CDC Report Says Circumcisions Have Health Benefits, So Maybe Stop Telling Parents We Mutilated Our Sons
I like cut peens and I cannot lie. And so does the Center for Disease Control (CDC), which published federal guidelines on circumcision today saying that the health benefits of the procedure outweigh the risks. These are the first federal guidelines that have ever been created regarding circumcision, and parents of cut sons everywhere are grateful. Now will people stop telling us that we mutilated our sons? Not yet? Oh. Bummer.
I’ve never had a particularly strong feeling about circumcision one way or the other, though I do hang slightly to the pro-circumcision side, which I believe is to the left. We had our son circumcised because my husband really wanted him to be. I left it up to him and made him take the boy to have it done because I didn’t want to be within a mile of sharp objects coming into contact with my son’s penis. But I’m glad we did it because circumcision does help prevent certain diseases, as the CDC has laid out in its report.
An article by the Associated Press says that in their report, the CDC says that circumcision has been proven to:
—Cut a man’s risk of getting HIV from an infected female partner by 50 to 60 percent.
—Reduce their risk of genital herpes and certain strains of human papillomavirus by 30 percent or more.
—Lower the odds of urinary tract infections during infancy, and cancer of the penis in adulthood.
Much of this data came from three “rigorous and influential” studies done in Africa, which has led to criticism from anti-circumcision groups. According to the New York Times:
Critics who oppose circumcision pointed out that the randomized clinical trials on which the C.D.C. is basing its recommendations were done in sub-Saharan Africa, where heterosexual transmission of H.I.V. is far more common than in the United States. Only about one in 10 new H.I.V. infections in the United States are transmitted heterosexually, according to the C.D.C. report.
Fair enough. But given the preponderance of evidence supporting circumcisions, let’s not throw the baby’s foreskin out with the bathwater. These studies are important, especially given the national decline in the number of circumcisions performed.
Circumcision has become more and more unpopular over the years, from being performed on over 80% of newborn boys in the 1950s and 1960s, down to 58% of boys in 2010. The core of the argument against it, according to the anti-circumcision group Intact America, is that it is not a medically necessary procedure and that children should be able to give consent before getting a “permanent bodily operation.” And to a degree I can see their side. If penises were better without foreskin, wouldn’t they already come packaged that way? Are circumcisions just vanity procedures done on infants for no reason other than cultural or familial customs? Isn’t male circumcision just like female circumcision, which many people call brutal and wrong?
I can see all of that. There’s a reason that I didn’t demand that my son get circumcised at birth. But at the same time, if this is a procedure that has health benefits for my son, then why wouldn’t I do it? Vaccines aren’t “natural” either but they sure do save a lot of lives, and my kids most certainly don’t consent to them. But I force my kids to have these temporarily painful shots, because they will help keep my kids healthy. Can’t we make the same argument for circumcision?
It’s important to note that the CDC does not say that new parents should be told by pediatricians to circumcise their sons, but they do say that parents should know about both the risks and the benefits. They also say that the procedure is important enough that it should be covered by insurance. The CDC also argues that the benefits are so great that circumcision should be presented as an option to uncircumcised teenage boys and adult men, to which I say,“Good luck with that.”
The CDC will hear public comments on the guidelines (oh boy) for the next 45 days, and plans to finalize them next year.