behind-the-scenes power in the movement, devoting her life to educating parents, doctors, hospital personnel and others.

Petrina’s life was forever changed in 1982, while in the hospital for the delivery of her third daughter. Walking down the hall, she heard the gut-wrenching screams of a baby; she overheard someone say he was getting circumcised. The sound made her feel sick. “This was not the way a baby should be welcomed into the world,” she explains. “This was not the way to love a child. This baby was being tortured and his human rights violated, and I determined then and there that I would do everything within my power to try to stop circumcisions wherever I could. This became my goal and my purpose, and I went home driven by a power I could not explain, a power that consumed me.”

And so her journey began. Over the course of several years she wrote letters—thousands upon thousands of letters—to local newspapers around the country, and then to every Catholic church. She sent letters to hundreds of Christian newspapers, college newspapers, physicians, childbirth instructors, and medical organizations, work she continues doing today. Petrina has also become other intactivists’ go-to resource for news articles, citations, media contact information, and the latest information for the movement.

Her research has proven extremely effective; by finding the contact information for childbirth professionals throughout the U.S. and Canada, she enabled fellow intactivist Dan Bollinger to contact midwives, doulas, and childbirth educators to offer them free educational DVDs for use in their classes and with their clients. “Thousands of people requested the DVD,” she says. “That was one of the most satisfying projects I've been a part of.”

In addition to her loving family, Petrina draws strength and inspiration from her Roman Catholic faith. “As a lay Catholic, one of my goals today is to get U.S. Catholic hospitals to stop performing non-therapeutic infant circumcisions.” While reading the Catholic Catechism several years ago, a sentence under “Respect for bodily integrity” helped her focus her efforts. “This sentence reads, ‘Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law.’ These words confirmed for me what I already knew in my heart—that stopping infant circumcisions at U.S. Catholic hospitals is the morally right thing to do.”

Petrina has since established CatholicsAgainstCircumcision.org, a website dedicated to educating Catholics and others about Catholic teaching on circumcision and the current medical view; ending circumcision in Catholics hospitals; and providing support to health care workers who choose not to perform or assist in circumcisions.

Petrina’s steadfast devotion and support is invaluable to what we do here at Intact America, and we’re grateful for her never-ending dedication. “Intact America has grown into a powerful movement today,” she says, “working for the human rights of all baby boys. This inspires those of us who, in the beginning, were just individual voices ‘crying out in the wilderness.’ [John 1:23]”

“Diversity within the intactivist movement is one of its greatest strengths,” says Georganne Chapin, Executive Director of Intact America. “Petrina Fadel is a unique and wonderful resource for all of us—a fount of information, inspiration and ideas. The force of Petrina’s religious faith is matched by her knowledge of the medical system and her practical and straightforward thinking on circumcision as a simple human rights issue. We are much the richer for having Petrina among us.”

Visit our Intactivist of the Month Archive page to read about previous intactivists we've highlighted.