Most of us in the international movement to banish routine infant circumcision are offended by hospital web sites that show happy babies and information about how efficiently their staffs can take care of that thing called circumcision. Banner Ironwood in San Tan Valley talks of “The Little Things” and “A Little Pampering” and “Circumcision services offered daily by our experienced pediatricians.”  Oh, wow, every day they run the little guys through the penile-reduction room where their bodies are altered for a lifetime.  

I felt compelled to write the Banner Health CEO about all of this:

Mr. Peter Fine, President and CEO, Banner Health Executive Offices, 1441 N. 12th Street, Phoenix AZ   85006

Dear. Mr. Fine:

There comes a time when medical ethics have to trump cultural traditions, a time when human rights for the defenseless supersedes what misinformed parents request.   In your strategic role as president and CEO of major hospitals, Mr. Fine, you are in a place to examine a practice and lead the way to rejecting bad and unjust medical practices and advance humanity’s quests for caring for those with no voice.

 Across this planet, thankfully, sanity is coming to how we treat our newborn males. Routine infant circumcision rates are plummeting as more and more parents come to realize such cosmetic surgery on their male babies cannot be justified and that their God/nature-given bodies are not to be violated by misguided do-gooders in medicine.  If medical centers like yours joined others that have ceased performing circumcisions, we would have a more just and sane world. As the father of an intact son and two intact grandsons, I can categorically say that I take pride in breaking the tyranny of hospitals that perform circumcisions.  Oh, yes, your staffs will say they are only providing what parents ask for and turned-away parents will then go elsewhere.  If Egyptian parents requested you to do female circumcision on their daughter so that she won’t be spurned by her culture or would otherwise lead a wanton, immoral life with all her parts, would you consent to accommodate them?   Yes, we know Congress outlawed female genital mutilation in 1996 and that it goes on underground in the U.S., nonetheless. The travesty is the double standard, the hypocrisy, in this country where minor males can undergo genital cutting while so much as a pin prick to a 10-year-old Muslim girl to meet some modicum of “ceremony” is outlawed. The bottom line is circumcision meets the criteria of de facto sexual assault. It is only legal because of the medicalization of all things related to birth carried out by hospitals and clinics like yours and a wanton ignorance of the foreskin and its functions by doctors.

Interesting, State Senator Judy Burges, R-Sun City, has a bill in the Arizona Senate to stiffen the penalties for female circumcision, including a $25,000 fine, even though federal law already is in place. The irony and injustice is that young males are currently denied the protection from genital cutting. How absurd.

Deny it or not, millions of males in the U.S. resent their circumcisions. They feel violated, betrayed, sexually damaged at a time when they were too vulnerable to do anything but frantically cry, then drop into a semi-comatose protective place to try to recover.  Typically, they don’t breast-feed well after that. They feel betrayed with the first act of violence they confront after birth.   Many circumcisions are poorly done. Too much is cut, leading to painful erections as adults. Others have skin bridges — and always that ugly circumcision scar ring. Their glans is permanently “hung out to dry.” The foreskin protects the glans in the same way the eyelid protects the eyeball.  Some 130 baby boys die each year in the U.S. from circumcisions gone awry.   Fortunately, some fierce lawsuits have been filed against doctors and hospitals.   In 2002, we were successful in Arizona to get AHCCCS to stop paying for circumcisions under Medicaid, saving 12,800 babies a year in the state from the cruel indignity of circumcision.  Nationally, we could save 24 percent of all male babies, born under Medicaid, from such perverse medical practices.

I know medical staff in hospitals, OBGYN clinics and doctor offices shrink from having to participate in circumcisions.  Their instincts tell them it is wrong.  Doctors right there talk out loud how what they are doing is unnecessary.  Back in the 1990s, the nurses at St. Vincent Hospital in Sante Fe, N.M., balked en masse at participating any longer in genital cutting.  These R.N. Conscientious Objectors would inspire the intactivist movement and they formally organized Nurses for the Rights of the Child, empowering their peers elsewhere to tell their institutions that circumcision is wrong.  Cat Saunders, writes on their web site, says, “We recoil in horror at reports of female circumcision in other countries, yet we refuse to see that brutal acts of genital mutilation are committed every day on baby boys in the U.S.”  Tragically, cutting foreskins is a $2 billion business in the U.S. and a terrible waste of health dollars.

There is growing evidence that circumcisions play a key role in the enormous cases of erectile dysfunction in the U.S where circumcision has had its major inroad.  We are 7 percent of the population and 47 percent users of Viagra, Cialis, etc.  The loss of those 20,000 nerve endings goes a long way in diminishing sexual sensitivity as men age.  Viagra is in such demand in Israel where circumcision is so pervasive that Pfizer has just taken the unprecedented decision to sell it over the Internet.   Do you get the picture, Mr. Fine?

Almost 20 years ago, I earned the City of Tempe’s highest community honor,  the Don Carlos Humanitarian Award. It only re-energized me to work for the rights of children, especially those victimized by a medical culture that knows better and can’t seem to stop.

So, Mr. Fine, go listen to those dreadful cries in your circumcision units across your network of hospitals. They aren’t smiling like the babies on the Banner websites that say, “The Little Things” and “A Little Pampering.”   Imagine those baby boys someday wondering why no one spoke up for their wholeness, their completeness, the structures that go with male sexuality. Stop the cutting at your hospitals.  Read the vast literature out there on why the foreskin needs to stay with the infant.  Every human being has a right to self-determination and to be safe and whole.  The most well-meaning parents don’t own their children and cannot ethically order healthy, functioning parts to be cut off for such shallow, thoughtless reasons like looking like their father or locker-room comments or someone’s preference for genital carving.    It is said that “civilization is just a slow process of learning to be kind.”

Routine infant circumcision is cosmetic surgery, Mr. Fine.  And we don’t practice that on minors. Be a leader for human rights and child protection, Mr. Fine. Parents are hopelessly and woefully ignorant in this area because we talk to them. Most would abstain from it if they only knew better.

How about your hospitals laying down the knife and letting baby boys go home with all their parts so that one day they don’t resent the place where they were born, the circumcisers who violated their bodies and the administrators in positions like yours who allowed it all to happen.  As Horace Mann boldly said, “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.”

Mr. Fine, you and your boards and staffs can help make our world a better place.  Baby boys deserve all they came with into this world.  Help make it happen. Shut down you cutting units.  Send all your boys home happy and whole.  Let’s join Europe, Asia, South America and other parts of an enlightened world and put circumcision on the dung heap of history’s misguided medical practices where it belongs.

Make Banner Health a leader in medically ethical treatment of our next generations of males. They deserve wholeness and a medical industry that respects that.


 Lawn Griffiths