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Anti-Circumcision Activists Zap Medical Association

David O'Connor
Bay Area Reporter- San Francisco, p. 4, July 15, 1993

About two dozen people demonstrated against routine infant circumcision July 12 outside the California Medical Association office at 221 Main Street.

While leaders in the anti-circumcision movement spoke on the sidewalk, CMA staffers peered from their third-floor offices. An association spokesperson denied the activists' request to meet with CMA president David Holley, and police kept the demonstrators from entering the building.

"What is the CMA afraid of?"

Tim Hammond of the National Organization to Halt the Abuse and Routine Mutilation of Males (NOHARMM) said his group had requested two previous meetings with the CMA to discuss the harm adult men have experienced from their circumcisions as infants or children. Both requests were denied, Hammond said.

"What is the CMA afraid of?" Hammond asked at the demonstration. "We're here to expose the medical fraud of infant circumcision, to affirm body ownership rights of children, and to give voice to adult survivors of circumcisions.

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Photo: Rick Gerharter

CMA spokesperson Paul Moreno said Holley is a practicing physician who does not work in the CMA office and no one else at the office could meet with the activists.

In 1988 the association's House of Delegates, made up of member physicians, passed a resolution stating that the CMA endorses "the concept of newborn circumcision as an effective public health measure." Moreno said the resolution is non-binding. To change the policy, a delegate must submit a proposal for consideration, Moreno said.

"Isn't it time to become civilized, isn't it time to truly become a democracy
and let people think for themselves and have rights over their own bodies?"

Activists opposing routine circumcision of infants say it is an unnecessary, painful procedure with frequent complications and it violates the child's human rights. The American Academy of Pediatrics in 1989 stated "there is no absolute medical indication for routine circumcision of the newborn." The AAP concluded that circumcision "has potential medical benefits and advantages as well as inherent disadvantages and risks." At the demo, pediatrician Paul Fleiss called circumcision "a form of mutilation," the complications of which "go grossly under-reported."

"The message is clear: we must leave the foreskin alone," said Fleiss, who performed more than 100 circumcisions before deciding the surgery is wrong. "It is the boy's business, not his doctor's business, not his parents' business, not his religious leader's business." Hanny Lightfoot-Klein has studied female genital mutilation in Africa. She called circumcision a blood ritual that replaced human sacrifice.

"Isn't it time to come out of the Stone Age?" Lightfoot-Klein asked. "Isn't it time to become civilized, isn't it time to truly become a democracy and let people think for themselves and have rights over their own bodies?"

Also speaking at the demonstration were psychologist Jim Bigelow, author of The Joy of Uncircumcising!; attorneys Michael Kinane and Charles Bonner, who have represented clients in circumcision malpractice cases; Marilyn Milos, founder of the National Organization of  Circumcision Information Resource Centers; and Jed Diamond, psychotherapist and author.

Opponents of circumcision will hold a meeting, July 18 to plan strategy for increasing education and public awareness. The meeting takes place at 7 p.m. at Epicenter, 475 Valencia Street. For more information, call 826-9351.

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