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Massachusetts MGM Bill Public Hearing

 

Bill Number S. 1777

 

Click here for a brief history.

 

Click here for the 2014 Massachusetts MGM Bill proposal.

 

 

On April 20, 2010, the Senate Ethics and Rules Committee accepted the Judiciary Committee's report that S. 1777 "ought not to pass", and the bill expired on July 31, 2010.

 

 

The Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary

Massachusetts State House

Hearing Room A2

Boston, Massachusetts

 

March 2, 2010

 

 

 

WMV format (20.8 MB)

 

 

 

Testifying in favor:

(in order of testimony)

 

 

 

My name is Georganne Chapin, J.D. and I am the Executive Director of Intact America, an organization formed last year to change how Americans think about neonatal male circumcision. We have a website at www.intactamerica.org to serve as a clearinghouse for information on the ethics, risks and harms of infant circumcision, and the advantages of the normal, intact male body.

 

This hearing comes at a key time in the growing movement to protect the human rights of baby boys from a medically unnecessary, painful and risky procedure that removes healthy, functioning human tissue. The procedure is unethical at its core. Medical ethics requires benefit to the patient and informed consent before something as invasive as surgery can be justified. Obviously, informed consent is not possible with a newborn baby.

 

No reputable medical authority – not the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control or the American Medical Association, which calls male circumcision “non-therapeutic” – has ever recommended in favor of the surgery.

 

The United States is the only western nation that practices medical circumcision on a majority of newborn baby boys. In Europe, circumcision rates are below five percent. Even here, the rate has dropped from nearly 90 percent thirty years ago to around 55 percent today. The increase in baby boys who remain intact is due to a growing awareness among expectant parents that the surgery is unnecessary, and that the foreskin is a natural, healthy functional body part that should not be removed absent some unusual and compelling medical reason.

 

However, parts of the medical establishment are now considering whether to recommend for the first time in favor of this unnecessary and risky surgery, which – by the way – adds more than a billion dollars a year to physician and hospital revenue and thus to the nation’s health care costs.

 

These promoters of infant circumcision are basing their consideration on studies conducted among consenting adult African men on the role of circumcision in mitigating HIV transmission. Those African studies showed while female to male transmission decreased with male circumcision, the surgery did nothing to reduce HIV transmission from males to females or between males – still the most prevalent transmission modality in the United States. In fact, the most recent African studies ended early because women contracted HIV at alarmingly higher rates from circumcised men, presumably because the men were not using condoms – the only effective means to prevent HIV transmission.

 

If there were a link between circumcision and HIV, why does this country have both the highest HIV rates and highest circumcision rates among industrialized countries?

 

One should no more argue for male circumcision because babies might engage in unsafe behavior decades into the future than one would recommend removing fingernails to prevent them from scratching themselves, removing teeth to prevent dental caries, or removing a healthy appendix because it might one day burst.

 

Forced female circumcision is properly viewed with revulsion – and in fact is banned – in this country. Soraya Miré, the Somali filmmaker who is a worldwide leader in the fight to end the brutal “cultural” practice of female circumcision, has eloquently stated that the same human right to an intact body should apply to boys.  How can we argue otherwise?

 

More than 500 of our supporters – including doctors, nurses, parents and men who regret having been circumcised without their consent – have submitted written testimony through thewww.intactamerica.org website and we are making those available to you.

 

Physicians must embrace the fact that their patient is the baby, not the parent, and that their patient cannot consent to circumcision. They must honor the oath they take to heal the sick and do no harm, by saying no to neonatal male circumcision.  As a society, we should do the same.

 

 

 

 

John Iozza

 

 

 

 

I would like to extend my thanks and appreciation to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for allowing me to speak at this hearing today. My name is Matthew Hess, and I am here to testify on behalf of our national organization, MGMbill.org, in support of Senate Bill Number 1777.

 

In addition to the MGM Bill before you, our group has authored similar legislation for Congress and 44 other state legislatures. All of our bill proposals ask for the same thing: equal protection of the law. It has long been recognized that circumcision of girls is both unnecessary and dangerous. But circumcision of boys is also medically unnecessary, and numerous articles, studies, books, and films have documented the harmful physical and emotional effects that can result from this surgery.

 

Although proponents of infant male circumcision argue that there are potential medical benefits when the foreskin is removed, similar if not greater benefits would be achieved by removing other functional body parts. To use just one example, if a physician were to remove healthy breast tissue from a baby girl to protect her from breast cancer one day in the future, that would be considered both unethical and illegal, and rightly so. Why, then, do we make an exception for the male foreskin?

 

What we are proposing is not a radical measure. We are not calling for a complete ban on male circumcision, nor are we seeking to pass judgment on those who elect to undergo this procedure. All we are asking is that circumcision not be permitted until the adult male gives his own consent.

                                                                        

To address the argument that granting this right would violate our freedom of religion, the courts have consistently stated that while parents are free to make martyrs of themselves, they are not free to make martyrs of their children.

 

Girls have been legally protected from all types of genital cutting since 1997 under Title 18 of the United States Code. By extension, the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires that the same protection be given to boys. I respectfully ask you to honor that requirement in Massachusetts by enacting the MGM Bill.

 

Thank you.

 

 

 

Ladies And Gentlemen:

 

My name is Anthony Losquadro. I am here today to discuss a medical procedure, the most frequently performed elective surgery in America, an issue whose time has come where we need to step back from and examine, and an issue that may be currently considered one of the most important human rights issues in America today.

 

Circumcision. It’s medieval, it’s barbaric. It’s a billion dollar a year industry. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s a bread and butter staple for the medical profession and hospitals. It’s even better for the bio-tech and cosmetic companies that use the neonatal tissue in their products.1 While the medical-pharmaceutical complex profits from a needless procedure, our health care costs continue to spiral out of control.

 

The United States and the Middle East are predominately the only areas of the world that routinely practice male genital mutilation. European, Scandinavian, Asian, & South American countries do not commit this barbarity on their young. And they do not have any medical problems because of being intact. In fact many countries have already outlawed the practice unless a dire medical emergency exists.2 In my family, my grandfathers weren’t, their fathers weren’t, my father wasn’t, my uncles weren’t, they are all left intact, and with no problems whatsoever. Somehow in 1965 my parents' American pediatrician convinced and coerced my parents that it had to be done on me. But I would have never consented to this procedure if I had the ability to fight back.

           

By and large, the medical community has scoffed at and turned its back on men who are upset over what we call genital mutilation. To give you some idea of the scope of the issue, thousands of men are involved with foreskin restoration, the process of using skin traction and tissue expansion devices to induce the skin to regrow to form a replica covering. The process takes 3-5 years, and it gives you some idea of the unhappiness many men have over being mutilated, given their dedication to the process. Some use homemade devices, and some utilize professionally designed equipment made in small engineering shops.3 All of the devices, techniques, and knowledge, in the few printed publications or traded over the internet, were provided as one fellow man helping another, and with no help from the medical community. Probably millions of more men would avail themselves but are unaware of restoration, or even have an understanding of what was taken away from them. And perhaps the medical community is hesitant over the very discussion of restoration as it might be construed as an admission of wrongdoing on their collective part.

 

This hypocrisy, this trampling of human rights and abuse, has given rise to the intactivist. What is an intactivist? He or she is someone who supports genital integrity and self-determination. And I am proud to stand here today as one, along with my fellow colleagues. Do we have some personality disorder? Are we phallically obsessed? No, we just want to protect the human rights of infants, and we just wanted our bodies left alone, as nature & creation intended, but the medical community wouldn’t leave us alone, they callously modified our bodies without our consent. We didn’t ask for this, it is through no fault of our own, and we won’t be embarrassed or ashamed for what was done to us. The embarrassment and shame should be draped around the Obstetricians, Pediatricians and others who perform or condone this procedure on the helpless.

 

Every action has a reaction. Abuses suffered today may sow the seeds of unfortunate consequences tomorrow.4 An infant circumcised today may look for someone to blame as an adult. One day he may want to lash out against his abusers. Abuse, caused by forced genital mutilation, may cause incalculable psycho-sexual consequences.

 

The intention of intactivists is not to outlaw circumcision. But we believe that each person has the inalienable right to choose for himself, as a consenting adult of 18 years or older, of self determination over the status of his sexual organs. The measure of any democracy is its ability to rule by majority, but protect the minority, and protect those who are innocent or can’t defend themselves. Certainly no one is more innocent and defenseless, or more deserving of protection as a newborn infant. 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, think about this for a second. What is the definition of rape? According to Webster’s, it means “to seize or take away by force,” “an act of despoiling”, “sexual activity carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against the will usually of a person, or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent.”  By chance couldn’t circumcision fall into that definition. In some ways circumcision can be considered worse than rape. Rape leaves psychological scars, circumcision leaves psychological and physical scars. Look at other similarities. Both victims are held down against their will. Both victims scream in pain. The pain and injury is directed to the genital region. The perpetrators are committing the acts to fulfill their own beliefs, of subjugation and dominance, or of righteousness and delusion, over an unwitting and helpless victim. But in our society's twisted view one is an act of violence, deplorable, and the other is considered modern medicine, because the perpetrator is wearing surgical scrubs.

 

I have heard arguments that a parent has the right to make decisions for their children. And certainly parents make many decisions for their children, based on what they believe is in the child’s best interest. But such discretion has limits. Certainly abusive acts, and improper care, are criminalized to ensure a child’s interests are protected. There is a line where the parents' right to decide ends and the rights of the individual start, such as when the decision is for a non-essential, non-emergency, cosmetic procedure. Don’t we find it abhorrent if a gang member had a child tattooed with their gang’s colors? That’s a true story out of California. The father was charged with criminal disfigurement.5 In fact one of the defenses raised was "Which is more painful, circumcision or a tattoo? And how is a parents right to tattoo their child as part of a gang initiation rite any different than having a circumcision done.

 

Ladies and gentleman, there is a new impetus upon us these days. Circumcision has always been a cure in search of a disease. At the turn of the century, in the Victorian age, it was purported to cure insanity, prevent epileptic seizures, curb desire, prevent blindness and hairy palms, you get the idea.6 In the Post war era, the circumcisionists threw their efforts into high gear, touting it as a new modern wonder, for hygiene and good health, like all of the other modern wonders of the 1950's and 1960's, and circ rates on newborns were pushed upwards of 90%. Then they said it prevents rare forms of penile cancer, so rare you have a better chance of getting hit by lightning, so rare that men with access to soap and water have no discernible penile cancer rates between circumcised or intact men.7 Then they tried to scare women by saying intact men can cause the spread of cervical cancer, via the HPV papilloma virus even though a very effective HPV vaccine is available with a 99%+ efficacy rate.8

 

Now in 2010, with circ rates falling off below 60%9, the circumcisionists are in a panic, and they are scouring their medical journals for a new disease to cure, attempting to reverse the trend. What boogeyman can be conjured up to scare the bejesus out of us? Well, Let’s promote circumcision under the guise of HIV prevention, based on flawed studies in third world African countries.

 

Now, Why don’t they do a study in America?10 The CDC hasn’t done any. It should be very easy to do.... Just go to an HIV clinic, right here in Boston, take a sample of 1000 male patients, see who’s circumcised and who’s not, and determine the ratio of infected circumcised men to infected intact men. But they don’t want to do that. They're scared of the truth. They're scared they will prove our case, that circumcision provides no benefit. Even worse for them, such a study might show that circumcised men have a higher infection rate. But the CDC’s pro-circ propagandists did manage to produce a media guide for the TV writers and producers in an effort to promote circumcision.11

 

This latest incarnation may very well be the most devastating, giving people the notion, the false belief  that circumcision bestows protection from STD’s, like some kind of surgical condom. Such hype, such false information, will only serve to undo the safe sex education that took so many years, and so many dollars, to instill in the public conscience over the last 3 decades.

 

So why are we here today? The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a place of history, of the Shot Heard Round the World at Old North Bridge, of setting things right. Why am I here ? What happened to me can’t be reversed in a true sense. There are no time machines that will take me back to 1965. I am here to give others the chance I never had. I’m here to give American newborns a chance, the chance to be brought into the world in peace, without being immediately introduced to pain and suffering. The chance to be left alone.


1 Neonatal Foreskin Epidermal Keratinocytes go for $250 at the Coriell Institute for Medical Research.  http://ccr.coriell.org/

 

4 http://www.foreskin-restoration.net/forum : Emotional Dilemma : “I must admit, though that it's been more off than on. The reason for that is whenever I'm reminded about what was done to me [circumcision], I get overwhelmed by feelings of sadness and anger and I sometimes break into tears. So whenever I go on websites like these to learn about restoring techniques I turn into an emotional wreck, can't sleep through the night, and end up out of commission the whole next day.....And I'm so full of hate too!”

 

5 Child's gang tattoo: Criminal disfigurement by dad, or just poor parenting? By Associated Press October 01, 2009

 

6 “A remedy which is almost always successful in small boys is circumcision, ....brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Harvey_Kellogg

 

7 American Cancer Society :”Most experts agree that circumcision should not be recommended solely as a way to prevent penile cancer.”

  http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_2X_Can_penile_cancer_be_prevented_35.asp

 

8 CDC - HPV Vaccine Information for Clinicians http://www.cdc.gov/STD/hpv/STDFact-HPV-vaccine-hcp.htm

 

9 CDC-NCHS National Hospital Discharge Survey http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/circumcisions/circumcisions.htm

 

10 CDC-Circumcision fact sheet :http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/resources/factsheets/circumcision.htm

The CDC admits in their fact sheet that there are no proven links based on studies in America, and "data on circumcision and risk for HIV infection in the United States are limited."

 

 

 

 

I would like to extend my appreciation to the Commonwealth for allowing me to speak at this hearing today. My name is Charles Antonelli, and I am here to testify in favour of Senate Bill 1777.

 

I understand the hesitation and difficulty in discussing the politics of circumcision in a public venue as I’ve been doing it for 20 years now.

 

The topic of male circumcision is uncomfortable, at best, for most and is generally brought up only in public in the form of a joke. Most people actively avoid any serious discussion about male circumcision as it can instil strong emotion – and rightfully so, as it's directly associated to one of the most personal and private parts of a man's body.

 

Circumcision only remains a culturally acceptable mutilation because people don’t discuss it, let alone question it. I feel it’s time for our leaders to look at the abuse we subject our newborn children to. It’s obvious that our culture is destined to continue this immoral and unethical practice unless the government steps in to protect its most precious and delicate citizens.

 

Please allow me to set the record straight: I am not an anti-circumcision lunatic. I support any consenting adult’s right to choose circumcision for himself, just as I believe it’s a person’s right to choose to get pierced or tattooed.

 

The word "circumcision" can be a pleasant sounding word -- but in all honesty, no matter what it’s called, it's just sugar-coating for genital mutilation. Some people balk when I call it by its true name, but they do so only out of ignorance.

 

I stand firm against male genital mutilation for anyone who can't speak for themselves. I feel our elected representatives should as well.

 

There are a few extremely vocal persons that disagree with me, denouncing me as an anti-semite because of my relentless passion for this bill. I have had threats made upon my life… attempts have been made to publically humiliate and discredit me… and some have gone as far as to encourage others to harass my employer due to my beliefs. Why would a religion, especially one which claims itself peaceful, make such threats against me? I find it strange that many religious people who don't practice many of their own laws themselves are so passionate about butchering the penises of their babies. In the original version of the Torah, the book of J, God did not mandate circumcision. Circumcision is not even mentioned. Man devised circumcision as a way to curb masturbation.

 

Furthermore, considering that about 66% of boys in the Commonwealth are routinely circumcised and of this, only about 4% are Jewish, it should be obvious that this bill isn't, nor ever was meant to single out any one religion. Furthermore, there are a growing number of Jewish people that do not circumcise, opting for a peaceful "naming ceremony". A more pleasant mitzvah, wouldn’t you think?

 

I have no doubt that parents honestly want to do what is best for their child, but turning a blind eye to the horrible truths about male genital mutilation is a mistake -- a mistake that has become entrenched in American society since it was incorrectly deemed a healthful practice.

 

In the 1900's, tonsillectomies were considered to be a healthy prophylactic against disease and were routinely practiced -- we now know better. The tonsils have been shown to be a part of a healthy body's immune system.

 

The major medical societies in Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and The United States do not recommend routine non-therapeutic infant circumcision.

 

There has been a lot of chat about how circumcision prevents disease; however, these inaccurate claims have been made since Victorian times, blaming the foreskin for virtually every ailment of the time from epilepsy and “dim sight” to today’s AIDS epidemic.

 

Don’t you find it odd that in the United States, one of the most circumcised countries in the world, that in yesterday’s (02 MAR 2010) news the headline “AIDS Epidemic in Some US Cities Worse Than Global Hot Spots” appeared?

 

The absence of a foreskin does not prevent the spread of disease, education does.

 

Circumcision prevents nothing except living a fulfilled sex life. A complete penis has two to three times the length of skin that a circumcised penis has, the foreskin contains branches of the dorsal nerve and about twenty thousand specialized nerve endings.

 

Circumcision is amputation of a healthy, erogenous body part. When this surgical procedure is performed without consent of the patient, it violates the basic human right to a complete and un-mutilated body. If we were discussing the forced removal of any other body part of a healthy baby, there would be no question that it is an abomination.

 

In the United States it is illegal to circumcise girls. Even drawing a single drop of blood from the genitals of a girl with a needle is protected – there are no exemptions: religious or otherwise. According to the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, boys are guaranteed equal protection under the law – why aren’t they?

 

As uncomfortable as you may personally feel about this bill, please try to see it for what it’s trying to do: Protect our citizens from socially acceptable assault and mutilation.

 

We respectfully request that you pass this bill out favourably.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

 

 

Kathryn Mora

 

I am a Jewish mother against circumcision and in support of passing Bill 1777. For years I was a certified childbirth educator and now a journalist and filmmaker. I continue to educate people that childbirth is a natural event rather than one filled with unnecessary drugs and other medical intervention, and circumcision is an unnatural event. These are two clear-cut examples of interfering with nature.

 

To quote the highly respected anthropologist, Ashley Montagu, “In the United States we have invented “reasons” to replace religion in justifying circumcision. Myths associated with circumcision have become an accepted part of our society.”

 

After educating ourselves with the facts, why would we allow our male babies to have part of their penis cut off? “The foreskin is a uniquely specialized, sensitive, functional organ of touch. No other part of the body serves this main purpose.” In addition, it is documented that babies have not been given anesthetics during circumcision and they do feel pain. I invite all of you to witness a circumcision and/or a video in order to make your own decision whether or not babies feels pain.

 

I was uneducated about circumcision when my sons were born in 1967 and 1969. It is a decision that I GREATLY regret! No one, not doctors or hospital staff ever discussed circumcising our two sons with my husband or me. They simply did it without our knowledge. At the time my sons were born, I was in my early 20s and had never heard any discussions about circumcision pro or con, much less what a foreskin is or its function. Every baby boy was automatically circumcised without any authorization or discussion about circumcision. The same was true for birth in hospitals—almost always mothers were given drugs.

 

I was given a spinal and was numb from the waist down even though my birth was normal without complications. It didn’t matter. He was not only traumatized during the birth when he was yanked out with forceps. The doctors talked about their golf game during the most important day of my life and then he was taken away from me for over 10 hours. It was the most dehumanizing experience. I didn’t even get a chance to touch my son much less hold him before he was whisked away. I asked to have my baby over and over and over again, to hold him and breastfeed him. He was further traumatized not long after, when he was circumcised. But, I don’t know exactly when because no one ever asked me for authorization or ever discussed the circumcision with me.

 

My lack of education left my sons unprotected. They suffered pain and agony at that could have been prevented and it has affected them for the rest of their lives. Bill 17777 would have protected my sons from my lack of education about circumcision.

 

 

 

Jeffrey O'Hara

 

 

 

Kristen O'Hara

 

 

 

 

My name is Paul Gaudet and I live in Lowell.

 

I urge the Committee to give the bill a favorable vote so that baby boys in the Commonwealth might be spared the losses from circumcision, and might avoid its needless risks.

 

I came to awareness of this issue through my membership in Amnesty International many years ago, when I learned of the horrors of female genital mutilation, sometimes referred to as female circumcision. The civilized world has since condemned this barbaric practice, and its victims have bravely led the movement to change generations of cultural bias and centuries of misguided religious zeal. This change did not happen overnight. Still, it represents a major victory of enlightened medical practice and human reason over mindless tradition.

 

It was a revelation for me to suddenly realize that I, along with millions of men of my generation who are circumcised, was equally a casualty of genital mutilation. With research into its history, I learned that the greatest obstacles to its elimination are not hospitals, doctors, and medical practice, but rather our cultural habits and our family traditions.

 

In Victorian times, loss of semen was seen as leading to all manner of diseases and debilitating conditions. Mental weakness, epilepsy, paralysis, muscle frailty, and other losses of vigor were understood as preventable if males could be stopped from discharging semen. In those days, circumcision seemed like a small inconvenience that could stop masturbation, and thus the risk of these serious diseases.

 

Unfortunately, as science debunked these claims, the practice of circumcision kept its social momentum, and even today is promoted as somehow more sanitary and aesthetically acceptable than the intact male genitals that Mother Nature intended.

 

It's time for a new way of thinking. Science and reason have shown us that genital cutting is unnecessary and dangerous. Our compassion moves us to be repelled at the thought of inflicting pain on healthy children. Passing this legislation will help educate society that ones religious beliefs or cultural preferences must not trample the bodily integrity of another person.

 

This print from Michelangelo is a reminder that You cant improve on Nature. Lets protect girls AND BOYS.

 

 

 

My name is Roger Saquet and I am 67 years old. I live in Belmont MA. Much of my testimony you will be hearing has already been covered by others today but please bear with me as my story is a personal one.

 

In the mid 1960's I became an informal but vocal advocate of non-circumcision. I advised friends, family and acquaintances to not circumcise their infant sons. I was successful with the majority of the people I talked with. I have two sons and seven nephews who were born in the 1960's and 1970's. And I am proud to say that each and every one of them escaped the knife at birth.

 

Encouraged by my success, in 1976 I created the Non-Circumcision Information Center. Using my own money I distributed medical literature to expectant parents all around the United States and Canada. In recent years I have been pleased to see many others working to guarantee and protect the rights of infants.

 

In recent years we have seen Massachusetts enact a law requiring universal health insurance coverage. Massachusetts has led the nation in recognizing gay marriage. And here we are today discussing the creation of a law that would protect the rights of helpless male infants. Do we have the courage to continue to lead the way for the rest of the country?

 

Since the late 19th century every generation of medical doctors has offered new medical evidence to support the practice of circumcision. The first reason is that it discouraged masturbation and, as we all know, masturbation causes insanity. Later on circumcision was presented as a preventive measure against penile cancer. Now that makes sense because if you cut away 1/3 of the penis you will certainly have 1/3 less penile cancer. Oh, and the foreskin has been held responsible for cervical cancer. And in this generation it is being blamed for increasing the risk of HIV-AIDS. But only in Africa and not in the U.S.A.

 

So according to traditional American medicine, the evil foreskin has served no other purpose than to be an inconvenient public health nuisance. But on the other side of the hoopla and bad science, there is another story. Very little has been written about the function of the foreskin. It has two distinct but slightly overlapping functions. By covering the glans and keeping it moist, the foreskin offers the glans protection against being desensitized. During sexual activity the movement of the foreskin over the glans is very pleasurable. And anyone who has a foreskin knows this but for some strange and unfathomable reason it is never discussed and very rarely acknowledged in mainstream American culture.

 

Now I am not naive and I understand that we do not have huge popular support for this bill. Nonetheless I repectfully urge that you do not bottle up this bill in committee. It deserves a measure of daylight so that this issue can become a matter of thoughtful discussion. One day, and that day will eventually arrive, this bill will become law and infants' rights will be respected and protected. Today I ask that you do not impede that process. I thank you for your time.

 

 

 

 

Edward Stamas

 

 

 

My name is Brian O'Donnell. I am a primary care Physician Assistant with a local medical group. I have a strong interest in Adolescent Medicine, Men's Health and HIV medicine. I hold a Masters Degree in Health Sciences from Duke University School of Medicine. I was certified as an HIV Specialist from the American Academy of HIV Medicine as well as an appointed lecturer at Yale University School of Medicine. I have seen more than 20,000 patients throughout my career, the majority being men.

 

When I entered the medical profession, I never imagined I would be standing in support of a bill to end circumcision of male infants and children. Until I started seeing patients I knew virtually nothing about circumcision or the foreskin for that matter. The only thing that one is taught about foreskin in most medical and nursing schools is that cutting it off is better-it's cleaner and more hygienic. Probably about the same as you have heard as well.

 

It wasn't until I saw patients with normal intact genitals and the harmful effects of circumcision (not all circumcisions are created equal..it depends on whom is performing the circumcision and their experience) that I realized there was a lot more to learn in order to provide the best care for my patients. After much research, it became clear to me that the truth about the value of the foreskin and the harms of circumcision have been suppressed, intentionally or not, by the medical community for years.

 

In 1996, two pathologists from Canada (Cold and Taylor) did a complete anatomical study of the foreskin and identified its major functions and its value in normal sexual function. While accepted internationally and published in the British Journal of Urology, it remains ignored by the medical community of the United States. Fourteen years and millions of unnecessary damaging genital alterations later wasting billions of health care dollars, most American physicians and nurses continue to deny the harms of circumcision.

 

It is clear that the personal, religious and monetary motivations that exist in the medical community influence their decision making and in turn the mind set of the general population. While trying to appear unbiased they continue to instill fear in parents that if they choose to not circumcise their sons, they are putting them at risk for a host of diseases and social ridicule. This is just not true.

 

I'd like to take a moment to share a couple of cases that contributed to my pursuit of information about circumcision and led me to where I stand on the subject today.

 

When performing a routine physical exam on a 22 year old man who had no complaints I noticed abrasions and scarring on the underside of his penis. In addition he had skin bridges and arced scars from a scalpel across his glans. When I asked about the abrasions, he stated "that is what happens whenever I have sex". He thought it was normal. There had never been a note in his chart identifying the damage caused by circumcision. He had had excessive amounts of tissue removed when he was circumcised as an infant causing him to have tearing and friction along the circumcision scar. The scalpel severed his glans. Because he was dark skinned the scars were very obvious. When I requested the medical records from the hospital where he was born and circumcised, an ivy league affiliated hospital, the first 8 days of his records were missing rendering a search of his circumciser impossible.

 

The second case involved a six year old Spanish speaking boy who was having pain with urination at the tip of his penis. It turned out he was having ballooning of the foreskin (not a serious condition) which was pulling on the glans and causing pain. He had adhesions that had not yet separated freeing the foreskin from the glans. After calling the local pediatric urologist and explaining that the boy needed a simple adhesion release and not a circumcision the pediatrician stated "and Abraham said they should all be circumcised". Again I requested that the least invasive procedure be performed. After referring, the boy was subjected to a complete circumcision and in the week that followed the urologist was unresponsive at returning calls to the patient's parents regarding his pain management. This boy was the first in his family to have been circumcised.

 

Since becoming educated about circumcision and it's consequences, I have educated many of my colleagues. I am happy to say that in my last practice, very few of our newborns were subjected to this painful and damaging surgery. Although circumcision rates have fallen dramatically over the last two decades as parents become more informed, more than 50 percent of boys continue to be circumcised.

 

Because of the inability of the American medical community to do the right thing and end this practice, turning to you and the law is a necessary step. Cutting off parts of a child’s sexual organs is wrong, whether a boy or a girl, for any reason other than absolute medical need. Boys deserve the same protection as girls under the Constitution and you have an obligation to ensure that. President Bill Clinton was right when he signed the bill protecting girls from any form of genital alteration. He was wrong when he excluded boys. You have the opportunity to start the process to correct this egregious mistake.

 

 

 

 

My name is Robert O'Connor. I'm a Boston resident and I volunteer for NOCIRC which is a non-profit organization that provides educational information on the foreskin and circumcision. I am offering testimony in support of Senate bill # 1777.

 

I'd like to talk about the anatomy and function of the foreskin. The foreskin is sometimes described as "a flap of skin" or as a "redundant" piece of anatomy. This is inaccurate. The foreskin is a specialized, sensitive, functional organ of touch. It is an extension of the penile shaft skin and contains a rich concentration of blood vessels and nerve endings. The undersurface of the foreskin contains mucous membrane which contains glands that secrete emollients, lubricants, and protective antibodies. Similar glands are found in the eyelids and mouth.

 

The foreskin provides physical protection to the head of the penis as well as producing antibodies that defend against infection. The foreskin is as sensitive as the fingertips. During sexual activity, the foreskin enables the penile shaft skin to glide back and forth facilitating smooth movement between partners and stimulating the female partner by moving pressure rather than by friction only.

 

The foreskin requires no special care. When a boy is old enough to bathe himself, he can wash himself by retracting the foreskin, rinsing with warm water and returning the foreskin to its original position. The foreskin should not be retracted in infancy.

 

Circumcision is almost unheard of in Europe, South America, and non-Muslim Asia. The practice of circumcision in the United States derives from 19th century medical opinions in English speaking countries. Originally hailed as a cure for Masturbation and Epilepsy, circumcision has in more recent times been touted as a prevention for Penile Cancer and AIDS. Both diseases are virus based and come about due to risky behavior. Any study that recommends circumcision for health benefits is relying on a small sample of individuals with high risk behaviors and extrapolating the results to apply them to the general population.

 

Recent statements by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia, the British Medical Association, and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians conclude there are no medical benefits to routine infant circumcision. It does however carry risks including physical deformities, infection, and death. Even when the desired outcome is achieved, sexual sensitivity of the male is reduced and the right to self-determination has been violated.

 

I urge legislators to prohibit the cutting of sexual organs of any person under the age of 18 or of any non-consenting adult. Furthermore I urge the legislators to implement an educational program to increase parental understanding of the foreskin and the trauma of circumcision.

 

Thank You.

 

Erik K.

(not pictured)

 

 

I am Peter Adler, a Massachusetts attorney. It is a privilege to address this famous legislature on such an important matter.

 

Congress and 14 states have made female genital cutting illegal. At issue is whether to ban male circumcision as well. The legal memorandum I have submitted argues that circumcision is already illegal, even with parental consent.

 

This makes your job much easier. You need not address the merits of circumcision, consider parents’ beliefs, or create new law. This bill is needed, however, to enforce the law.

 

First, cutting anyone’s genitals without consent is criminal assault. There is no exception for boys. We may not prosecute circumcision, but only because it is routine, as were slavery and discrimination against women.

 

Second, in banning female genital cutting, Congress found that it violates the 14th amendment right to privacy and security of the person. The Massachusetts Constitution contains the same provision. Since every person has the same rights, both female and male genital cutting are unconstitutional. The 14th amendment also prohibits protecting females without extending equal protection of the law to males. The government is sworn to uphold the Constitution, and thus I believe to abolish all genital cutting.

 

Third, circumcision is unlawful child abuse, defined in Massachusetts as “impairment of any organ”, and causing or even risking physical or emotional injury.

 

Fourth, circumcision violates human rights law adopted by the United States, including the right of minors to security of the person and freedom from cruel treatment.

 

Parental consent does not make circumcision legal. The law does not allow parents to expose their children to harm for religious reasons. Parental consent to what medical associations agree is unnecessary surgery is also legally invalid. Congress found that banning genital cutting does not violate parents’ religious rights. Moreover, children have their own rights to choose a religion.

 

Ignoring the law, if anything is sacred, our bodies are sacred, and our most fundamental values are freedom and equality. We should let each man decide for himself whether circumcision is such a good idea. Men have decided that it is a terrible idea, as reportedly only one intact man in 10,000 opts for circumcision! Your vote will let our defenseless boys reach adulthood intact to use their most private parts as nature intended; will help abolish this gruesome, unnecessary surgery nationwide; and will save taxpayers’ money as well.

 

 

 

Laurie Evans, NOCIRC of New York - Mid-Hudson Valley

 

Leo W.

(not pictured)

 

Testifying without taking a position:

 

Ronald Goldman

(not pictured)

 

I am Ronald Goldman, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Circumcision Resource Center and author of Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma. My Ph.D. is in psychology, and I seek to raise awareness about harmful psychological effects of circumcision.

 

Infant neurological development, clinical experience, trauma theory, and research on circumcised infants all support the conclusion that circumcision is traumatic. Circumcision results in extreme pain and significant increases in heart rate and level of blood stress hormone. Some infants do not cry because they go into shock from the overwhelming experience. Pain medication, if it is used, does not eliminate the pain or the trauma. Long-term infant behavioral changes and disruptions in mother-child bonding due to circumcision have been observed. An MRI showed permanent changes to a circumcised infant’s brain.

 

Circumcision trauma has long-term effects. In a medical journal survey of 546 circumcised men who reported circumcision harm, the following effects and feelings were noted.

 

• anger, rage, sense of loss, shame, sense of having been victimized and mutilated

• low self-esteem, fear, distrust, and grief

• relationship difficulties, sexual anxieties, and depression

• reduced emotional expression, lack of empathy, and avoidance of intimacy

 

Some of these men wish they had been given a choice at a later time rather than having circumcision forced on them when they were too young to resist. The survey does not suggest that all circumcised men have such feelings or how common the feelings are, only that they persist in some circumcised men, and more research is needed.

 

Lack of awareness and understanding of circumcision, avoidance of the discomfort of questioning circumcision, and fear of disclosure help to explain why many circumcised men do not express dissatisfaction. Medical societies in Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom recognize the long-term psychological risks of circumcision.

 

Some harmful effects may not be connected to circumcision because they appear many years later. Because circumcision is common in the U.S., its effects are common and interpreted as normal. Symptoms of circumcision trauma fit the symptom pattern of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). American discomfort with and avoidance of the topic is a PTSD symptom. Some people cannot even say the word “circumcision.”

 

Psychological, social, economic, and political factors affect doctors who study circumcision, advocate circumcision, or take convenient neutral positions on circumcision when they privately know it is harmful. Like many circumcised men, circumcised doctors are subject to emotional repression and denial about circumcision. What doctor wants to admit he or she has caused serious harm by circumcising hundreds or thousands of infants? Defending circumcision requires minimizing or ignoring the harm, accepting false beliefs, and producing inflated medical claims. My medical journal article titled “Circumcision Policy: A Psychosocial Perspective” describes non-medical factors that could affect the values and attitudes of circumcision policy committee members, the process of evaluating the medical literature, and the medical literature itself. These factors include circumcision status of doctors and their children and the number of circumcisions that they have performed. Financial incentive also is a motivating factor for some doctors to circumcise. We cannot trust many American doctors about circumcision.

 

We have not had the courage to admit we have made a very serious mistake. As with other traumas, there is a compulsion to repeat it. We have been more concerned with avoiding adult discomfort than with protecting helpless infants from extreme pain and trauma. Infants are real people with real feelings. They feel more than adults do. I urge everyone to watch a circumcision video, feel empathy for the infant, trust your instincts, and inform your family and friends.

 

(Dr. Goldman testified to make a public statement, not to take a position on the bill.)

 

 

Testifying against:

(in order of testimony)

 

 

Thomas Friedman

 

 

 

 

Christine Funnell, Christians and Jews United for Israel

 

 

 

 

Karen Myers

 

 

 

 

The Joint Committee on the Judiciary is composed of these members:

 

Rep. Eugene O’ Flaherty, House Judiciary Chair (Rep.GeneOFlaherty@hou.state.ma.us)

Rep. Christopher Speranzo, House Judiciary Vice-Chair (Rep.ChristopherSperanzo@Hou.State.MA.US)

Rep. James Fagan (Rep.JamesFagan@hou.state.ma.us)

Rep. Colleen Garry (Rep.ColleenGarry@hou.state.ma.us)

Rep. Marie St. Fleur (Rep.MarieSt.Fleur@hou.state.ma.us)

Rep. John Fernandes (Rep.JohnFernandes@Hou.State.MA.US)

Rep. Katherine Clark (Rep.KatherineClark@HOU.State.MA.US)

Rep. James Dwyer (Rep.JamesJDwyer@hou.state.ma.us)

Rep. Danielle Gregoire (Rep.DanielleGregoire@hou.state.ma.us)

Rep. Lewis Evangelidis (Rep.LewisEvangelidis@hou.state.ma.us)

Rep. Daniel Webster (Rep.DanielWebster@hou.state.ma.us)

 

Senator Cynthia Creem, Senate Judiciary Chair (Cynthia.Creem@state.ma.us)

Senator Steven Baddour, Senate Judiciary Vice-Chair (Steven.Baddour@state.ma.us)

Senator Gale Candaras (Gale.Candaras@State.MA.US)

Senator Jack Hart (John.Hart@state.ma.us)

Senator Thomas McGee (Thomas.McGee@state.ma.us)

Senator Bruce Tarr (Bruce.Tarr@state.ma.us)

 

 

 

 

       

 

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