California Governor Jerry Brown announced last weekend that he signed a bill preventing the banning of male circumcision in his state. The bill, which took effect immediately, comes as a direct response to an effort by San Francisco anti-circumcision activists, or “intactivists” as they call themselves, to ban circumcision on the premise that it is cruel and is the equivalent of female genital mutilation (which is illegal in the United States).
San Francisco’s intactivists aimed to enforce a city-wide ban of circumcision through a vote on the November 2011 ballot. If voters agreed, circumcising a boy before the age of 18 would have become a misdemeanor crime, significantly impacting the Jewish and Muslim populations of California who view circumcision as a religious rite. Before it could get on the ballot, however, a Superior Court judge struck the initiative, citing state law concerning medical procedures. A similar anti-circumcision push in Santa Monica fell apart in June of this year after a group of campaigners utilized anti-Semitic propaganda to support their cause.
The fight isn’t over, however. Eighteen states have cut Medicaid coverage for the procedure, which authors of a recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association say can increase the risk of infection. In the October 5th issue, doctors emphasized recent research that suggests circumcision has long-term benefits and reduces the risk of sexually transmitted diseases.
When it comes down to it, a ban on circumcision would undermine parental rights and trample religious freedoms, and may even have detrimental effects on the general public health. And while the war against the self-proclaimed intactivists isn’t over yet, in California the campaigners have lost the battle — for the benefit of all.