Encouraging birth workers to speak up for boys

Sarah wrote to a birth email list: Just a question to everyone. What is your position on circumcision? Do you try to talk your clients out of it? If you feel strongly against it, would you make it a condition of your practice not to take on clients who plan to do it?

Hi Sarah, I speak to EVERYONE about ending circumcision. The only people who cut the genitals of infant boys are those who do not have all the facts. It’s a matter of education. It’s also a human rights issue. The question to ask clients is: “Do you plan to leave a boy intact?” If the clients say “Yes, I want my son kept intact”, it’s important to give them information about not EVER retracting the foreskin. The boy should be the only one doing that. There’s a very good information pamphlet at http://www.circumstitions.com/Itsaboy.html If the parents say “Yes, I plan to cut my son’s genitals”, it’s important to find out what their reasoning is. You can then direct them to this video which explains the role and function of the foreskin: http://www.doctorsopposingcircumcision.org/video/prepuce.html

There are websites for Jewish and Muslim parents to support them in keeping their son intact and more and more religious families are abolishing this cruel and archaic practice. I have an email list called prepuceprotectinprofessionals@yahoogroups.com if anyone wants to join a support list for professionals where we share resources to protect baby boys. Gloria Lemay, www.glorialemay.com/blog

Sarah wrote in reply: I’m new to being a doula and this is the one thing I’m most nervous about–when I get a client, and I can’t change their mind what do I do?

Gloria wrote: I had a hard time when I started out doing childbirth work especially when people were religious. It was a matter of getting informed and more confident as I went along. I learned a lot from being on the forums at www.mothering.com Have you checked out their discussions at “The Case Against Circumcision”–the men and women there were really great at educating me and now I have no hesitation even going toe to toe with Jewish grandmothers–the most formidable of all! There are two expressions that come up there a lot: 1. Circumcision, the more you know, the worse it gets. 2. (When women say they’ll let their cut husband make the decision) YOU are the only one in the family with intact genitals so it’s YOU who should decide. Thanks for caring enough to be scared. We have a lot of work to do to turn the tide on male genital mutilation and each and every birth worker makes a difference.

Sarah wrote: I’m so glad to hear that. I guess what I’ll do is just take everybody, and try to show them the light every step of the way. If they don’t like it, they can find another doula 🙂 that way, I’ll know I tried.. . . .it seems like such a cop-out to turn a client away, right?

Gloria wrote: that’s right, you never know what will change someone’s mind. I like to tell the resistant ones “If you’re going to do that, you’ll have to drive over my body which will be in front of your car tires as you leave the house.” I don’t make bad friends with people if they do it. I just had clients who cut their first two sons against my strong objections and kept their third son intact. I think that third boy would have been cut, too, if I wasn’t in their lives.

Sarah wrote: Thank you so much! it’s been so hard to get a straight answer out of other midwives and doulas I know. Most of the responses are along the lines of, “present the info, let the parents decide”, etc. and I know I couldn’t do that–be “unattached” that is. That’s wonderful about the 3rd boy. I think that’s the kind of story I needed to hear–that it’s better to keep trying, because you never know what will sway someone or at what point. I’m HONORED you want to use our conversation on your blog as an example! I hope it will help others like me who need encouragement.

4 thoughts on “Encouraging birth workers to speak up for boys

  1. The reason circumcision persists in America is inertia, pure and simple. It’s a fad that has become a habit.

    There is no valid reason that Americans circumcise. It started about 1873 as a punishment for being caught masturbating. I suspect that parents of that era realized that it was a pretty severe reaction and resisted so the medical profession being fleet of foot changed their practice to circumcising infants as parents are not yet bonded to their child. Accompaning this change was the lie that these infants did not experience pain along with the procedure. This lie made it palatable to the parents.

    But apparently, this was not enough and the medical profession made up a long list of specious benefits of circumcision. Those benefits simply do not exist.

    As the circumcision rate climbed during the first half of the 20th century, the medical profession changed once again and started saying that if the father is circumcised, the child should also be circumcised. The implication was that the child would suffer irreparable emotional or psychological harm if he discovered his genitals were slightly different than the fathers. There has never been a study to qualify or quantify this.

    The medical profession also started saying the child would suffer if he saw other boys in the locker room that were circumcised when he was not. Again, there is no scientific evidence for this claim.

    There is also the old claim that uncircumcised (intact) boys have infections that circumcision could have prevented. What most people do not understand is that there are no exclusively male or female infections. The infections that boys get are the exact same pathogens that girls get and they are easily treated with the exact same medications. The only difference is that girls get these infections at a far higher rate than boys. So why aren’t we circumcising girls to prevent these infections?

    There is also the lie that circumcision doesn’t make any difference. The foreskin contains the same type of nerves and receptors as the lips and is far more inervated than what remains after circumcision and is similarly sensitve as the lips. These nerves play an important role in sexuality. No, circumcision does not end the sexuality of the man but the original reasoning for it was to reduce the sexuality to an “acceptable” level. Does a man have a right to all of his sexuality? I think so!

    I have had parents ask “If there wasn’t some good reason, wouldn’t doctors stop doing it?” There are some reasons doctors still circumcise babies. First, doctors are susceptible to the same false assumptions and myths as is the general public. There is also the profit motive. A busy OB/GYN can make as much as $75,000.00 per year from circumcisions alone. Only a small percentage of the populace makes this much money for working a full time job!

    A telling study was conducted in Hawaii in the early 1980’s. In a military hospital there (conducted in a military hospital to insure 100% participation) expectant parents were given the full truth about circumcison from a script. Immediately after the study begain, the circumcision rate dropped from more than 80% to less than 20%. Even after the study ended, the circumcision rate remained low for more than a year until the doctors involved rotated out and the parents rotated out. This tells us that parents are receptive to the message and are concerned about what is best for their child.

    Unfortunately, not every parent is receptive to the information but the vast majority are. Currently, the circumcision rate in the US has dropped from more than 90% in the early 1990’s to about 55% now. Circumcision is a hot topic on internet discussion sites and most parents are aware of the discussion and are receptive to information. This lower rate makes it more acceptable to not cut a child these days.


  2. I would have had my sons circumcised because my dad and 3 brothers were. My husband however had a mother that did not allow him to be cut because a neighbor’s son had been effectively mutilated by the procedure. Hubby was adamant that the boys remain intact for a variety of reasons including sensation. I really didn’t know much about the procedure until recently and I am glad that they are whole. They would have been mutilated because of pop culture and my ignorance.

  3. Gloria, you have turned me into an intactivist. I just spent an hour finding anti-circ links for friends on Facebook who asked specific questions after I re-posted a news article you shared with us yesterday about Swedish doctors calling circumcision assault. Thank you for putting the info out there for us!

  4. That is wonderful, Amity. Each person makes a big difference in this movement. Mothers of boys must have their voices heard. Here’s a bunch of good weblinks:

    National Organizations for the Human Rights of Children:




    Nurses for the Rights of the Child * http://www.cirp.org/nrc/ Attorneys for the Rights of the Child * http://www.arclaw.org/ Circumcision Resource Center * Jewish Issues * http://www.circumcision.org/ Students for Genital Integrity * http://www.studentsforgenitalintegrity.org/

    Halt Abuse and Routine Mutilation of Males * http://www.noharmm.org/ Mothers Against Circumcision * http://www.mothersagainstcirc.org/ In Memory of the Sexually Mutilated Child * http://www.sexuallymutilatedchild.org/ Ashley Montagu Resolution
    * Nobel laureates * http://www.MontaguNOCIRCpetition.org/ National Organization of Restoring Men * foreskin restoration * http://www.norm.org

    The 16 states without Medicaid coverage for male circumcision are California, Oregon, North Dakota, Mississippi, Nevada, Washington, Missouri, Arizona, North Carolina, Montana, Utah, Florida, Maine, Louisiana, Idaho and Minnesota. Source: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/137091.php

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