Look at These Hands

By Mary Conant, R.N., Statement to the press May 25, 1994, Third International Symposium on Circumcision, University of Maryland

Look at these hands.

These hands have taken a newborn baby from his mother’s safe warm breast and his father’s sheltering arms, and these hands have tied this baby to a cold hard platter and served him up to the circumciser.

These hands have readied the scalpel, even as they caressed the brow of the terrified baby as he struggles for freedom and searches my eyes for compassion he will not find.

A tortured being has sucked frantically on this finger in a hopeless effort to end the agony as his flesh – his birthright – is ripped from him and thrown in the garbage.

These hands are meant to comfort

These hands are meant to comfort

These hands have removed the diaper painfully adhered to the feces-covered wound between his chubby legs.

These hands have shielded my ears from his screams.

Nurses of America, I did not become a nurse to hurt babies, and neither did you.

In 1992, with over 20 other nurses at St. Vincent Hospital in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I gave notice to my employers and declared I would no longer be an accomplice in the atrocity that is infant circumcision.

I have reclaimed my tattered soul and begun the process of becoming whole again.

I am a conscientious objector in the war against our infant brothers and sons and it feels wonderful.

Nurses of America, wipe the blood from your hands and join me!

Mary Conant is a co-founder of Nurses for the Rights of the Child. She is one of the original 24 Conscientious Objectors to Circumcision nurses at St. Vincent Hospital, Santa Fe, New Mexico. She also appears on Barry Ellsworth’s video documentary The Nurses of St. Vincent: Saying No to Circumcision.


This message can be taken up by midwives, doulas, nurses and all others who turn a blind eye to this barbaric practise.  We can take Mary’s courage as our own and speak up loud and strong for the babies.  The more you know about male genital mutilation, the worse it gets.  Gloria

9 thoughts on “Look at These Hands

  1. Gloria… this totally made me want to throw up. As someone whose husband immediately declared that his sons would be cut “over his dead body”, I’ve never had to face this. But I know women who have. And they never forgive themselves. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be a professional and have so many more mutilations to answer for. And she said that in ’94! You’d think we wouldn’t be facing this any longer, with such statements of strength.

  2. Thank you for that – while I found it upsetting to read, I am so glad to know that there are people out there trying to make a difference. There is no way my partner or I would contemplate circumcision, but the thought of all those poor little men being hurt every day…

  3. While I was never at all motivated to circumcise any male child I might have, here’s what tipped it for me: In Mexican culture, it’s traditional for baby girls to get their ears pierced very shortly after birth, and this was the case for my mom. While she always loved having earrings growing up, she just thought it was wrong to do something painful like that to an infant who didn’t have the choice. So she broke that tradition when she had me. She thought, if I *wanted* my ears pierced, she’d let me get them if and only if I *asked* for them. When I was 6, I asked. She said – ok, but explained VERY clearly the pain etc involved, and had me wait until I turned 7 so it wasn’t an impulse decision.
    So when I was preggo with ds, I figured, what’s any different about circumcision? If ds grew and *asked* about it, we could give him the straight up pros and cons etc, then – and only then – would we pay for him to have it done if he so desired. His body, his choice. And although I’m sure the process is *cheaper* to do on an infant v. an older child/adult, maybe there are people that can at least be swayed to WAIT several years before making the decision to circumcise – recognizing that once they wait year after year and none of the dire consequences happen, they’ll see that it was never necessary to begin with. (Just another approach to take for those parents who are otherwise just *too* stuck on things like the “I want him to look like his father/schoolmates” thing and may get turned off by the stronger arguments against it. Again – NOT the case with me, but just recognizing that some people get turned off by strong arguments etc. and “why don’t you just wait” can possibly be more appealing in those circumstances.)

    • “Let’s wait” is exactly what I had to tell my husband, he was completely against leaving him intact because, “Girls don’t like that.” and he firmly believed that his baby boy wouldn’t remember the pain when he grew up. Thankfully, he agreed to wait and now he’s come around to the other side and doesn’t think it’s a necessity (he’s even convinced other men that they shouldn’t do it their sons!).

      • That my husband has had part of his penis cut from him as a tiny baby makes me feel sick and it took me a long time to get over what his parents did to him so cruelly. He is vocal about waiting – for ear piercing, anything, it’s the child’s body to choose not us. And certainly not for such a reason as someone else might not like it. Their body!

  4. As the mother of three sons I’m so glad I never went and gave them that unnecessary procedure.I still have the fond memory of the pediatrician coming in to go over the well baby check with #1 and asking me about it.His response to my vehement no was to thank me.I had family members question me about it.I have had disagreements with them about it.Ultimately it came down to the fact that it was my child my choice.

  5. Treva – I’m so happy your son is intact – however, I believe the “my child my choice” is a huge reason babies are cut.

    HIS body. HIS choice!

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