Current Weather
The Spy FM

San Franciscans To Vote On Banning Circumcision

Filed by KOSU News in US News.
June 9, 2011

San Francisco voters could approve the first U.S. ban on male circumcision this fall. The measure would make circumcising a male minor a misdemeanor.

If the bill is enacted, anybody caught circumcising a boy could face a $1,000 fine or a year in jail.

The bill includes an exemption for cases of medical necessity — but not for religion. For that reason alone, 1st Amendment attorney Martin Nussbaum doesn’t believe the ban could hold up in court.

Nussbaum says a court would have to balance the interest of the state in protecting the individual with the free exercise of religion.

“The court would assess whether the government’s interest is compelling, and by that I mean of the highest order,” he says, “and it’s almost unthinkable banning it would be a government interest of the highest order.”

Ned and Sara Buskirk had a baby boy eight weeks ago.

“He was born here at home,” Sara says, “right over there on the rug.”

There were no complications with Shay’s birth, and no circumcision.

His father says, “For me, it came down to … is there enough information pointing to me needing to physically hurt…”

“Mutilate,” interjects Shay’s mother.

“Mutilate my child,” Buskirk continues. “Is that something I need to do?”

The Buskirks don’t want to make the choice for other families, but Lloyd Schofield does. He represents a loose coalition of people who call themselves “intactivists.”

It’s not necessary to do,” Schofield says, “and if someone wants to have themselves circumcized after they’re 18, that’s their choice to make for whatever reasons.”

The San Francisco bill was written by a San Diego man, Matthew Hess, who’s been pushing for a national ban for a decade. The success of the measure so far has focused a spotlight on his comic book series, “Foreskin Man,” which depicts evil doctors and “Monster Mohel,” an Orthodox Jewish circumciser.

Hess declined a request for an interview, but he’s defended his work on Twitter: “Those who cut innocent children will be drawn like the villains that they are.”

Rabbi Joshua Strulowitz of Congregation Adath Israel says circumcision is central to the Jewish faith. He says, as a Jew and as a San Franciscan, he finds the measure dangerous.

“It threatens a liberal society, it’s so dictatorial, it’s so over the top,” says Strulowitz. “Limiting choice like this would be damaging to the very values that San Francisco wants to represent.”

Some public health advocates have also expressed concern. Studies conducted in Africa indicate circumcision can lessen the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, particularly HIV/AIDS. So far, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has yet to issue formal guidance on the practice.

University of California, San Francisco, pediatrics professor Carol Ann Miller says she doesn’t have a definitive answer.

“The data that we have available from science really is not compelling enough to strongly recommend for or against circumcision,” she says. “There are certainly benefits that have been demonstrated, and there are risks, although the risks are minimal.”

Intactivists were pushing for a circumcision ban in Santa Monica, but withdrew the bid after the controversy erupted around the San Francisco measure. [Copyright 2011 KQED Public Broadcasting]

Leave a Reply

11PM to 5AM The Spy

The Spy

An eclectic mix of the Spy's library of more than 10,000 songs curated by Ferris O'Brien.

Listen Live Now!

5AM to 6AM The Splendid Table

The Splendid Table

Hosted by award-winning Lynne Rossetto Kasper, The Splendid Table is a culinary, culture and lifestyle program that celebrates food and its ability to touch the lives and feed the souls of everyone.

View the program guide!

6AM to 7AM Travel with Rick Steves

Travel with Rick Steves

"Travel with Rick Steves" is a fun, hour-long, and practical talk show with guest experts and calls and questions from travelers. This weekly program is a lively conversation between travelers and the experts as we learn to explore our world smartly, smoothly, and thoughtfully.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center