Friday, October 31, 2014
A landmark achievement that intactivists grope for is legislation that would give male minors equal protection under the law. That is, that forced male genital mutilation, particularly the circumcision of healthy, non-consenting minors, be banned and made illegal. As of 1996, a federal ban on female genital mutilation prohibits any and every genital cut performed on girls for any reason, and there is no exempt for religions or cultures where female circumcision is considered an important tradition.
I've already mentioned it in past blog posts, but the way things stand now, I think this country has a long way to go before it acknowledges that male minors ought to be given the same protection as female minors. It was easy to enact legislation that bans female circumcision because it is not a custom in this country for girls to be circumcised. It's always easy to ban something that people already consider barbaric. Much groundwork has to be laid before this country is ready to ban the forced genital mutilation of male minors. It's not going to happen overnight. "Baby steps," as some put it.
Recently I was giving the issue of legality some thought, and I got to thinking about a hypothetical situation; what if, instead of a ban, circumcision were allowed to legally continue, but we somehow made it so that men that grow up to resent the fact that they were circumcised could take their circumcisers to court?
That's right. Doctors could keep right on circumcising, and mohels and imams could go right on circumcising, with the acknowledgment that they could one day be legally taken to court by any of the boys they circumcise?
It is often said that most, if not all circumcised men, are happy and content with their lot, but I wonder, how much of this is true? How many would seek legal redress if they possibly could? How many circumcisers would stop if they knew they could face legal consequences one day?
This is a big part of the problem; doctors and religious circumcisers don't have to face any consequences for their actions. If any of the boys they circumcised grow up to resent having been so, they could sleep at night knowing that short of huffing and puffing and gnashing their teeth, there is nothing they can do.
Well, what if instead of a direct ban, intactivists worked to make it possible for angry men to take their circumisers to court? Lift statutes of limitation? Make it legally required for each circumcision to be documented with the name of the circumciser and child, so that that person has legal access to this information as an adult, in case there is something he'd like to do about it?
The law could start requiring doctors to keep a record of an illness or medical condition that necessitates surgery, what methods of treatment were tried over time before circumcision was considered as a last resort, to ensure that only doctors who performed medically necessary procedures have a legit defense. (A legit medical reason is usually required for any other medical surgery performed on a non-consenting minor!!!) This would ensure that only medically necessary circumcisions were being performed.
A ban is a long way off. I think intactivists ought to start considering smaller victories that could achieve the end result they want, which is to stop the forced genital mutilation of healthy, non-consenting minors.
Saturday, September 27, 2014
By golly, it's been a while.
I wish I had more time to sit down and tackle this issue, but life keeps me busy. I commend all my fellow intactivists who sacrifice their time and money for this cause. My current situation is one such that I can't.
Sometimes, however, I'll come across something that lights a fire in me too great to contain, that it has to spill onto this blog.
Now is one of those times.
It really bothers me when someone with a clear agenda, tries to pretend not to have one, while at the same time, accusing others of that very thing.
In English, we call this type of behavior "projection."
Or in layman's terms, the pot calling the kettle black.
I recently came across an opinion piece on the Jewish Journal, where one Wendy Kenin tries to argue that intactivists are "anti-Semites," and that they're "creeping into" the natural birth movement. (While, of course, she herself is trying to sneak in her own personal religious convictions.)
Reads the headline:
"Anti-Semitism creeps into ‘Natural Childbirth’ movement"... as it must. This is an article that attempts to decry those within the natural childbirth movement who condemn infant circumcision as being "unnatural," which it is. And, naturally, if you say anything negative about circumcision, you must automatically be an anti-Semite. It's just the way the formula works.
As if infant circumcision were an exclusively Jewish practice. As if circumcision were a universal practice among Jews. As if only Jewish mothers were being targeted by intactivsts.
Kenin is either incredibly dense and ignorant, or she is betting that her readers are. Seeing as this is a post on the Jewish Journal, she is more than likely just preaching to the choir.
The article begins:
"It’s the special treatment reserved for Jews that earns the anti-circumcision “intact-ivism” movement the label 'anti-Jew.'"
It's the special treatment of reproach reserved for those who oppose male circumcision, but not who oppose female circumcision, in the so-called name of "religious freedom" and "parental choice," that earns Jewish advocates of male infant circumcision the label "self-serving special pleaders."
Intactivists do not reserve "special treatment" for Jews; we oppose the forced genital mutilation of ALL healthy, non-consenting individuals, regardless of race, religion, creed, culture or sex, no exceptions.
1.2 million babies boys are circumcised in this country; only 0.6% of these babies or less are circumcised at Jewish religious ceremonies.
Intactivists counsel ALL parents against circumcising their boys.
That we "reserve special treatment for Jews" is a categorically false accusation.
"And it’s the large space created for intactivist representation within the natural childbirth movement which unfortunately poisons this otherwise effective and necessary maternal health community."
Says Kenin, as she tries to poison the maternal health community herself.
I find it quite ironic that people like Kenin would like others to believe that intactivists "enjoy a large space" within the natural birth movement, while circumcision advocates, particularly Jewish advocates of infant circumcision, are exiled, on the outside looking in.
Actually, it's quite the opposite. Advocates of male infant circumcision, Jewish and non, have enjoyed a large space within medicine and natural childbirth, and it is they which, unfortunately poison the conversation. Of the six members of the American Academy of Pediatrics' "Taskforce on Circumcision," no less than 2 were Jewish, one of whom openly talked about having circumcised his own son on his kitchen table. While circumcision advocates, both Jewish and non, have enjoyed lofty positions within the AAP, and lay parenting forums on baby websites and Facebook, intactivists struggle to be heard, often being dismissed as, you guessed it, "anti-Semites" and "parent bashers."
That intactivists are starting to make the scene is only quite a recent development. Even today, circumcision advocates within birthing and medicine communities like Kenin, do their best to ascertain that anyone who has anything negative to say about infant genital mutilation is kept out.
It is despicable that circumcision advocates, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, are laying claim to the natural birth movement, calling for anyone who opposes the unnatural act of mutilating a healthy child's genitals to be expelled, as if they were entitled to make such demands.
Can you imagine those who advocate for caesarian birth trying to kick out vaginal birth advocates out of the natural birth movement? Can you imagine Nestle trying to muscle their way into the natural birth movement, saying that those who advocate in favor of breastfeeding ought to be kicked out? Well, it's kind of like that.
"As a childbirth doula (labor coach) in the San Francisco Bay Area, I am honored to support women of diverse ethnicities and backgrounds and to work on the cutting edge of patient rights and women’s health along with a growing movement of informed practitioners who are advocating for birth options and evidence-based practices."
I wonder how far she supports women "of diverse ethnicities and and backgrounds." Does she support women intent on circumcising their daughters? Or is this only about Jewish women who want to fulfill their religious convictions?
It's interesting she says she works on the "cutting edge of patient rights..." What she means is cutting patients in spite of their rights, of course...
It must be asked, why is someone involved in women's health interested in cutting healthy MALE children?
How and why has cutting the genitals of a healthy MALE child become a "birth option" for women?
Kenin talks about "evidence-based practices." Is there any amount of "evidence" that would convince her to "support" female circumcision as a "birthing option" women from Malaysia, Indonesia, Sudan, etc.?
Seriously, what self-serving crap.
"I am privileged to serve clients of all backgrounds along with the other Jewish women health practitioners in the “Imeinu Doulas and Birth Collective” which I founded in 2008. Just as “Shalom Bayit” a 22-year old Jewish domestic violence organization in the Bay Area is a model of a culturally-based women’s rights initiative who works locally but is internationally known and networked, Imeinu is a younger, established and growing culturally-based women’s health and advocacy model but in the field of childbirth with service providers networked internationally."
End self-promotion plug...
"As a Jewish woman who literally wears my Jewish heritage as I ally with other natural birth professionals, I become a quick target for anti-circumcision rationale, a quick opportunity for intactivists practicing talking points that are developed especially for Jews."
As she should.
Imagine, if you will, a Japanese person "wearing his/her heritage," trying to both advocate for Japanese whaling practices in the name of "cultural diversity," AND trying ally him/herself with animal rights groups.
Now imagine that Japanese person claiming s/he is a "quick target for animal rights rationale, a quick opportunity for animal rights activists practicing talking points that are developed especially for Japanese," and that animal rights groups ought to expel activists who oppose whaling from their movement, claiming they have "scientific research" on their side.
Circumcision advocacy is to "natural birth" as what whaling advocacy is to animal welfare, even environmental welfare, as certain whale species are in danger of becoming extinct.
If you advocate for infant genital mutilation, and wear the reasons why you do it on your sleeve, you should expect people who approach you to address those reasons directly.
This is why, when people advocate for female genital mutilation in the name of Islam, the Quran is brought up.
This is why when people who advocate for male infant circumcision claiming it is a Christian practice, we show them what the New Testament has to say.
To proudly "wear" your rationale for infant genital mutilation, and then complain that others are targeting you directly addressing that rationale, is rather asinine.
"Let’s back up here and understand the difference between the way birth workers usually provide information and how intactivists, whose work is primarily carried out through layers of public relations campaigns, promote their cause."
And while we're at it, let's understand the difference between someone who has a genuine interest in natural child birth and public health, and someone who has religious convictions, and an agenda to defend said religious convictions, whose work is primarily carried out through accusing those who oppose their cause as "anti-" what have you.
The next heading reads:
"Birth Workers are different from Intactivists"
"Jewish circumcision advocates are different from Birth Workers"
"When we birth professionals..."
Notice the self-inclusion there...
"...are educating new parents about procedures like epidurals, delayed umbilical chord clamping, skin-to-skin, or breastfeeding - all of which can have life-changing impact on the vitality of the child, we do not aggressively assert that parents are hurting their child or putting themselves at risk if they go along with what are the medical trends."
But if you are a natural birth worker, you are expected to talk about the risks of going along with what are medical trends, and the benefits of birth without epidurals, the benefits of delayed umbilical cord clamping, skin-to-skin contact and/or breastfeeding. You wouldn't be a "natural birth worker" otherwise.
Of course here, Kenin would like her readers to assume that circumcision is a "medical trend" necessarily essential to childbirth, comparable to umbilical cord clamping, birth pain management and/or child feeding practices. While umbilical cord clamping, birth pain and how the child will feed are inevitably part of childbirth, circumcision is not.
Cutting off the foreskin of a healthy child is unlike clamping and cutting the umbilical cord, which dries up and falls off on its own. Neither is it like choosing to have skin-to-skin contact or breastfeeding.
The fact is that the trend of opinion on routine male circumcision is overwhelmingly negative in industrialized nations. No respected medical board in the world, not even the AAP, recommends circumcision for infants. All of them, including the AAP in their latest statement, state that there isn't sufficient evidence to warrant this endorsement, much to the chagrin of circumcision advocates.
Is this something we can trust a self-proclaimed "natural birth worker" like Wendy Kenin to inform parents about?
We encourage parents to do their own research and inform themselves about the approaches of their care providers so that they can be aware of risks and options and exercise their rights as patients and human beings."
One should hope so.
One should hope that birth workers, especially those that label themselves "natural birth," would guide parents to "natural birth" practices and not intentionally give them wishy-washy "advice" which has nothing to do with natural birth, and more to do with the birth worker's own personal religious convictions she says she wears so proudly.
One should hope that, concerning circumcision, birth workers, especially "natural birth workers" would encourage parents to "do their own research," so that they would arrive at the same conclusion as the most respected medical organizations on earth, and that is that "the benefits are not great enough to recommend infant circumcision."
"Birth workers partly get our work done by staying up-to-date and providing information, and the impact of natural birth advocacy is seen in the statistics. Examples of the successes of birth workers can be seen in the emerging government-funded doula programs in several countries, bringing more trained labor coaches to provide continuous care to mothers in labor because of the improved health outcomes associated with the presence of a doula. Birth workers’ objections to inducing pre-term labor or pre-term elective cesareans helped focus research on these issues which eventually led to policy changes in hospitals across the United States, so we know our approach works."
By "we," she means to say "birth workers" who share her view. By "our approach" she means to say the approach of genuine birth workers. In essence, she is admitting that people like herself, who advocate for male infant genital mutilation, find the natural birth movement alluring to piggyback because the approach could be effective in brainwashing others that circumcision is a "natural birth" practice.
It must be noted here that it is perfectly fine for birth workers to have "objections" to "medical trends." Just as long as that "medical trend" isn't the wholesale genital mutilation of male, and only male newborns.
"More hospitals are instituting new protocols for delayed umbilical chord clamping, and skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby immediately following delivery - two campaigns that the natural birth movement has been conducting through its attention to evidence-based research in the field and in published studies."
Now don't go hogging all the credit...
"Intactivism is carried out through public relations campaigns that range from reaching expectant parents through tabling at childbirth fairs to pushing for legislation to outlaw circumcision."
Natural birth workers engage in the same tactics. Do they not?
"Books, websites, blogs and social media sites share science, stories, and resources on why circumcision is wrong. These venues commonly devote a portion of their pages to cultural circumcision which inevitably focuses on mostly misunderstood and inaccurately framed summaries on Jewish culture."
Would Kenin be able to provide an example of where intactivists misrepresent Jewish culture?
"And for those of us who have inherited circumcision in our religious practice, there are even some Jewish-run groups who offer guidance to holding alternative ceremonies sans the cut, and support groups. But it doesn’t stop there."
Kenin makes it sound like a bad thing.
...and here is the kicker:
Special Treatment for Jews
... reads the next heading.
Here it is being suggested that circumcision is exclusively Jewish, and that Jewish parents are the only parents targeted by intactivists.
"Enter a conversation with intactivists and let them know you are a Jew, almost every time the conversation topic will change from the focus of circumcision being medically unnecessary to, “Did you know another baby died in New York from herpes after the mohel sucked…” No matter whether you appear religiously observant, no consideration or interest in whether you circumcised your own son at 8 days, just because they learn you are Jewish intactivists will bombard you with talking points that range from new information about your ancestral tradition, to Jewish celebrities’ involvement with intactivism, to films about Jewish men and their decisions about circumcision for their sons, to names of organizations that can help you. If you’re lucky, the intactivist will remember to compliment your people, 'Well Jews wait till 8 days so the Jewish boys getting circumcised are the lucky ones if you’re going to have it done…'"
And this is surprising because... ?
When a person who advocates for circumcision tells us s/he is Christian, we point him/her to verses in the New Testament.
When a person tells us s/he is Muslim, we highlight the fact that circumcision is not once mentioned in the Qur'an.
When a person is intent on circumcising his/her premie son, we give that person information on circumcision and NICU babies.
If the parents are planning on having a C-section, you make sure they know the dangers of a caesarian and the benefits of natural birth.
If the parents are planning on nixing breastfeeding in lieu of baby formula, you make sure they know what their child would be missing out on if they deny that child his/her breast milk.
As a birth worker, Kenin ought to know that parents must be given information that is pertinent to them.
There are risks and complications that apply only to Jews. Gentiles, for example, are not the most likely to have their child circumcised by a mohel, who most likely to use a mogen clamp, and who, by the way, may or may not place his herpes-infested mouth on their children's penises.
In New York, Jewish organizations are fighting for the "right" of mohels to refuse to inform Jewish parents about this now-undeniable fact. Apparently, having to make sure parents know they will place their mouths on their children's bloody penises is a violation of "religious freedom."
Mohels have faced lawsuits for circumcision mishaps, including partial or full ablation of the glans in newborn babies circumcised on the 8th day.
There is important information that particularly Jewish parents of boys ought to become aware of.
Can we trust self-proclaimed "natural birth worker" Wendy Kenin to give Jewish parents this information?
SOMEBODY has got to.
And you can't label those with the courage to do it "anti-Semites."
"Intactivists are blind to the fact that the same arguments they are promoting outside the Jewish community, based on research to advocate their cause, would be the only ones appropriate to share with Jews."
Wendy Kenin is blind to the fact that Jews and non-Jews circumcise for different reasons. She is blind to the fact that Jews have a conviction to defend what they see as a sacred tradition they have been defending since Greco-Roman rule. She is blind to the fact that circumcision practices are different in hospital/secular settings than they are in Jewish settings.
That, or she hopes her readers are.
"Intactivists treat Jews different from other people and within their culture have developed an entirely separate agenda for Jewish ears."
Again. This is because they have to.
But we have separate information for "Jewish ears," as we do for "gentile ears," as well as "Muslim ears," and "Filipino ears," and "Indonesian ears," and "African ears." We want to stop ALL forced genital cutting on healthy, non-consenting minors. In order to reach parents, we must approach parents with information that is relevant to them, as parents want to have their children circumcised for different reasons.
"Even though less than 2% of the American population is Jewish while majority of Americans circumcise, much of the intactivist propaganda - from memes to comic books to films - involves imagery of and alludes to Jewish men. So intactivism is involved with targeting Jews in personal interactions, and representing Jews as child-abusers in the public sphere."
This is simply false.
Intactivists are well aware that the great majority of Americans circumcise, and we have not forgotten them.
In fact, contrary to Kenin's allegations, our main focus is on circumcision as it occurs in hospitals, hence our involvement with natural birth.
The problem here for Kenin, and other Jewish advocates of circumcision who share her plight, is that circumcision is being addressed at all.
More so than just "leaving Jewish parents alone," "birth workers" like Kenin would rather silence intactivists and not have us sharing information about the risks and complications of circumcision, or information about normal, natural, anatomically correct genitals with any parent, let alone Jewish ones, in the so-called named of "cultural sensitivity" and "parental choice."
"Intactivists have failed in the cultural sensitivity arena."
Gee, I wonder what she thinks of workers in Sudan, Malaysia, Indonesia etc. trying to end FGM...
"In the Bay Area and other parts of the world, the Jewish and Muslim communities have come together to defend their religious practice from proposed anti-circumcision legislation..."
And this, I believe, is what "birth workers" like Wendy Kenin are all about.
"...so I believe we can all thank the intactivists for catalyzing some unity."
Yes. And ISIS should thank the United States, right?
The next heading in this article reads:
"Birth Workers Need to Realign with Dignified Advocacy Practice"
But let's try and decipher what Kenin means by it.
"Speaking as a birth worker, cultural sensitivity is part of our job. We serve families who speak all languages, in all circumstances, with all sorts of beliefs during this sacred time as they welcome new life into the world. Many of us natural birth doulas serve parents in homes, birth centers, and hospital settings. Regardless of our personal choices and opinions, our purpose is to support our clients whatever their decisions may be while upholding the utmost respect and cooperative relationships with the medical professionals who are responsible for the childbirth procedures and outcomes."
So does Kenin encourage birth workers to practice "cultural sensitivity" when discussing female infant circumcision with their clients? Does she encourage natural birth doulas, as Kenin calls herself, to "support" clients that want to circumcise their baby daughters in their "decision?"
It has got to be asked, as a birth worker, what business does Kenin have in discussing genital surgery in healthy, non-consenting babies, male or female? Aren't cultural or religious practices that parents may want to realize on their children, outside the jurisdiction of birth?
Or does Kenin believe the circumcision of healthy, non-consenting male children (but not female children?) to be a special exception?
But more to the point, what business does a "natural" birth worker have discussing with parents the UN-natural act of cutting off a normal, natural, healthy part of a newborn child's body?
Circumcision is about as "natural" as a c-section or choosing formula in lieu of breast milk; it's about as far away from "natural" as you can get.
"The natural birth movement’s imperative is to handle circumcision with the same professionalism as they do all other debated procedures related to maternity, childbirth, and babies."
Yes, and would "natural birth worker" Wendy Kenin handle female circumcision with the same "professionalism" as she insists male circumcision should be handled?
No, the natural birth movement's imperative is to, as much as possible, encourage parents to opt for natural birth options, something which male infant circumcision is not.
In essence, male infant circumcision, as female infant circumcision, has absolutely nothing to do with child birth, let alone natural birth, which brings us to asking why any birth worker is discussing infant circumcision with parents in the first place.
The answer is that Wendy Kenin is Jewish, and she has an agenda to defend a cherished religious practice in the name of "medicine," and, quite ironically, and paradoxically, in the name of "natural birth."
"We cannot allow the intactivist movement’s impassioned bigotry which condemns and even criminalizes our clients who choose circumcision while also targeting Jews, to run us off course from our successful movement to improve maternity care."
Again, here, Kenin tries to pretend like circumcision advocates like herself, can lay claim to the natural birth movement, and can even make calls to include or expel any given group. She acts like she is speaking on behalf of all "clients" who "choose" to have their sons circumcised, when she admits to "wear[ing] her Jewish heritage."
Kenin tries to defend and protect her own convictions for infant genital mutilation, by clothing them with a thinly veiled interest in medicine, natural child birth, and "research," not to mention making the confusing claims that we are "condemning and criminalizing clients who choose circumcision" and, at the same time "targeting Jews."
Does she decry activists who "condemn and criminalize clients who choose circumcision" for their daughters, and, at the same time, "target Muslims" or other groups where female circumcision is seen as an acceptable parenting decision?
What is happening here is that Kenin and others are trying to hijack the successful natural birth movement and run it off course, not to improve maternity care, but to protect and sanction their own religious convictions in the name of "natural child birth."
Again, the pot is calling the kettle black.
AND speaking of calling the kettle black:
"In fact, natural birth professionals are already anti-racism activists. We have to take into account that horrendous disparities are at play when we support our mothers in labor. For example, a black woman is five times more likely to die during childbirth than other women in the United States, regardless of her economic or other status. Similarly, racism is evident in our professional field as the vast majority of birth and maternity care workers as well as the natural birth events are light-skinned women."
There are so many things wrong with the inclusion of this paragraph in this opinion piece, I don't know where to begin.
What, if anything, does discrimination by skin color have to do with any of what is being talked about in this opinion piece? Are, in fact, a mother's determination to have her male child circumcised, something that shows? Like black pigmentation on a person's skin? And, again, is male infant circumcision exclusively Jewish?
The extreme to which Kenin goes to try and pin intactivists as outright racists gets to be quite ridiculous here. Is her comparison of her false claim that intactivists target Jewish, and only Jewish parents, with the real discrimination black people face in this country even appropriate?
"Reproductive justice advocates are addressing the ways that institutional and societal racism impact childbirth and women’s health as well as the professional field. We shouldn’t have to be adding anti-semitism to the mix, with Jewish birth pros and Jewish moms feeling alienated from our good work."
The ways that institutional and societal racism impact childbirth and women's health as well as the professional field, and what reproductive justice advocates are doing to address them have absolutely no bearing on the intactivist position against the forced genital cutting of healthy, non-consenting minors of any sex, race or creed.
Male infant circumcision is quite clearly not exclusive to Jews and Judaism, and intactivists are opposed to the forced genital cutting of ALL healthy, non-consenting individuals. Intactivists in the natural birth movement approach and give information to ALL parents, not just Jewish ones.
Kenin continues to engage in special pleading, not to mention horrendous, self-serving false accusation.
Is she ready to say that those who oppose female genital mutilation engage in racism against Arabs, Africans, Malaysians, Indonesians etc. are "alienating" mothers and "pros" of those races because they circumcise their daughters?
"If we as childbirth professionals, and the natural maternity organizations we are part of, choose to address circumcision within our scope of information, we can give the issue the same consideration and air-time as we do to the many other physically and spiritually invasive procedures that we witness regularly."
And I ask, yet again, without medical or clinical indication, how can doctors be performing surgery on healthy, non-consenting minors, let alone be "addressing" their parents with any "scope of information?"
How can anyone who calls him/herself a "childbirth professional?"
As a member of a "natural maternity organization," how can a child birth professional be anything else but opposed to the unnatural practice of cutting off a healthy, normal part of a healthy child's penis?
Childbirth professionals who are members of natural birth organizations should give circumcision the same consideration and air-time they do many other procedures alright; the same consideration and air-time they give c-sections, bottle feeding and "cry-it-out" methods.
Sorry, if you tell parents anything other than that cutting off a normal part of a healthy child's penis is not natural, you can't call yourself a "natural birth worker." Every child is born with a foreskin; it is being born without one that is considered a "birth defect." Circumcised children have had a normal, healthy part of their penises cut off. That's not natural.
Concludes the opinion piece:
"Resources about circumcision options are about as appropriate for birth workers’ clients as resources about vaccination as long as the information is evidence-based, but the intactivist movement’s degrading tactics and banners should have no place in our online or virtual forums, nor at our events."
Except that circumcision is nothing like a vaccine. Vaccines immunize the body against pathogens that cause disease; when viruses invade the body, it doesn't matter whether a child is circumcised or not.
Vaccines also do not permanently remove a normal, healthy part of the body, nevermind the fact that, unlike male infant circumcision, respected medical organizations actually recommend vaccination for all children.
"Resources about [male infant]circumcision options" are about as appropriate for birth workers' clients as resources about female infant circumcision, child tattooing and scarification options; unless there is medical or clinical indication, simply non-sequitur.
It is advocates of circumcision, especially advocates of circumcision with religious ulterior agendas, not engaging in discourse about the risks of circumcision and the benefits of healthy, natural genitals, but making false, horrendous accusations about others, who should have no place in online or virtual forums, nor at natural childbirth events.
This article is nothing more than self-serving hogwash. Despite admitting herself that she "wears her Jewish heritage," Wendy Kenin tries to pretend as if she had any genuine concern for natural birth and accurate information for mothers.
This is an article written by a Jewish woman for a Jewish audience on a Jewish publication, and it's about nothing more than defending the Jewish practice of circumcision.
Her accusation of intactivists as "anti-Semites" is disingenuous, as if male infant circumcision were an exclusively Jewish practice, and as if intactivists approached Jewish, and only Jewish parents on the matter.
Her agenda is about nothing more than protecting her own religious convictions, which she does very little to hide, and she should stop pretending like it's about anything else, because it's NOT.
Mutilating the genitals of a healthy child is NOT "natural." It is a forced, artificial phenomenon; a glaringly obvious anti-thesis to what natural birth is supposed to be about.
The only reason a child should ever have to undergo surgery is because there is clear, genuine medical indication.
Circumcision seems to be the one exception to the rule, where doctors offer surgery to parents, appealing to their personal religious convictions and/or "cultural sensitivities," falling back on "evidence" of so-called "potential medical benefits" that couldn't convince a single respected medical organization to recommend infant circumcision.
The foreskin is not a birth defect. Neither is it a congenital deformity or genetic anomaly akin to a 6th finger or a cleft. Neither is it a medical condition like a ruptured appendix or diseased gall bladder. Neither is it a dead part of the body, like the umbilical cord, hair, or fingernails.
The foreskin is not "extra skin." The foreskin is normal, natural, healthy, functioning tissue, with which all boys are born; it is as intrinsic to male genitalia as labia are to female genitalia.
Unless there is a medical or clinical indication, the circumcision of a healthy, non-consenting individual is a deliberate wound; it is the destruction of normal, healthy tissue, the permanent disfigurement of normal, healthy organs, and by very definition, infant genital mutilation, and a violation of the most basic of human rights.
Without medical or clinical indication, doctors have absolutely no business performing surgery in healthy, non-consenting individual, much less be eliciting any kind of "decision" from parents, and "birth workers," particularly those who say to ally themselves with natural childbirth organizations, have absolutely no business discussing "circumcision options" with parents to be.
Indeed, doctors have a duty to refuse to perform needless surgery on healthy, non-consenting minors, and natural birth workers have a duty to advise parents against this unnatural practice.
Reaping profit from performing non-medical surgery on healthy, non-consenting individuals constitutes medical fraud. In minors, it is clear abuse.
Just as natural birth workers would advise in favor of vaginal birth and against unnecessary c-section, just as they would advise in favor of breastfeeding and against exclusive formula feeding, just as they would advise in favor of delayed umbilical cord clamping and skin to skin contact, it only follows that they should advise against needless surgery in healthy infants. The discussion of "the benefits of male infant circumcision" has no place in the natural birth movement, and is as out-of-place as the discussion of "the benefits" caesarean birth, formula feeding, cry-it-out, or other non-natural birth practices.
Kenin is a self-proclaimed, self-serving Jewish circumcision advocate who is engaging in a desperate attempt to graft the decidedly unnatural practice male infant genital mutilation onto the natural birth movement. It is clear that she is attempting to clothe her own personal religious convictions with a feigned interest in better childbirth.
Unless she is ready to prostrate herself to be "culturally sensitive" to parents who wish to perform any other practice on their newborns, Kenin engages in special pleading.
"Anti-Semitism is creeping into into the natural childbirth movement," says Kenin, and "intactivists should have no place in our online or virtual forums, nor at our events." She says these things as if intactivists were targeting Jewish parents, and only Jewish parents to speak out against child genital mutilation. She says them like she and other Jewish advocates of circumcision are entitled to righteous indignation, when that position rightfully belongs to us intactivists.
Nay, it is actually the other way around; mutilation and child abuse advocates are creeping into the natural childbirth movement. It is they who should have no place in the natural birth discussion, and their presence at natural birth functions and conferences which ought to be questioned.
Thursday, August 21, 2014
So a friend contacts me about a recent "study" published in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
"You've got to blast it on your blog!" he says.
So I skim through the article and my first thought is "meh."
I mean, so what. Yet another junk "study" that adds nothing of any actual value to science or medical literature, and serves as nothing more than another chance to repeat the same dubious claim, as always, that "circumcision prevents HIV transmission by 60%," and tries to pretend as if it were bygone conclusion. (Researchers can't actually prove that circumcision prevents HIV transmission AT ALL, let alone by 60%.)
What can I say about one more trash "study" that I haven't already said about all the rest? Only just two or three posts ago I posted about promoters using football to coerce teenagers into getting circumcised. They were using bribery as far back as 2011. So what's new to be seen here?
And then he points to the fact that this so-called "study" was actually the lead article in the latest edition of JAMA.
I look again and think "Holy smokes, he's right!" So I decide to take a closer look. (Readers can read the abstract here.)
The "study" is titled:
"Effect of Providing Conditional Economic Compensation on Uptake of Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision in Kenya: A Randomized Clinical Trial"
The title tries very little to hide the fact that the article is only extremely remotely related to medicine. The long and the short of it is, they're trying to see if bribing men will get them to go get circumcised. I've already said this, but the only reason this can be is because "circumcision prevents HIV by 60%" simply isn't selling. African men aren't stupid.
"Gee, if I still have to wear condoms, what's the whole point? NO THANKS!"
More from the abstract:
Objective To determine whether small economic incentives could increase circumcision prevalence by addressing reported economic barriers to VMMC and behavioral factors such as present-biased decision making.
Translation: Let's see how many men we can bribe into getting circumcised.
It should be noted here that the "researchers," if they can even be called that, are not actually interested in any behavioral factors that matter. They're not interested in seeing if the men are diligently using condoms, for example. (Or if they are not, and hope not to following their circumcisions.) They're not interested in how many sexual partners they have on a weekly or monthly basis, or if they are faithful to one partner or their spouse. Maybe the men feel that since they are faithful, and/or use condoms consistently, they don't feel they ought to be circumcised. And, they would be right.
Also not important to the "researchers," and this would actually be relevant from a "how many men can we dupe into getting circumcised" standpoint; what background were the men from? Did they come from Muslim or tribal backgrounds where circumcision is a social norm, if not expectation? How many were from tribes where NOT being circumcised is important? This is a very important factor; it's not "news" if men who would be circumcised at an initiation school anyway agreed to get circumcised for money in a clinical setting. How many men were actually convinced to get circumcised by financial incentive? How many were already going to get circumcised, but joined the program for the cash?
Only one behavioral factor seems to be important here: What will get the men to comply with having part of their penis cut off?
Design, Setting, and Participants Randomized clinical trial conducted between June 22, 2013, and February 4, 2014, among 1504 uncircumcised men aged 25 to 49 years in Nyanza region, Kenya. VMMC services were provided free of charge and participants were randomized to 1 of 3 intervention groups or a control group.
"Randomized clinical trial" for what, exactly? What drug or form of medical treatment was being tested for efficacy? It seems the only thing "clinical" about this so-called "trial" was the fact that it was conducted by doctors at clinics, and the only thing "random" about it was what group the men would land in. All of them were offered circumcision.
Interventions Participants in the 3 intervention groups received varying amounts of compensation conditional on undergoing circumcision at 1 of 9 study clinics within 2 months of enrollment. Compensation took the form of food vouchers worth 200 Kenya shillings (≈US $2.50), 700 Kenya shillings (≈US $8.75), or 1200 Kenya shillings (≈US $15.00), which reflected a portion of transportation costs and lost wages associated with getting circumcised. The control group received no compensation.
In short, groups were offered different amounts of money in increasing increments; the control group was there to see how many men could be conned into needless surgery for nothing.
Main Outcomes and Measures VMMC uptake within 2 months.
That men would submit for circumcision was an expected outcome; the study was not conducted to measure "whether or not" financial incentive worked in convincing men to get circumcised, but "how well."
Results Analysis of data for 1502 participants with complete data showed that VMMC uptake within 2 months was higher in the US $8.75 group (6.6%; 95% CI, 4.3%-9.5% [25 of 381]) and the US $15.00 group (9.0%; 95% CI, 6.3%-12.4% [34 of 377]) than in the US $2.50 group (1.9%; 95% CI, 0.8%-3.8% [7 of 374]) and the control group (1.6%; 95% CI, 0.6%-3.5% [6 of 370]). In logistic regression analysis, the US $8.75 group had significantly higher VMMC uptake than the control group (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 4.3; 95% CI, 1.7-10.7), as did the US $15.00 group (AOR 6.2; 95% CI, 2.6-15.0). Effect sizes for the US $8.75 and US $15.00 groups did not differ significantly (P = .20).
Conclusions and Relevance Among uncircumcised men in Kenya, compensation in the form of food vouchers worth approximately US $8.75 or US $15.00, compared with lesser or no compensation, resulted in a modest increase in the prevalence of circumcision after 2 months. The effects of more intense promotion or longer implementation require further investigation.
Or, in short, the more money you shell out, the more men are likely to agree to having part of their penis cut off. (Surprise, surprise...)
There are so many things wrong with this "study," I don't even know where to start.
How can this even be called "research" or a "study?" It's not looking to contribute anything of actual value to science or medicine. This "study" is about nothing, on a topic that isn't even remotely related to medicine, yet it gets the lead spot in JAMA. It proves nothing more than that, the more money you offer men, the more likely they'll be to do what you ask them to, in this case, submit to non-therapeutic surgery.
Is it even ethical to conduct this kind of "study" on financial incentive in a setting where food, water and other supplies are scarce? Wouldn't most men say yes to money in situations where it is scarce, regardless of how they feel about HIV prevention and the proper use of condoms? How ethical is it to exploit the financial situations of people who are already in dire poverty, to offer them a dubious form of "protection" from HIV, which is already far superseded by less expensive, less invasive, more effective means?
They call it "VMMC" which stands for "VOLUNTARY Male Medical Circumcision." How is it "voluntary" if you're continuously looking for ways to put men between a rock and a hard place?
As I've told my friend, what more can I say?
This is just one more in a long line of other "studies" that look for the same thing; "Acceptance. Feasibility. Demand creation."
And it will not stop here.
Circumcision "researchers" are desperately looking for every which way they can to get the men to go circumcise themselves on a supposed "voluntary" basis, I will not be surprised to see "studies" on the "effect" of celebrity endorsement. Sex appeal. Sports. Money. Emasculation. Outright insults. Whatever works.
Because "circumcise to prevent HIV" isn't working.
Be on the lookout for an upcoming onslaught of circumcision "research."
Watch as the message of "prevent HIV" is slowly replaced with "get yourself circumcised."
The way progress in the fight against HIV should be measured is how many cases of HIV/AIDS have been avoided, but this is slowly being replaced by how many men have been circumcised, and it ought to concern those interested in reducing HIV transmission in Africa.
"Most studies on male circumcision, including the Kenya Aids Indicator Survey 2013 (KAIS), have so far concentrated on the quantity of procedures but none has shown it is achieving its primary objective of reducing HIV infections. Started almost seven years ago, on the promise that it could reduce the risk of infection by 60 per cent, the KAIS report showed a spike in prevalence in places like Nyanza where the circumcision programme is most intense."~Standard DigitalThere is something wrong when progress on the HIV front is measured, not by how much HIV infection has decreased in time, but by how prolific the practice of circumcision has become. It is simply mistaken to assume that a mostly circumcised population automatically translates to a lowered HIV transmission rate, as real-world data indicates.
The way so-called "researchers" are trying to pass their brainwashing strategies as legitimate "science" and "research" is a complete disgrace.
It is outrageous, despicable and disgraceful that no one at JAMA sees a problem with this.
How was this "study" approved to go on? Who agreed to fund it? Why hasn't there been any kind of public outcry from respected medical communities around the world deploring this horrendous conduct? Who at the IRB approved this unethical "study?" What was the editor of JAMA thinking when he decided to make this the "lead study?" Is the AMA going to voice any complaint?
Lies are being spread. Garbage is being passed off as "research" and being used to shape public health policy. This is not the first "study" of this kind. They have been going on since the WHO endorsed circumcision as "HIV prevention." Why does it seem respected medical organizations are not concerned that this is going on?
Why isn't the WHO concerned that their endorsement of circumcision as "HIV prevention" is resulting in horrendous misconduct on the part of "researchers," circumcision promoters and even amongst African tribes themselves?
It ought to concern respected medical organizations around the world that "research" on what is essentially the financial coercion of men living in poverty to comply with non-therapeutic surgery was published as the leading article in a medical journal of a respected medical organization.
Readers are encouraged to write to representatives at medical organizations in their respective countries, as this is an issue that needs to be addressed. American readers, you are encouraged to write to the AMA and the editors of their JAMA journal. Other medical organizations need to be concerned that this is what passes today as legitimate "research."
I repeat, the WHO must be made aware of this, and respected medical organizations and influential doctors and researchers ought to call for the WHO to withdraw their endorsement of male genital mutilation as HIV prevention.
Human experimentation in Africa must end, and the rights of non-consenting individuals ought to be respected.
How about we give Africans food and water, and not make genital mutilation a condition for not dying of hunger or thirst?
Readers, please express your outrage to the AMA, JAMA and other respected medical organizations about this so-called "research" happening in Africa today. Let them know that this is NOT acceptable conduct for people that call themselves "researchers" and/or medical professionals.
MASS CIRCUMCISION CAMPAIGNS: The Emasculation and Harassment of Africa
AFRICA: Creating Circumcision "Volunteers"
Where Circumcision Doesn't Prevent HIV
Thursday, August 14, 2014
A number of "researchers" are on a mission to "prove" that infant circumcision prevents STIs in adults, and therefore children ought to be circumcised as newborns. There are a few problems with this line of thinking, beginning with the ethics of removing normal, healthy tissue in healthy, non-consenting minors who are not sexually active, and therefore at zero risk for STIs, and the fact that even if the above reasoning held any water, condoms would still be more effective at preventing disease.
I recently came across this poster which tells of the sobering reality of STIs in the United States.
If the above poster is to be believed, 65 million Americans are living with an incurable STI. That's one in five of the population. The asterisk following the given 65 million figure indicates that this data is given by none other than the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
If American circumcision pundit Edgar Schoen is to be believed, well over 80% of US males are circumcised from birth. With an adult circumcision prevalence rate of 80% or greater, the United States should serve as a prime example of the "benefits" of circumcision, or lack thereof. Yet, compared with other countries where circumcision is rare or not practiced, the United States does poorly when it comes to the prevention of STIs.
American doctors, "researchers," medical organizations and charity funds are currently placing much time, effort and precious funds in efforts to circumcise the majority of males in Africa under the pretext of HIV prevention. "Researchers" claim that that circumcision cuts HIV transmission rates by 55 to 65 percent, based on three African trials, and so PEPFAR and several other very well-funded and influential N.G.Os, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are funding, supporting and administering a multinational effort to circumcise over 28 million men in Sub Saharan Africa by 2015. And yet when it comes to circumcision and HIV prevalence rates, the United States isn't a very good model of reference.
In fact, AIDS rates in some US Cities rival hotspots in Africa. In some parts of the U.S., they're actually higher than those in sub-Saharan Africa. According to a 2010 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, rates of HIV among adults in Washington, D.C. exceed 1 in 30; rates higher than those reported in Ethiopia, Nigeria or Rwanda. The Washington D.C. district report on HIV and AIDS reported an increase of 22% from 2006 in 2009. According to Shannon L. Hader, HIV/AIDS Administration, Washington D.C., March 15, 2009, "[Washington D.C.'s] rates are higher than West Africa... they're on par with Uganda and some parts of Kenya." (Hader once led the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's work in Zimbabwe.)
According to the CIA World Factbook, the United States has a higher HIV prevalence rate than 53 countries where circumcision is rare (e.g. under 20%) or not practiced. The United States has more HIV than:
Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay, Cambodia, Peru, Nepal, Switzerland, Vietnam, Ecuador, France, Chile, Spain, Moldova, Mexico, Italy, India, Iceland, Costa Rica, Canada, Belarus, Austria, Paraguay, Netherlands, Ireland, Denmark, Bolivia, Bhutan, United Kingdom, Belgium, Nicaragua, Laos, Bulgaria, China, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Japan, Lithuania, Mongolia, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Sweden
One would expect for there to be a lower HIV prevalence in the United States, where the great majority of males are circumcised from birth, and for HIV to be rampant in Europe, where circumcision is rare, if at all practiced. It is telling that the HIV epidemic struck in our country during the 1980s, when 90% of the male population was already circumcised. And not only did it strike, America was the one place in all of the developed world where the disease took root and spread. Somehow, we're supposed to believe that what never worked in our own country, is going to start working miracles in Africa. If ever there was an intervention that failed to prevent HIV transmission (and if this poster is to be believed, the transmission of most any other STI) it is routine infant circumcision.
I've already talked about how the magical 60% prevention figure simply doesn't manifest itself in the real world in other posts (see here and here), and I've already talked about the disgraceful actions that the WHO has given de facto endorsement to, including forced circumcisions in children and adult men (circumcision was supposed to be "voluntary," remember?), and the use circumcision as a condition for participation in sports. I've also already talked about how there is no scientifically demonstrable causal link between the presence of the foreskin and increased HIV transmission, and/or it's removal and decreased HIV transmission, all "studies" being based on correlational hypothesis.
Let's just assume for a moment that all of the science is solid. Let's assume the all too famous 60% figure we are given is 100% infallible (real world data tells us otherwise, but let's press on). Circumcision would still FAIL to prevent HIV or any other STI. It fails so terribly that circumcised men must still be urged to wear condoms. There isn't a single doctor or "researcher" that can deny this fact. At which point it must be asked, why even bother with circumcision?
What male in the right mind would choose to be circumcised given complete information?
Why violate the integrity of a healthy, non-consenting minor, to afford a dubious benefit better afforded by the use of condoms which would be cheaper, less invasive and more effective in preventing STIs?
Again, infant circumcision never prevented anything in our country. The data is staring us right in the face, and not even the CDC can deny it. How is it suddenly going to start working wonders in Africa?
Upworthy presents the above poster under the following heading:
"People Say The Dumbest Things Right Before They Have Sex. Here Are Some Of Them."
This can be added to the poster; "I don't have to wear a condom; I'm circumcised."
Where Circumcision Doesn't Prevent HIV
Where Circumcision Doesn't Prevent HIV II
MASS CIRCUMCISION CAMPAIGNS: The Emasculation and Harassment of Africa
Saturday, August 9, 2014
It's been a while since I last posted, as life keeps me busy. I still don't have much time to write, but I just saw this picture making the rounds on Facebook, and I decided I'd make a quick post.
It always pisses me off to hear people write off circumcision as "just a little snip" and the foreskin as "just a little piece of skin." Well, I'd like to see them cut off "just a little piece of skin" this size off a little baby girl and away with it...
Just as a point of reference...
If we are to believe a certain blogger from South East Asia who had her baby girl "sunat" to fulfill social obligations, pictured below is the severed clitoris of a little baby girl.
Original Text: "It happens so fast, with a bismillah and a snip,
a little bit blood and that's it, Zahra dah sunat!
She didn't cry even a drop, in fact giggling2 lagi.
I guess it wasn't painful for her, alhamdulillahh.."
(The blog post has been now taken down. Gee I wonder why...)
Come to think about it, you know what else pisses me off?
When people say "Don't you dare compare male and female circumcision. They're not the same!"
Ch' Yah! You're right! They're not.
Circumcision is Child Abuse: A Picture Essay
Monday, July 21, 2014
Because "being smart" can only come from having part
of your penis removed?I wonder what Africans would think
if we told them the great majority of Europeans
aren't circumcised... Not to mention the rest of
the world... That man in the purple striped shirt
is smart; he's not buying it.
of your penis removed?I wonder what Africans would think
if we told them the great majority of Europeans
aren't circumcised... Not to mention the rest of
the world... That man in the purple striped shirt
is smart; he's not buying it.
It seems now, that organizers are aiming to "create" so-called "voluntary demand," or bust, by making Africans offers they can't refuse.
It looks like organizers are now using sports as an incentive to get men to get circumcised "voluntarily." You know? To keep the "voluntary" in "voluntary male medical circumcision." And no, I don't mean by celebrity endorsement by local footy legends. From what it looks like, organizers are now looking to make circumcision as a condition for participating in soccer programs.
In other words, you have to "volunteer" to have your genitals mutilated in order to play.
“In one presentation I sat through at a world AIDS conference (summer of 2010), a young doctor with these circumcision campaigns [in Africa] (he was marketing chief) took to the podium and explained a “successful” program. They went into the poorest communities, where the boys were mad for soccer, and bought them all new equipment and uniforms. Built them beautiful pitches to play on. Brought in well-known soccer players to inspire the boys, and got coaches. Let the boys play and get to love it. And when it came time to play in the regional tournaments, the bar came crushing down: they’d be sponsored to travel and play only if the team captain could convince most of the boys on the team to get circumcised. The peer pressure was tremendous not to let the team and community down. This doctor was positively gleeful at how successful this strategy was.”
We really hoped this would be just a bad rumor, but now it seems making circumcision a condition for participation in soccer programs is an actually strategy being implemented in Africa, which is to be presented at the AIDS 2014 Conference in Melbourne, Australia, which is happening right now (July 20 - 25). A more detailed report about this can be read here.
"Sure you can eat... IF you volunteer to get circumcised first..."
As if making circumcision a condition for soccer programs weren't enough, it now sounds like organizers are using food, FOOD, as an incentive to get men to "volunteer" to be circumcised. This has got to be the most insulting strategy for "demand creation" that can be imagined for Africans.
African countries suffer poverty. They don't have adequate medical facilities. Men and women have to travel for miles to get medical attention. They don't have enough to eat. But yes, let's CIRCUMCISE them. Sure you'll get medicine, you'll get food, you'll get advice for better living. But the price is circumcision. Give us part of your penis, and part of your children's penises if you want food, the most bare of necessity for life. We can't actually guarantee that circumcision will actually DO anything for you, but it will guarantee some food for you and your family to eat.
All of this has got to be some sort of psychological experiment with Africans as guinea pigs. You can get men to do almost anything with the proper motivation. But how is this any different than lab mice in a skinner box?
The above scenario is basically being recreated with Africa, except instead of rodents, they're using Africans, and instead of a lever, it's circumcision, and instead of an electrifying wire mesh, it's social stigma.
If it's "get circumcised, or get fried," how in the world is this "voluntary?"
Is it not obvious that organizers have crossed over to the realm of madness?
This is outright exploitation of Africans using HIV prevention as pretext.
There is a problem when "success" in the fight against HIV is measured, not in how much less infections we have per year, not in how much closer we are to a vaccine, but by how many people we have brainwashed about circumcision, which, even if the best "research" is correct, still fails as HIV prevention (ergo circumcised men must still use condoms).
Smart men ask themselves, "If I still need to use a condom,
why even bother with circumcision?"
For heaven sakes, could we not just GIVE Africans food and water?
Could you we not just give Africans condoms and education MINUS the genital mutilation?
Where Circumcision Doesn't Prevent HIV
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Neil Pollock, flashing the tools of his trade
In a recent article on the Jewish Independent, Neil Pollock expresses his intentions to fly to Haiti, with the goal of proselytizing doctors there, training them to perform circumcisions, hoping those doctors will train other doctors in the region, and that thus, that circumcision will flourish under the guise of HIV prevention. A very lovely thought, if you're a stark Jewish advocate of infant circumcision, or if you're a doctor whose main source of income happens to be infant circumcision (Neil Pollock happens to be BOTH), but is this endeavor feasible? Practical? Realistic? Based on sound evidence? Honest?
Are Neil Pollock's intentions based on a genuine concern for public health? Or is this nothing more than a PR project to redeem infant circumcision by making it relevant to medicine? After all, it looks real good for your business to go to other countries training doctors in infant circumcision under the guise of medicine, if you happen to be a doctor who makes a living entirely from infant circumcision. Not to mention the fact that Pollock also happens to be a Jewish mohel, is affiliated with other mohels, not to mention other Jewish physicians that promote infant circumcision as medicine, where ritual infant circumcision is seen as divine commandment.
Male infant circumcision has been increasingly under fire from human rights groups, not to mention the recent herpes scandals in New York, and the latest developments in Europe zeroing in on infant circumcision.
So is this about HIV prevention?
Or about the continuous fight for Jews and gentile circumcision doctors to redeem the dying practice of infant genital mutilation?
It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it. ~Upton Sinclair
I'm going to go through the Jewish Independent article on this blog post and post my insights about it bit by bit.
The headline is already dubious, as it starts with a definite claim:
Vancouver doctor will train physicians in Haiti in circumcision
If one reads the article to the end, one realizes whether or not Pollock flies to Haiti depends on whether or not he can collect funding for his project. So the headline would be more accurate if it read something more like "Vancouver circumcision doctor asking for funds to train physicians in Haiti".
Begins the article:
"Dr. Neil Pollock specializes in circumcision, from newborn to adult, and adult vasectomy."
This is the first time I've heard of Pollock "specializing" in anything other than newborn circumcision and adult vasectomy. To my knowledge, he is first and foremost a mohel, who doubles as a circumciser of gentile newborns on the side. I guess he's trying to make more money now?
"As a leading expert in circumcision, he has traveled around the world to train physicians and, this summer, he will head to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to teach a team of doctors in medical newborn and infant circumcision."
Not if he doesn't raise enough funds, he won't...
Now let's look at that first sentence; "...he has traveled around the world..." I know he went on a circumcision tour in Rwanda once, but I haven't heard of him going anywhere else... A rather modest exaggeration if I do say so myself...
“'After carrying out 50,000 infant circumcisions and traveling recently to Turkey, China and Africa to exchange ideas, I have evolved my technique to make it applicable to infants, children, teenagers and adults,' Pollock told the Independent in a recent interview."
The story changes a bit here. So he HAS traveled "around the world." He has traveled to Turkey, China and Africa "to exchange ideas," but that's slightly different than "to train physicians." Rather wishy-washy here.
But here we read that Pollock has "evolved his technique." He attempts to sound so matter-of-fact and so sure of himself, and most people reading this would be forgiven if they believed that Pollock came up with something totally new, unique and original that only he could do. Not mentioned here is his so-called "technique," which, if people cared to investigate, is nothing more than a glorification of the Mogen clamp technique, which is in and of itself, a circumcision method that dates back hundreds of years.
I'm sitting here asking myself... Pollock isn't actually using a Mogen clamp to circumcise children, teenagers and adults, is he?
“I have developed a technique to do circumcision in this older age group under local anesthetic without using sutures and using, instead, a cyanocrylate skin glue that closes the wound. Being able to do the procedure under local anesthetic and with skin glue instead of a general anesthetic in hospital provides for a much simpler, easier, quicker, safer and improved cosmetic outcome for patients.”
Here, Pollock is trying to sound "new" and "innovative." Let's not forget that circumcision is a few thousand years old.
Not addressed here are the questions of, why are children and teenagers being circumcised? Were these circumcisions medically necessary? Or were these healthy minors being forcibly circumcised at the whim of their parents?
Without medical or clinical indication, how is it doctors like Pollock are performing surgery on healthy, non-consenting minors, let alone be giving parents any kind of "choice?"
Maybe what he does is "much simpler, easier, quicker, safer," etc., but isn't reaping profit from performing surgery on healthy, non-consenting individuals the epitome of medical fraud?
Let's ask a different question; would female circumcision ever be justified if someone came up with a "simple, easy and safe" way to perform it?
"This method, he said, is unique. 'I’m unaware of this approach being used anywhere in [Canada] except in my clinics. The older age group is currently requesting circumcision for reasons like reduction in disease transmission, preference of their partners and improved hygiene.'"
What about the younger age group? Are they requesting it? Or is he performing circumcision on them against their express wishes?
"In 2008, Dr. David Patrick was the head of the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. Pollock said he was asked by his colleague “to teach my surgical techniques for circumcision in Rwanda, where they were using scissors and stitches, without anesthetic, and their surgeons desperately required training in an alternative quick, safe and painless infant circumcision technique that would be accepted by their population. In coordination with their surgeons, I planned with my team a five-day surgical training mission that year and flew to Rwanda. I have been in contact with these surgeons by email since my trip and they have informed me that they are using my technique effectively and safely throughout the country now."
Here, Pollock toots his own horn; he tries to make his "work" indispensable. Towards the end of my post, we will look at another circumcision technique which basically makes Pollock and his "new and improved techniques" obsolete.
“'The impact of our humanitarian effort became known in the international medical community, which led to Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, professor at [the University of California, Los Angeles] Medical School, contacting me recently and asking me to essentially replicate the work I did in Rwanda, but this time in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where they are being overwhelmed by the number of patients requiring treatment for AIDS and would receive huge benefit from introducing a preventative strategy to reduce AIDS transmission, such as infant circumcision, which will reduce the risk of their circumcised infants later contracting AIDS when they hit sexual age, by over 60 percent.'"
This sounds rather fictitious to me!
I'd be interested to know who this Jeffrey Klausner is, what his religious affiliations are, and whether or not he had any affiliations with Pollock prior to his so-called "humanitarian effort." Methinks Klausner is nothing more than another circumcision enthusiast, trying to look for venues to take advantage of to push circumcision, particularly infant circumcision.
Who IS Klausner? And does he also just "happen" to have ties with Edgar Schoen?
I have a hard time believing that Pollock was such a prominent figure in the international medical community a man in UCLA just "happened" to take notice. Klausner might not happen to have any affiliations with Arleen Leibowitz, who is working to try and restore Medicaid coverage in states that no longer pay for infant circumcision, does he?
A quick Google search reveals that Klausner has published with circumcision "researcher" Daniel Halperin, another circumcision advocate in Africa who wants to make circumcision as HIV prevention his legacy. (Halperin also happens to be Jewish and is quoted saying he wants to make his mohel grandfather proud.) He has also published with Australian circumcision enthusiast Brian Morris, whose reputation we all know about. Klausner has been "researching" was to increase circumcision in India and elsewhere. Is it really any wonder that Pollock and his "work" caught his eye?
No, this was no coincidence; all of these so-called circumcision/HIV "experts" know each other and sniff each others rear ends. I don't believe for a second that Klausner contacted Pollock "out of the blue," asking for his "assistance." They're probably on each other's contact lists and sat around on Skype or Facetime brainstorming the whole thing. They must look at every country with HIV prevalence and sit around thinking "How can we make circumcision part of the picture?"
For the record, there is simply no evidence whatsoever that infant circumcision has any effect on HIV transmission. Additionally, there is no scientifically demonstrable causal link between male circumcision and reduced HIV transmission. Unproven and disproven theories abound, but it cannot be demonstrably shown that circumcision reduces HIV transmission at all, let alone by the fabled 60%.
Interesting fact; according to American circumcision pundit Edgar Schoen (good friends with Pollock), 80% of US males are already circumcised from birth. And yet, according to the CIA Factbook, we have a higher HIV prevalence rate than 53 countries where circumcision is rare (below 20%) or not practice. The United States has a higher HIV prevalence than MEXICO.
"'Its impact and effectiveness has been referenced metaphorically to be like a vaccine.' Circumcision, he added, 'works to reduce AIDS by removing the portal of entry of the virus, which is the foreskin.'"
Referenced by WHOM?
And here, we have Pollock spewing an unproven, if not disproven theory as matter-of-fact. It simply cannot be demonstrated under a microscope that the foreskin facilitates HIV transmission, nor that removing it reduces it. Actually, the Langerhans cells, which have been indicted as "the main port of entry" for HIV have been shown to actually effectively destroy the HIV virus. Pollock is hoping to ride the HIV gravy train to redeem infant circumcision, to which he has religious convictions, and to promote his business.
"Klausner, a professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases and the program in global health at UCLA, is an advocate in the use of medical male circumcision for the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV. He volunteers with GHESKIO, an organization run out of the Centre for Global Health at Weill Cornell Medical College in partnership with the Haitian government. Operating primarily in Port-au-Prince, their work is supported by Haiti’s first lady and has a mission to combat HIV and improve conditions of maternal and child health. GHESKIO will host Pollock’s training in Port-au-Prince."
It will be interesting what more information I will find on this Klausner fellow and this GHESKIO. A question that rises in my head is, if Pollock is to be hosted by GHESKIO, why is Pollock asking for funds? Are there not enough funds at Weill Cornell or the Haitian government?
"Raised in Winnipeg, Pollock explained that he decided to become a doctor 'because I had a strong interest in sciences, medicine and surgery from a young age.'"
Really? As someone raised in the Jewish faith, he wasn't interested in brit milah first, and vindicating it through medicalization second? It makes me wonder, what is his area of focus? Urology? Does he treat penile problems? Or is cutting up babies and neutering men all he does for a living?
"Early in his career, he decided to create a special focus on circumcision and vasectomy, and built a highly focused practice and a well-tested – and respected – technique."
"Respected" by whom?
What is this "technique," and did he actually come up with it?
Answer: He is using the Mogen clamp technique, and it is not his own original idea. The Mogen company has been put out of business by million dollar circumcision mishap lawsuits it couldn't afford to pay. The Mogen clamp is notorious for partial or full glans amputations, even in the hands of skilled practitioners.
A common mishap in the Mogen clamp circumcision method
is that part of, or all of the glans gets pulled up into the clamp,
resulting in the partial or full ablation of the glans penis.
Will one week of training provide enough experience to prevent these injuries? And if it isn't, are hospitals in Haiti equipped to deal with these life altering complications?
"'My interest in developing a safe, quick and painless approach to circumcision for the medical community in B.C. arose initially from some of the rabbis approaching me approximately 20 years ago and encouraging me to become a mohel in Vancouver,' Pollock said."
I'm sure it did not arise because he's Jewish and he has a religious conviction to defend circumcision. And I'm sure this has nothing with wanting to cash in on the business of mutilating the genitals of healthy, non-consenting minors.
"The benefits of newborn and infant circumcision are many, but the rates of the procedure vary from region to region, and remain contentious to those opposed to what’s seen as elective (non-consenting) surgeries for babies"
The "benefits" have not convinced a single medical organization in the world to recommend infant circumcision. Circumcision in healthy, non-consenting minors IS elective, non-medical surgery.
"Pollock noted, 'The most important change recently in how the medical community has come to view circumcision is expressed in the … consensus statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics released in late 2012 declaring that ‘the medical benefits of infant circumcision outweigh the risks.’ This is the strongest statement of support ever issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics.'"
Though the AAP tries to make the claim that "the benefits outweigh the risks," it falls short of a recommendation. (Not to mention it was formally rejected by 38 pediatricians, urologists, epidemiologists, and professors, representing 20 medical organizations and 15 universities and hospitals in 17 countries.) But Pollock will not be telling us that.
"'The benefits of circumcision are multiple; they include reduction in the risk of urinary tract infection, which can lead to kidney infection and renal failure (How common is UTI, and furthermore, these complications? When and if they occur, are there non-surgical intervetions?), reduced risk of cancer of the penis (Which is already quite rare at approximately 1 in 100,000 males; according to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 6 US males will be diagnosed with prostate cancer annually. They also do not recommend circumcision as a way to prevent cancer by the way...), cancer of the cervix in partners (...for which there are already effective vaccines), reduced risk of balanitis (which is a [rare] infection of the foreskin), and other foreskin-related problems, like phimosis (Which is already rare, and does not always require surgery for treatment).' As well, circumcised males also experience a 'reduction of multiple sexually transmitted diseases, like HPV, herpes and AIDS transmission. The latter is exponentially more important in places like Haiti and Africa, where a large number of the population has AIDS in comparison to other regions of the world where AIDS is less common.' (According to USAID, HIV was more prevalent among circumcised men in 10 out of 18 countries. Real world data shows that circumcision does not correlate with a lower HIV prevalence rate.) Possible risks include 'bleeding and infection,' he added, 'but, in experienced hands (Like his, right?), risks are extremely low.'
After all is said and done, no medical organization recommends infant circumcision. All of them, including the AAP, say that the "benefits" are simply not great enough.
"Rwanda and Haiti share a history of national trauma, which has led in both countries to poor health outcomes. In 1994, at least 800,000 Rwandans were massacred by their countrymen in a genocide. In 2010, Haiti, already the victim of more than two centuries of extreme poverty, dictatorships and U.S.-led military interventions, experienced a 7.0 earthquake that resulted in the deaths of more than 100,000, and displaced 1.5 million of the tiny country’s 10 million people. Since then, Haitians have been hit by serious outbreaks of preventable disease, including cholera, tuberculosis and AIDS. According to the United Nations, life expectancy is 61 years for men and 64 for women."
Poor, poor Haiti... Let's circumcise them and worry about feeding them and improving conditions for them later!
"The health challenges that Haitians are very similar to those experienced in Africa, and the training is seen as critical in addressing those obstacles. 'Like there was in Rwanda, there is a need to train surgeons in Haiti to carry out a quick, safe and painless infant circumcision technique,' Pollock explained."
More like "Hatians are as vulnerable as the Rwandans, I know a good PR opportunity when I see one, and I need to be there to take advantage."
"'In regards to what accounts to gaps in circumcision rates, there may be a deficiency in trained surgeons to carry out the surgery in an acceptable manner, along with variations in social and cultural norms that influence the choice to have circumcision.'"
That Haiti's problems are attributable to "gaps in circumcision rates" and "deficiency in trained surgeons" and that "the social and cultural norms that influence the choice to have circumcision"(because having circumcision is the only acceptable choice?) are Pollock's own conjecture. Here, we see Pollock trying to justify and necessitate himself. Haitians "need" circumcision, and he's the man they should send to give it to them.
"The ultimate intention of the training, Pollock said, is 'to set up a national program accepted by the population, to introduce infant circumcision safely and effectively, and have it evolve to become a widespread practice throughout the country, thereby reducing the transmission of multiple diseases, including AIDS.'"
What he means to say, of course is that his ultimate objective is to proselytize Haiti, and to install infant circumcision as part of their culture, under the pretense of HIV prevention. He hopes to complete the training, and then be able to boast about it on newspapers, whatever the outcome. The training hasn't even happened yet; Pollock is asking for funds in this article, but he is already boasting the project as eminent.
"Pollock’s visit to Haiti will involve intensive training. 'My goal is to carry out a similar plan to what we executed in Rwanda. I worked with physicians there weeks ahead to set up a surgical schedule of 20-to-30 infants per day, over four-to-five days of operating. After working with doctors on models that I brought to demonstrate the technique and do the primary teaching, they moved to assist me with the surgeries and eventually carry them out under my supervision on the infants booked for circumcision.'"
He hopes to replicate in Haiti, what he did in Rwanda, but there is a huge difference; whereas circumcision is already a part of the culture in Rwanda and the rest of Africa, it is not part of the culture in Haiti, or the rest of the Caribbean. It has been very easy for circumcision advocates to get people on-board the circumcision gravy train in countries in Africa where circumcision is already prevalent as a cultural practice, but it is proving to be a challenge in areas where it is not; Swaziland, where the Soka Unkobe project failed to yield results, is a good example. Whether or not Pollock achieves the same results in Rwanda will remain to be seen; will he be able to convince enough Haitians to circumcise their newborns, enough to yield his 20-to-30 infants per day?
Here are some more interesting facts; while HIV prevalence rates are high in both Rwanda and Haiti (2.9% and 2.1% respectively) as well as a low prevalence of circumcision (less than 20%), the HIV prevalence rates in both of these countries are relatively lower than in Swaziland (HIV rate 26.5%) as well as other countries with higher circumcision prevalence (25-50%). Kenya and Tanzania, with circumcision rates of 84% and 70% respectively, also higher rates of HIV (6.1% and 5.1%).
And here's where it gets interesting...
"The training in Haiti, part of a nongovernmental public health initiative, will be partially supported by charitable donations."
In other words, it hasn't happened yet...
"The commitment from my end for Haiti will include a week away from my practice and the commitment to help raise the $25,000 for the mission to take place. The plan is to raise $25,000 from the Vancouver community in the next seven days or so as to be able to launch the teaching mission in Haiti by the end of the summer."
"If you build it... they will come..."
"'During the week in Haiti, I will train two physicians, who will then train other physicians once our team leaves. I will maintain follow-up with these physicians to help them manage any issues that should arise.'" The goal is to create a sustainable public health campaign and donated funds not only will go towards covering the costs for the week, but also for 'the next 500 infants once we leave.
Readers who would like to donate to the effort “will support an initiative, which will undoubtedly over the years save thousands and thousands of lives,” Pollock said. “It’s intended that Haiti will become a training centre for circumcision in the Caribbean. It is likely that my technique, once taught in Haiti, will soon be shared with multiple countries throughout the Caribbean, multiplying its effect to save lives throughout the entire region.'"
Tho goal is clear:
Pollock hopes to drop a circumcision PR bombshell in Haiti. He hopes this will start a brushfire, which will then spread to the rest of the Caribbean. He has pipe dreams that his little project will plant a seed that will flourish and that he'll be given credit for circumcising the whole of the Caribbean.
I like how he uses the term "saving lives" as a euphemism for getting everyone circumcised, as if circumcision actually did anything to prevent HIV; the sad reality is that circumcision does not, cannot prevent HIV transmission. Not a single doctor or "researcher" can deny this fact. It fails so terribly that circumcised men must still be urged to wear condoms if they want any real protection.
Pollock must be on crack; in Africa it's very easy to convince people in cultures where circumcision is already present, that circumcising their children as newborns is a good idea. What is more likely to happen is that he'll go to Haiti, he'll go back to Canada, and instead of flourishing his project would fizzle, because people would be horrified at the proposition of having the genitals of their children mutilated for dubious benefits no medical organization in the world deems sufficient. And what other Caribbean countries in the right mind would listen to Haiti for anything?
"'So, I’m asking readers and members of the community to reach deep and consider making a financial donation to help us raise $25,000 in the next [several] days to allow this mission to proceed.'"
So in short, this entire article can be summarized as thus; Pollock sees a circumcision PR opportunity in Haiti and he wants people and/or organizations to give him money to do it.
It ought to interest readers that Pollock went to Rwanda on the dime of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Shusterman Foundation, whose vision, by the way is "To help the Jewish people flourish by spreading the joy of Jewish living, giving and learning," and their mission is "ensuring vibrant Jewish life by empowering young Jews to embrace the joy of Judaism, build inclusive Jewish communities, support the State of Israel and repair the world."
At least for me, the question is, with financial guarantors like Shusterman Foundation, what is Pollock really up to? With this article published on a news outlet that primarily targets Jewish readers, what kind of donors is he hoping to attract for funds? My guess is that Pollock is hoping to attract monies from other Jewish advocates of circumcision, who share his vision of redeeming infant circumcision. Safeguarding a cherished tradition that is increasingly under public scrutiny (not to mention Pollock's main source of income) is the goal, and "saving lives" is the pretext.
Other questions arise...
So in this article, Pollock is both plugging himself, AND he's asking for money. Which leads to asking, if Pollock is performing so many circumcisions, why is he simply not flipping the bill himself? Pollock is trying to come off as if he would be doing the world a favor by traveling to evangelize circumcision in Haiti, but it doesn't sound like he could be too generous if he's basically asking to be reimbursed.
I have two theories:
a) With increasing intactivist activity in the US, and the latest developments in Europe, pickings are slim for him and other mohels, and he feels he should do a kind of PR tour. Since he's not making too much money, he needs the funds.
b) Having others pay his way is simply more PR for him; he can later claim that not only he was "asked" to go to Haiti (like I believe that), he was also given a full ride by "generous people in the international community" who wanted him to go to Haiti that bad.
But lastly, and here's the kicker, with the technological innovations the race to circumcise Africa has spawned, of what use are his "techniques" to circumcise older males? PrePex, for example, boasts a painless, bloodless technique to circumcise older males, which doesn't have to be performed by doctors. Why pay Pollock $25,000 to train doctors to perform cumbersome surgery when the money could be used for PrePex devices? (Not to mention that even if the latest "research" held any water, condoms would still be much cheaper, less invasive and more effective than circumcision?)
In short, given the new technology that doesn't require doctors, aren't Pollock's "techniques" pretty much obsolete?
Indeed, they are. But then Pollock couldn't take advantage of HIV-afflicted Haiti to PR infant circumcision, which is what actually matters to Pollock and his financial supporters.
Neil Pollock's conflicts of interest should be immediately obvious to anyone who investigates his background. He's not interested in HIV prevention or public health. He's concerned with staying in business, not to mention vindicating circumcision to which he has a religious conviction for. This is nothing more than a thinly-veiled circumcision crusade and Haitians ought to be put on alert. It is clear who would donate funds for him, and what their true intentions are.
"All abuse of babies is easier. They are powerless and history will judge us by how we protect the powerless." -Paul Mason, Commissioner for Children, Tasmania, Australia 2007-2010
Where Circumcision Doesn't Prevent HIV