Making circumcision illegal officially going to citywide vote
By Jeffrey Jolson
SAN FRANCISCO (Hollywood Today) 5/28/11 – The City by the Bay is about to become perhaps the nation’s most analyzed and controversial city, well, since SF opened its altars to gay marriage, a short-lived nuptial due mainly to higher courts and the state.
This is because the city has opened voting for the circumcision ban on the November ballot.
Anti-snip proponent Lloyd Schofield gathered the 12,000 signatures to put the measure on the city ballot.
“The foreskin is there for a reason,” said Schofield, who is retired from a career in the hotel industry. “It’s not a birth defect. It serves an important function in a man’s life, and nobody has a right to perform unnecessary surgery on another human being.”
But it is an uphill battle for the foreskin, or more precisely the right for others to circumcise. Anyone caught performing the procedure like doctors or mohels (Jewish circumcisers) would be liable for a year in jail and $1,000 fine if it passes.
Circumcision, performed on 8-day-old males, is an important ritual in the Jewish — and Muslim — faiths. Marc Stern, associate general counsel for legal advocacy at the American Jewish Committee, said the Jewish community is “clearly appalled” by the proposed ban.
“This is the most direct assault on Jewish religious practice in the United States,” said Stern. “It’s unprecedented in American Jewish life.”
First of all, it is unlikely SF would actually vote in the ban. And then it needs to pass state and even constitutional muster.
Yet all this keeps Schofeld in the news, where he seems to like it, and he might just love going before the Supreme Court to argue that you need to wait until you are 18-years-old to get this surgery, which by that point in life is painful and complicated.
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The measure is creating quite a controversy, pitting some (not all by any means) Christians vs. Jews, Religious right against liberals, gays vs. straights, doctors against ban proponents, comics against San Francisco and the list goes on. Comedians are enjoying it, such as Lewis Black quipping on the Jon Stewart Daily Show, that he “Left his heart in San Francisco, but made it back with his foreskin.”
Schofield joined with a group called “inactivists” that he met while marching in a Gay Pride parade. Together they created an advocacy group called the Prohibition of Genital Cutting of Male Minors. The ban would make it illegal to “circumcise, excise, cut or mutilate the whole or any part of the foreskin, testicles, or penis of another person who has not attained the age of 18 years.”
“We would agree with the Jewish religious and legal scholars regarding the practice, and … to my knowledge, there is no compelling medical reason to ban it,” said Ibrahim Ramey, the human civil rights program director at the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation. “There are religious sensitivities that are involved and the decision to circumcise ought best be left to the parents of the child, and not a political referendum.”
Stern said that the Jewish community has held strategy meetings to diminish the proposal.
“We want to erase the message that anyone else can try to take away a central ritual, practiced for centuries without harm, to make sure no one tries to replicate this,” Stern said.
But with the thousands of supporting signatures, San Francisco is one step closer to making the proposal a reality.
“No medical association promotes circumcision,” said Schofield. “If there was sound and repeated scientific evidence, there’d be a medical association promoting it.”
But Dr. Douglas Diekema, director of education for the Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics at Seattle Children’s Hospital, said that the procedure has been shown to reduce the risk of infections.
“Boys who are circumcised have fewer urinary tract infections during infancy,” said Diekema. “These are serious infections that require hospitalization.”
Some data also suggest that circumcision reduces the risk of contracting HIV, HPV and penile cancer.
Santa Monica ban proponents tried to get enough signatures to put it on their city’s ballot but were unsuccessful.