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Facing Circumcision  Eight Physicians Tell Their Stories
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Instructional Video for Foreskin Restoration
     They Cut Babies, Don't They?  
One Man's Struggle Against Circumcision
     Whose Body, Whose Rights?   Award-winning documentary seen on PBS!

Circumcision Exposed
Rethinking a Medical and
Cultural Tradition

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Opposition to Circumcision
is New-Fangled Nonsense;
It Didn't Do Me Any Harm

leach.gif (5981 bytes)

Penelope Leach
excerpted from Your Baby & Child, p.51
Alfred A. Knopf/New York 1997

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Leach discusses proper care and tight foreskin

Parents Have Their Say

We're expecting our second baby, a boy. I had naturally assumed that he would be circumcised before we brought him home from the hospital but, to my astonishment, my wife is strongly opposed to the idea. I thought it was something she had read about circumcision being painful that had put her off but although my offer to look into the question of anesthesia was well received, it hasn't really changed her mind. She says circumcision is a cruel and archaic practice; I say it didn't do me any harm and it's important for hygienic reasons.

The world has learned a lot since you were a baby...

It is always difficult for an adult to reject his own childhood on behalf of this offspring. And it's especially difficult for a man to accept that the way his penis is may not be the best way for his son's to be. However, while you feel that circumcision did you no harm, other circumcised men say that the procedure left them with a lifelong sense of having been deformed. The world has learned a lot since you were a baby, and it's that accumulating knowledge your wife wants your child to benefit from.

There is no rationale for "routine" removal of the foreskin from the glans of the penis. The idea that it was more hygienic was based on the notion of smegma gathering beneath an intact foreskin that in a baby is difficult to roll back so it can be washed off. We know now that the foreskin and the glans penis are fused at birth and meant to be. The foreskin only gradually separates. You cannot wash beneath a baby's foreskin and should not try. It may not be possible (or necessary or desirable) to wash beneath it until a little boy is four or five years old, and entirely capable of doing it himself. Furthermore, attempts at rolling back fused foreskins often make tiny splits. Those minute wounds heal, leaving scar tissue which prevents natural separation. That's a common reason for an uncircumcised baby coming to need the operation when he is older. Your son doesn't need his foreskin stripped off to keep his penis clean any more than he needs his nostrils slit to keep his nose clean. And it won't reduce his eventual partner's risk of cervical cancer either; that finding was statistical lack of sophistication, or error!

Your son doesn't need his foreskin stripped off to keep his penis clean

But if there are no physical reasons for infant circumcision, there are very strong reasons against it; so strong that in most countries it is carried out only as part of religious ritual. The United States is alone in continuing to carry out the procedure as part of the routine medical care of new babies.

Circumcision is not just the quick snip many people assume but described by one leading American pediatrician as "among the most painful interventions performed in neonatal medicine." All babies react with panic-stricken crying, some go into shock. Local anesthesia, though not perfect or itself painless, is certainly better than nothing, but when it wears off it does not take the pain of the raw penis with it, or help with the hurt of urination or give back the baby's pleasure in being held and cuddled. Whether your son is anesthetized or not, circumcision means a nasty few days for all of you.

When babies need operations for their own good, parents have to see them through as best they can, hoping they will forget the pain, the powerlessness, the betrayal. But why spoil your baby's first week with you, and yours with him, when there is no possible good to balance the probable harm?

Tight foreskin (phimosis)

excerpted from p. 49-50, Your Baby & Child by Penelope Leach
Alfred A. Knopf/New York, 1997

The penis and its foreskin develop from a single bud in the fetus. They are still fused at birth and they only gradually separate during the first few years of the boy's life. A tight foreskin is therefore not a problem a new baby can have. You cannot retract his foreskin because it is not made to retract at this age. You cannot wash underneath it because it is only meant to be cleaned from the outside in babyhood. Circumcision (surgical removal of the foreskin) of a young baby is very rarely medically advisable and, if it becomes necessary later on, it is often because of attempts to retract the foreskin forcibly before it was ready to retract of its own accord.


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Last updated: 28 February, 2012
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