Monday, March 18, 2013

My (first) Letter to the ACLU

The first step toward my activism as it pertains to routine infant circumcision came around the time San Francisco was trying to get a ban on non medically necessary circumcision for those under 18 years old   The circumcision ban was not allowed on the November ballot, but it certainly created a LOT of much needed dialogue about forced circumcision of minors.  You can read the exact wording of the proposed ban here.  

Up until this point, I had researched the crap out of the anatomy and physiology of the natural penis, proper care, the details of what exactly circumcision entails, the medical indications for circumcision and every possible scientific argument for and against.  It didn't take me long to know emphatically and confidently I would NEVER allow any child of mine to be put through the torturous and completely unnecessary surgery.  I had even started commenting here and there on Facebook threads encouraging others to keep their children intact.  I did have one hang up though...

As I mentioned on my very first post, I worked for a Jewish pediatrician and mohel in college.  I am still extremely close with the family and the mother and I actually own a business together.  I even helped plan their daughter's Bat Mitzvah and my parents came into town to attend the celebration just a couple weeks ago.  Despite not being particularly religious, I do most closely identify as your run of the mill "Christian" and I'm a huge supporter of religious freedom.  I even use a religious vaccine exemption. (future post topic I'm sure.)

I forget where I first read, or who I first heard say the statement that was my "AH-HA!" moment when it came to religious circumcision, but it was such a simple, rational and obvious statement:

"Religious freedom ends where another individual's body begins."
How had I not come to that conclusion myself?  That simple statement was all I needed to be 100% anti routine infant circumcision with no buts about it.

The American Civil Liberty Union took a stance AGAINST the San Francisco circumcision ban for several reasons you can read on their website including:

"The initiative threatens religious freedom.  The initiative not only tramples the liberty of Jewish and Muslim families to honor a religious duty, it embodies a disturbing hostility toward minority faiths."

It was around that time I left a similar version of the letter below on the American Civil Liberty Union's Facebook page.  It got plenty of (mostly) positive attention from everyone except the ACLU itself.  I posted the same message to their page in August of 2012 when the American Academy of Pediatrics updated their official circumcision policy statement to come just shy of recommending routine infant circumcision and leaving it up to the parents.  My post was mostly ignored again.

I will not be ignored any longer.  Tonight is the eve of the day I send this letter (minus the links I put for my readers) via certified mail to the ACLU offices.  As routine infant circumcision becomes an increasingly heated debate topic on Facebook "mommy pages," parenting blogs and the rate of circumcision continues to plummet in the United States, I predict this will not be my last letter to the ACLU.  Enjoy.....

I'm curious why, when your own website's "About Us" section states you work to protect:

"Your First Amendment rights- freedom of speech, association      and assembly; freedom of the press and FREEDOM OF RELIGION..." (emphasis mine) and
 "Your right to EQUAL PROTECTION UNDER THE LAW- protection against unlawful discrimination" (emphasis mine)

you choose to side in FAVOR of allowing forced genital cutting of infant boys to continue in the United States.

Girls have been protected from female genital mutilation in the United States regardless of their parents' religious beliefs since Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 7, Section 116 went into effect on March 30, 1997.  Why don't you fight to give boys equal protection under the law as is required by the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution?  As mentioned above, your own website lists "equal protection under the law" as one of the rights you work to defend and preserve.

Allowing parents to "brand" their infant with a symbol of the religion THEY CHOSE violates the CHILD's (and the adult they will become) right to religious freedom.

"If the rights of society's most vulnerable members are denied, everybody's rights are imperiled."

The above quote is also directly off your webpage.  Surely America's infant boys qualify as vulnerable members of society.  Surely they are worth protecting just as America's infant girls are.

There is NOT ONE medical organization in the WORLD that recommends routine infant circumcision.  In fact, the AAP's updated circumcision policy statement has been condemned by the worldwide medical community:

"There are no compelling health arguments in favor of circumcision, while it can have serious long-term urological, psychological and sexual consequences. And performing medically unwarranted circumcision of underage boys conflicts with good medical practice. Male infant circumcision conflicts with children’s rights and the doctors’ oath not to do harm."

By human rights attorneys in the Journal of Medical Ethics:

"The AAP's circumcision recommendations contradict it's own bioethics policy statement, which requires pediatric care to be based only on the needs of the patient.  Non-therapeutic circumcision is incompatible with widely accepted ground rules for surgical intervention in minors."

And even the AAP itself has acknowledged a cultural bias in it's revised policy statement in its official publication:

"To these authors, only 1 of the arguments put forward by the American Academy of Pediatrics has some theoretical relevance in relation to infant male circumcision; namely, the possible protection against urinary tract infections in infant boys, which can easily be treated with antibiotics without tissue loss. The other claimed health benefits, including protection against HIV/AIDS, genital herpes, genital warts, and penile cancer, are questionable, weak, and likely to have little public health relevance in a Western context, and they do not represent compelling reasons for surgery before boys are old enough to decide for themselves."

The practice of routine infant circumcision cannot be swept under the rug as a medical procedure to be discussed with a doctor as the very practice of non-therapeutic circumcision of a minor is in violation of the informed consent principal, the limitations of proxy consent laws, the ethics of cosmetic surgery on a minor and Article 3 of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I encourage you to take another look at the stance you have taken on this obvious violation of human rights.  I'm confident you'll realize your mistake and take a more logical and ethical approach.



There you have it!  My first "official" activist letter.  I certainly hope it gets noticed and even gets some minds thinking.


  1. they don't even consider the loss of erogenous tissue it is very hard to educate those in denial. the ACLU offends me and i am jewish, so becasue of my status as a minority faith i should have less pleasure?? thank god for the stronger voice of intactivism in modern times!!

  2. America's dirty secret is out in the open. The disfigurement of our nation's sons will be remembered as among the most blatant & cruel human rights abuses in the history of the United States.

    1. I've seen a preview for a documentary called something like "American Secret" that's about circumcision. Do you know when the film will be coming out?

  3. What a powerful letter, informed and to the point. Your baby is lucky to have such an intelligent, passionate and motivated mother.

  4. Fantastic and informative article, I will definitely be linking this on my blog! Thank you so much for your part to protect all children!!

    1. I just took a look at your blog....what fantastic activities you have on there! Way to go Mama and thanks for your kind words.

  5. My child and Ill do as I please with him. I will circumcise my boys if I feel as though thats something I want to do. Dont impose your beliefs on me. For just as much negativity you find on ant matter there is just as much positive. Did you use drugs during your labor and delivery? If you did you did a lot of harm to your little one. Stand up for children when real harm has been done to them. I dont see you out there helping the children of rape or abuse or the kids going hungry. Start there first =)

    1. I fail to see how someone voluntarily choosing to read an article, post, comment or any other piece of writing equates to the author imposing their beliefs on the reader. It is the reader's choice whether they a.) want to read in the first place b.) are open to the discussion topic c.) decide to agree or disagree d.) continue to learn more about the topic e.) ignore the topic completely If that's the case and it rubs you the wrong way, unfortunately you'll be extremely limited as to what you can read. In fact, even something as fun and lighthearted as Dr. Seuss books aim to change the reader's attitude, opinions and views of the world.

      I find it surprising that someone knowledgeable and open minded enough about the negative effects of drugs during labor (drug free homebirth for me by the way) could come up with such a dismissive comment about the harm and ethics behind circumcision....a practice that is just as widely accepted as safe and harmless by many in the United States as the medicalization of childbirth.

      As far as helping children of rape, hunger and abuse: clearly you don't know me because I'm involved in a non profit that rescues girls and young women from sex trafficking. In fact, I help organize and run their biggest annual fundraiser. I also feed the homeless a couple times a year and collect food and toys for the local homeless shelter periodically through out the year. If you DID know me, you would know these things and you WOULD see me out there helping the exact populations you claim I need to be putting my efforts toward.

  6. I LOVED reading this. It was awesome timing too, as I had been plotting a letter to the ACLU. You really hit the nail on the head! I'd love to share this letter with others if that is okay with you? We are going to be demonstrating for GIAW here in Washington State April 6, and I'd love to have your letter printed for people to read. What an inspiration and motivation to encourage others to put this pressure on the ACLU!

  7. Absolutely! Please do share far and wide. Just please make sure the blog is sited as the source.

    I would LOVE to be going to DC, but I'm stuck at home. I'm really hoping to make it out next year though.

  8. Thanks for this. My partner and I are thinking of writing to the ACLU to demand that they re-think their position on RIC. I read your blog post to look for inspiration on the wording and stance of our own letter. I'm hoping if enough people put pressure on the ACLU they will open their eyes. Would the ACLU support my right to practice the laws in Leviticus and Deuteronomy? Do I have the religious duty to stone my neighbors for their unGodliness, their fornications and adultery? What about my religious right to circumcise my daughter? It is so obvious that our relgious freedom ends with our own bodies. No one should be able to inflict harm on another person unconsenting in the name of relgious freedom. Thanks for sharing your inspiring letter!