Dr. Rachel Seay performs a circumcision at George Washington University Hospital.

The ACLU of Northern California filed a court brief Friday supporting an effort to block a ballot measure that would ban juvenile male circumcision in San Francisco.

The friend of the court brief bolsters the arguments of a coalition of Jews and Muslims who filed suit in June asking a judge to invalidate the controversial measure headed for the Nov. 8 ballot.

The lead supporter of the circumcision ban characterizes the procedure as “genital mutilation that is unnecessary, extremely painful and even dangerous,” the Associated Press reported.

The ballot measure would make the circumcision of a male younger than 18 years old a misdemeanor carrying up to $1,000 in fines or a year in jail. There would be no religious exemption to the ban, even though Jewish and Muslim followers consider circumcision part of their religion.

The move flies in the face of mainstream practices. The New York Times has reported that 80 percent of U.S. males are circumcised.

A group seeking to get the ban off the ballot cites a number of mainstream sources, including Harvard and UC San Francisco physicians, saying the procedure can stem the spread of AIDS and should be based on parental choice.

In the brief filed Friday, the ACLU argues that state law bans any city or county from passing a law that restricts a licensed medical professional from performing “any procedure that falls within the professionally recognized scope of practice of that licensee.”

In other words, no city authority can stop a doctor from doing things that doctors normally do.

The brief also argues that the initiative would threaten the rights of mature teenage boys younger than 18 to make decisions about their health.

Lloyd Schofield, the initiative’s supporter, also filed a court brief Friday, batting off criticism that has surfaced about the law’s apparent anti-Semitism. Schofield, of Oakland, noted that “it is not honest to suggest that the sole purpose of the initiative was to be anti-Semitic.”

Schofield goes on to raise concerns about the religious traditions of a non-medically trained Jewish mohel, usually a rabbi or doctor, or Islamic barber who at one time performed circumcisions.

The question of anti-Semitic motivation for the ban came up when San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders posted the image of the buff and blond “Foreskin Man” comic book, posted on a website run by a man who supports the circumcision ban.

The hero is apparently fending off a dark and shifty Hasidic rabbi who is leering over a baby. The book’s author brushed off the notion that the movement is anti-Jewish, saying it is “trying to be pro-human rights.”

Christina Jewett is an investigative reporter for California Watch, a project of the non-profit Center for Investigative Reporting. Find more California Watch reporting here.

ACLU Supports Blocking Anti-Circumcision Measure 19 July,2011Christina Jewett, California Watch

  • Stan

    I am surprised that the ACLU does not support my right as a person to decide what permanent body modifications are done to my own body. No one, absolutely no one, had the right to cut off part of my genitals without my consent and without a compelling medical reason.

    There is no compelling medical reason to cut off a normal part of a healthy boy’s genitals. The fact that Muslims and Jews believe that male circumcision is a religious requirement is not a sufficiently good reason for California doctors to tolerate medically unnecessary surgery on the genitals of non-Muslim and non-Jewish boys.

  • Today a report of another severely botched circumcision:


    Boy’s botched circumcision leads to $4.6 million award

    By Bill Hetherman City News Service
    Posted: 07/18/2011 09:29:22 AM PDT

  • Cyn

    This is actually rather disgusting – why doesn’t the ACLU care about the rights of the CHILD? What is the matter with these people??

  • Mark Lyndon

    The ACLU said nothing when female cutting was banned, despite some people regarding it as their religious right and duty.

    It’s illegal to cut off a girl’s prepuce, or to make any incision on a girl’s genitals, even if no tissue is removed. Why don’t boys get the same protection? Everyone should be able to decide for themselves whether they want parts of their genitals cut off. It’s *their* body.

  • Because the Northern Calif. Chapter of the ACLU, I am now not an ACLU – member 65821415. As of last month, the National ACLU no longer receives my monthly money after all these years. Apparently this chapter, NOT to be confused with the national ACLU actions, believes not in the United Nations Rights of the Child, nor of individual rights conferred at birth over state, community, and family. This ACLU chapter et al. would in fact celebrate forced male circumcision of ANY male under 18 years of age. This is gross. They think it okay for a 15 year old to surrender to peer or family pressure. What is next? Forced circumcision in the elective service for the good of ol’ USA? (see a few small extreme governments). Though the mind is not fully mature until age 26 when it can resist outside influential pressures, the USA has agreed to age 18 as the age of maturity (remember when it was strictly 21?).

    So I say to Northern California ACLU:
    TELL THIS to the hundred plus dead boys who die in the USA every year. (SEE Jamaal this year – to medically understand see cirp org Dr. John Taylor Newsletter October re: circumcision’s extreme detrimental exertions on the not fully developed heart and internal organs). Deaths 117 to 200+ :
    (2010) Infant #circumcision causes 117 neonatal deaths/year in US, 115 die of SIDS, 44 die of suffocation. #i2

    It’s been known 40+ years, there is no medical indication for routine male circumcision. youtube “Doctor Discusses Circumcision Controversy” I say they are all culpable.

    TELL THIS to Melanie Hall, a caring mother. re:
    Boy’s botched circumcision leads to $4.6 million award. (The tangible rewards in dollars and genital sense from the words of the ACOG and AAP and now ACLU, religious groups in this case notwithstanding.)
    But here, let’s include the religious memes netting the SAME results:
    CA Jury awarded$429,484 infant’s glans pulled into circumcision clamp,cut off,doctor says parents accepted risk.Tank v.Berberich 5/12/09
    Do you think it’s okay to cut off part of someone’s body without their permission? Yes or No. (there’s no middle ground…)
    I think it is wrong to mark the body of a child for identification whether it is with tattoo or scarification (circumcision) or amputating health parts (circumcision). Children should not be used as billboards for their parental beliefs, gang, religious, or fetish:
    davidwilton dot com pdf Download GMC Findings re Bracka Unfit to Practice Medicine (Circumcision fetish doctor to mostly underage males). (see also circlist).
    3,928 island villagers males&females all ages forced circ’d into Islam by Muslim clerics
    QuranicPath dot com misconceptions intact_sex “of Qur’an quotes”
    Note: Nelson Mandela said his circumcision was blinding white light of electrical fire that burned throughout all his veins.

    The harms are known and real.
    Couple seeking $2 million from federal government for personal injury & wrongful death over son”s circ death
    Jurology dot com abstract termed “infrequent but important complication” circumcision can cause phimosis
    Complications of Circumcision from Stanford School of Medicine.
    “The Lost List” What is lost to circumcision and what can be restored.
    “Factors Affecting Male Fertility” | Health Vene

    Intact Medical Organizations (meaning not circumcised orgs.):
    2 out of 3 Swedish doctors won’t do circumcision saying it is assault, barbaric and akin to unnecessary.

    The official viewpoint of KNMG and other related medical/scientific organizations is that non-therapeutic circumcision of male minors is a violation of children’s rights to autonomy and physical integrity. Contrary to popular belief, circumcision can cause complications – bleeding, infection, urethral stricture and panic attacks are particularly common. KNMG is therefore urging a strong policy of deterrence. KNMG is calling upon doctors to actively and insistently inform parents who are considering the procedure of the absence of medical benefits and the danger of complications.

    South African Medical Association’s Human Rights, Law & Ethics Committee stated that it was unethical and illegal to perform circumcision on infant boys. The Committee expressed serious concern not enough scientifically-based evidence was available to confirm circumcisions prevented HIV contraction and the public at large was influenced by incorrect and misrepresented information.

    Yeah Right! – USA’s PEPFAR goes for higher class propaganda, like funding an entire documentary about how great circumcision is, called “In It To Save Lives.”
    mondofown blogspot “The Case Against Infant Circumcision” Poor health outcomes in first world nations compared.
    Surgery is medical but most all circumcisions are so called proceedures for it is done to healthy tissue, not diseased. An elective procedure, it is seen as an corrective procedure in the subconscious. The circ’d male unsure of being effectively corrected is unsure of HIMSELF (the penis) and hides himself in boxes at the urinal. Intact societies just openly let it hang. Foreskin restored men report not feeling naked when nude. Of course not, they are covered.

  • The ACLU is badly wrong on this one. It’s coming down against democracy, and in support of the powerful (adults) against the powerless (children). And it’s very strangely using a law against restricting the activities of medical practitioners in order to allow lay-people to practise surgery.

    The proposed age-restriction (not a ban) would protect the chld’s 14th Amendment right to equality, his 4th Amendment right to security of his person, and his First Amendment right to practise the religion of his choice as an adult without having had another, not of his choice, forcibly cut into his body before he could resist.

    The same scripture that requires circumcision of sons, also requires it of slaves and everyone in the household. The Mexican live-in gardener might have something to say about that. Would the ACLU?

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