October 23, 2012
Anti-circumcision activists confront pediatricians
By John Pope| Religion News Service [Religion?]
Intactivists demonstrate that circumcising babies harms the men they become,
opposite the AAP convention
Picture: James Loewen
NEW ORLEANS — Pediatricians gathered here for the American Academy of
Pediatrics convention were greeted by protesters urging the medical
group to rethink its position on an issue that makes most people squirm:
the circumcision of newborn boys.
And although the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend
routine removal of infants’ foreskins — that has been its stance since
1999 — its report, released two months ago, does cite literature saying
that the procedure can prevent [some]
urinary-tract infections, cancer of the penis and sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS.
Such benefits, the report says, justify its coverage by private
insurance and Medicaid. But opponents, who call themselves
“intactivists,” go beyond mere opposition to the circumcision of healthy
“We say that it’s a human-rights violation to tie down a baby and cut
off part of his penis,” said Georganne Chapin, the founding executive
director of Intact America, which held a press conference and rally
outside the convention on Saturday (Oct. 20).
The AAP convention continues through Tuesday.
Moreover, she said, “There are absolutely no data suggesting that
areas with high circumcision rates have healthier boys or areas with low
circumcision rates have less healthy boys.”
Data suggest a decline in the percentage of American newborns undergoing the procedure.
Anthony Losquadro of Brooklyn, N.Y., who
spoke at Saturday’s rally at the convention center, said it represents a
shift in public opinion.
“Like any change in culture, it takes time,” he said, “but I think
people realize that babies are born intact and you don’t need to correct
a perfectly functional body part with surgery.”
The authors did not take a position on whether newborns should be circumcised. [Everything but...]
They also took pains to point out that the data they used didn’t
include circumcisions performed outside hospitals, such as those
required for boys born into Jewish and Muslim families.
But the reason for the procedure doesn’t matter, said Chapin, whose
organization opposes all medically unnecessary circumcisions.
“Our organization is not going after Jews and Muslims,” she said. “We’re saying that all babies are entitled to protection.”
Among the speakers at Saturday’s protest were men who were
circumcised days after they were born and still profess to be upset by
it, even though the procedure occurred decades ago. [Way to dismiss their human rights! Have their foreskins grown back?]
“I do feel a sense that my rights were violated on my second day of life,” Losquadro said.
The foreskin has a role, he said, because it covers the tip of the
penis — he likened this role to that of an eyelid — and because it has
cells that alert the immune system to potential trouble.
“It evolved for a reason,” he said, “and it’s foolish for doctors to assume that it’s an unneeded flap of skin."
Saturday, the second day of our protest, two AAP officials convened
with police and security guards in front of the convention center. A
couple of Intactivists were able to overhear some of the conversation.
They asked the police if we could not be forced to leave the area. The
police told them no, that we were marching on public property, and that
we were breaking no laws.
I actually went up to the man, extended my hand, and introduced
myself as Georgnne Chapin, executive director of Intact America. He
refused to shake my hand and said, "So what?"
I said I just wanted to introduce myself and I would like to know his
name. He said, "I don't agree with anything you do or say," turned on
his heel, and walked away.
We had the equivalent of an outdoor, public booth across from the
Center; it was a streetcorner, next to an outdoor parking lot, which was
next to a Marriott Hotel. On Friday, we had received permission from
the lot owner to hang our "I Did Not Consent" banner, and other signs on
the chain link fence.
Picture: Intact Lousiana
Around an hour after the AAP officials' unsuccessful attempt to get
rid of us, the valet from the Marriott came and told us that the owner
of the parking lot said we were trespassing and had to take the banner
and signs down.
Dan Bollinger asked to speak with the owner who "didn't have time" to
talk with us, but asked the valet if he could give us the guy's number.
Dan called him (turns out it was the manager, not the owner), and had a
very pleasant conversation, which ended in him agreeing to extend the
permission for us to have the signs up for two more days. (We paid him a
We are certain that the AAP also had complained to the Marriott,
which is what sparked them to contact the parking lot manager (who
clearly felt he didn't owe the AAP anything). Very nice. All of that
said, we had some good conversations, and I felt that by being on the
street rather than in the convention exhibit hall, we were free to say
all the things we believe.