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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

SF Circumcision ban: Be careful what you wish (vote) for

Could government involvement
make your parental rights go up
in smoke? 
It seems that whenever California disagrees with the safety on something, they ban it. First incandescent light bulbs; then it was the toys in your child's Happy Meal. Now the City of San Francisco is engaged in battle over whether circumcision of male newborns should be illegal. If the legislation were to pass and you violate the ban, you could be jailed.

This is not meant to turn into a debate over whether the act of circumcision is right or not, as both sides of the argument, in their own eyes, have a very valid point. This is a debate over whether an entity other than the parents and the doctor - in this case, a city government - should be allowed to have a say in what you do with your child.

In this case, it seems that Lloyd Schofield - the guy who is bringing the debate to the forefront - thinks it does indeed take a "village to raise a child." Should that village have a voice in your parenting decisions if this issue is on the ballot?

I think that if this measure passes, it could be a mixed victory for circumcision opponents.

Whether you think it's right or wrong, it's really not your decision to make. Whether it's for cleanliness issues, a matter of religion or just because, when it comes down to whether it should be done or not is not a decision the public at large should have a say in.

In certain cases, it is definitely not recommended - such as when the baby's health is compromised. If the parents aren't aware of the dangers, it should be a joint effort of parents and the doctor to be educated on the risks and potential benefits, and the doctor should say up front, "Your child has this condition, and if you're considering circumcising him, perhaps you should reconsider."

When you talk about banning something like this, it is essentially ramming the ideology of one group down the throats of those who don't agree, and if the shoe were on the other foot, you can bet that wouldn't go over too well.

Take, for instance, the birth of Ruth Light, whose parents are currently engaged in endless court battles to regain full custody of their daughter. Ruth was born in a breech presentation at home, and experienced a brief shoulder dystocia, but was otherwise declared healthy and recovered from it. Her parents, being cautious and wanting to make sure she was well, took her to the hospital after her birth, where the physician declared that she was fine.

However, somewhere along the way a well-meaning, perhaps uninformed hospital worker decided that Ruth's birth problems could have been avoided had she been born in the "safety" of a hospital via cesarean, and children's services were dispatched. Ruth was removed from her parents' custody as a result.

Compare the home birth debate to the circumcision debate for a moment: one side says it's safe, and presents few complications when managed well. The other side says it's dangerous, presents complications that could result in death, and should be outlawed.

In both cases, there have been studies that declare it reasonably safe. And there have been studies that say it's dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. Which one should we believe, in either case?

Ultimately, yes - it's a human rights issue on one level, I'm not going to argue with that. But it's also a parents' rights issue, and as the caregivers responsible for that child, they are going to make choices on behalf of their children that could affect their lives, whether perceived as great or small. Atheist or Christian, meat-eating or vegan, we make choices for our kids every day, and dismiss them as just merely decisions that we make in raising our children the way we see fit. The choice not to vaccinate? Perceived as dangerous by some, there are currently laws on the books - as mandated by the government, in certain states - to have your daughter receive the Gardisil vaccine. Considering there have been reports of injury and even death regarding the vaccine, should you be forced by the state to vaccinate your child anyway? Or should you exercise your parental authority on behalf of your child?

Ultimately, whether you like the idea or not, you can't stop people from doing what they want to do. I'm guessing that any parent could simply locate a doctor outside the San Francisco city limits and get their child circumcised, if they felt that strongly about it. This same type of legislation could be used against parents, essentially weakening or severing altogether their authority to make decisions for their children.

Given our currently litigious society and the escalating role of government in our lives, and I can see this getting out of hand very quickly. In some ways, the Orwellian aspect of it has already taken over: forced c-sections, VBAC bans, pregnant women kicked out of bars because it's potentially risky to their unborn child (even though the mother in question didn't consume alcohol). (Let's not forget that some medical authorities consider it safe to drink wine occasionally while pregnant - are we going to publicly shackle women who adhere to this idea?) Where do you draw the line? Who's kid is this, anyway?

Why not outlaw formula feeding because it's dangerous and unhealthy and is inferior to breastmilk. After all, some babies have died from it - whether from contaminated water or from the very product itself. Piercing your infant daughter's ears? Doesn't matter if it's for religious or cultural reasons, it should be outlawed because it's for vanity reasons, can cause infection, and is not medically necessary. How about co-sleeping, because some people think it's dangerous? How about banning epidurals because they could potentially harm the baby? We could go on and on.

Those Happy Meal bans were instituted because the city wants McDonald's to put in healthier foods. Does that mean it'll soon extend to limiting parents' right to take their kids to McDonald's? Should we limit them to one visit per family per month in an effort to force them into healthier eating? Or how about we place them under house arrest and jail them if they don't feed their kids all organic, nutritious food once they're in the privacy of their own home?

Regardless of where we stand on the issue itself, I just wish people could see that involving government in the matter is not necessarily the best course of action. Beating someone over the head with your argument will not effectively convince them to rethink their stance so much as it will perhaps make the other side look like a bunch of crazy zealots. Nor will it help to infringe on the religious views of parents who circ for those reasons (separation of church and state, anyone?). A wide-scale education campaign, perhaps - starting in your obstetrician's office - is perhaps a kinder, gentler idea that will win more parents over and leave more little boys intact.

More reading:
'Intactivists' to San Francisco: Ban Circumcision 
San Francisco Circumcision Ban Unconstitutional, Professor Says
The 'Crappy Meal,' from Comedy Central: meant to be funny, but an interesting look into what the city can and can't force people to do


Anonymous said...

well said!

Womb it May Concern said...

I don't know where you're from DH, but as a native nearly-San-Franciscan (grew up 40 minutes from the city, went to University in SF) it's easy to go along with this kind of insanity when you live there.

Marsden Wagner calls it the "fish can't see water" syndrome in reference to care providers, but it can be applied to San Franciscans/Northern Californians as well. If rabid liberalism is all you ever see, hear, are taught in school and ever know, it's hard to think beyond your bleeding heart.

6 years ago, I would've been applauding this ordinance from my soapbox; now, I see it quite differently. Once I moved out of the San Francisco vortex and into Charleston, SC a lot of things became clearer. Like the fact that personal liberty is the most important thing we are promised by the constitution. And that my tax dollars shouldn't support every single person who decides to sign up for welfare (whether they need it or not). But that's a different matter!

Know SF has it's own brand of craziness doesn't make 90% of what happens there RIGHT, but it might help make a little more sense of the somewhat bizarre ways native Northern Californians operate.

The Deranged Housewife said...

Very well put. I know someone who moved from the conservative midwest out to SoCal and he writes the most hysterical, yet true things about that area: sometimes it's so bizarre it's mind-boggling and you can't wrap your brain around it. He was a census worker for awhile so he saw lots of interesting things that you can't even begin to imagine.

I understand SF also has a ban on sitting on the sidewalks during daylight hours. How is that coming along? LOL

Weird. Just weird. I'm impressed though that you are able to see both sides of the issue - some people can have a very hard time admitting that, as much as an advocate as they are. I believe people call it 'getting caught up in your own woo.' LOL

My inlaws used to live in Dixon, BTW. My FIL practiced medicine around there and was in SF regularly, I guess. Not sure where his practice was. I was born and raised in the midwest and now live in New York State (another matter entirely ... gag).

Anonymous said...

"Given our currently litigious society and the escalating role of government in our lives, and I can see this getting out of hand very quickly."... I think FEAR is one of Satan's greatest weapon, and he deceives people into believing that government taking control is the solution to that fear.

All that is happening around the world is the fulfilling of Scriptures. And as "womb it may concern" said: personal liberty is the most important thing we are promised by the Constitution, and guaranteed by Jesus. WE would hope that people would choose liberty, but many give that right away and choose slavery to government.

The Deranged Housewife said...

I totally agree: it's all right there on paper, free for everyone to read. Of course, when you starting talking like that, people think you're a nut. :P

The book of Matthew says that Satan controls all the governments, when he's tempting Jesus - he said he could give him all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus would worship him instead of God. And in Job, God asks Satan "Where have you been?" and Satan basically says he's been everywhere, all over the Earth. (!)

SFJD said...

"hould you be forced by the state to vaccinate your child...?"

Honestly? Maybe. The state "forces" parents to feed and clothe their children, provide them with shelter, and to not abuse them.

A good case could be made that vaccinations (the ravings of the factually-challenged antivax movement notwithstanding) are just as essential to a child's health as those other basic necessities.

Anonymous said...

I recently stumbled accross this morning show podcast from San Francisco Alice 97.3 FM from Sarah and Vinnie secret show. Sarah openly talked about her catching her son stealing her hand lotion and making up a story on why he wanted it. She knew it was for masturbation purposes. I would only speculate that her son is circumcised because I have never had to use lube being uncircumcised myself. A listener "Returnofseth" writes in and coments on the right of her son stealing her lotion since she took away his foreskin at birth and circumcision being a way to allow the lube industry to capitalize and make money from it. It was interesting to read a response from listener "M". Evidently 1 listener from SF out of all cities seem to be pro-circ.

You can listen and comment to the podcast at this link. Give'em hell!

Anonymous said...

So would Deranged housewife would also be in favor of the freedom of parents to circumcise their daughters as well? It is the parents' choice after all.

The Deranged Housewife said...

Regardless of whether I am or not, does it really matter? Do you really think someone who practices it is going to listen to what anyone else outside their culture thinks?