Attorneys for the Rights of the Child Newsletter - Fall/Winter 2013, Vol. 10, No.2

Message from the Executive Director

This was certainly a year to remember, an amazing whirlwind of momentous events.

October marked what can only be described as a smashing victory by intactivists at the Twentieth Annual Thomas A. Pitts Lectureship in Medical Ethics, held at the Medical University of South Carolina pursuant to a conference titled, “Ethical and Legal Issues in Pediatrics.” I was the only non-physician invited, and debated the AAP’s Dr. Michael Brady in a talk entitled, “Newborn Male Circumcision – Is It Ethical; Is It Legal?” I also appeared in a “Seminar on Pediatric Controversies” opposite Dr. Brady and Dr. Douglas Diekema, also an AAP Circumcision Task Force member. I’m still high from an awesome team win intactivists were able to pull off over Brady and Diekema.

We proved we know the science far better than the Task Force and Brady found himself unable—after hearing my five-minute presentation in the seminar—to rebut a single one of our arguments. As they each personally told me later, two (!) of the five physician presenters who are not AAP Task Force members were completely convinced by our arguments and went from being pretty strongly pro-circumcision prior to the event to coming to oppose the procedure based on our arguments. This was a true team victory, with my co-author, ARC Legal Advisor Peter Adler, Aubrey Taylor, and Angel Alonso Terrón providing awesome support and asking some hard questions the AAP Task Force members simply could not answer. The Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics will be publishing the long article Bob Van Howe, Peter and I wrote as part of a special issue devoted to this conference.

In September, I traveled to the United Kingdom for one of the most pleasurable and productive meetings in which I have ever had the good fortune to participate. Genital Autonomy organized the two-day conference titled, “Promoting Children’s Rights in Europe: Recent Developments” and held at the University of Keele in England on September 16 and 17, 2013. This newsletter includes my story on this conference and photos.

My Keele presentation—which I am also writing up for publication in the coming months—analyzed the 2012 Cologne court case holding that male circumcision violates human rights, the law and even the German federal legislation attempting to overturn that court case. I discussed four distinct reasons for why the current federal legislation is invalid, and why the earlier Cologne court decision is soundly based in medical ethics, law, and human rights. The talk went very well and the questions afterwards were quite perceptive.

On September 24, 2013, Swedish legislators introduced a bill that would outlaw circumcision of males younger than 18 years of age for non-medical reasons. On October 1, 2013, the Council of Europe passed a recommendation endorsing a child’s right to physical integrity and a resolution discussing the right to physical integrity in more detail and specifically supporting genital autonomy for children by opposing several practices including male circumcision, female genital cutting (FGC), and “early childhood medical interventions in the case of intersexual children.”

A few days ago, I submitted an abstract for the 2014 Boulder Symposium, at which I will be discussing recent European legal cases and legislation, including the 2012 Cologne case and subsequent legislation, the 2013 Hamm, Germany case, and earlier cases from Dusseldorf in 2004, from Austria in 2007, and from Frankfurt in 2007. This will also become a law review article, and we have been paying for translations of a number of German articles and cases to support this project. (All of the translations will be shared with the activist community.)

In early October, the National Post, one of Canada’s major newspapers, published an article that I was invited to write after submitting a letter in response to the National Post’s reprinting of Mark Joseph Stern’s article, “‘Intactivists’ Against Circumcision.” In recent months, I have been interviewed by no fewer than three different film crews that will each be featuring my work in upcoming movies, and a fourth film interview is scheduled for later this month. Also, I have appeared four times this year on a Los Angeles radio show, the Maria Sanchez Show, and a fifth appearance to summarize events of this momentous year will be taking place on January 8, after which I will announce the Internet posting of the podcast. On September 8, I appeared on New York City’s public radio station, WBAI (www.wbai.org) on the “Walden’s Pond” show of longtime intactivist and radio show host Shelton Walden.

Early this year, the JME published a paper by Bob Van Howe and me, which in turn criticized the AAP’s August 2012 position statement and technical report and which also provoked the highly unusual step of a response by the AAP in the pages of the JME. The same issue of the JME also included another paper of mine that led off their special issue on circumcision, demonstrating the profound and numerous human rights principles that militate against neonatal infant circumcision.

Earlier this year, Springer published in book form my paper showing that informed consent doctrine is inapplicable to neonatal circumcision.

We recently celebrated the two-year anniversary of our release of our “Know Your Rights” brochure. ARC continues to make the brochure available on our website to provide information for potential litigants on how to seek legal compensation for the wrong of circumcision. This newsletter issue also marks the one-year anniversary of the release of our list of all known significant legal awards and settlements in circumcision-related lawsuits.

This issue is stuffed with great contributions: 1) Eyewitness accounts by ARC Legal Advisor Peter Adler, Aubrey Taylor and I – as well as a photo spread – of the groundbreaking Charleston, South Carolina pediatric ethics debate between myself and representatives of the AAP; 2) an article by John Geisheker on forcible retraction cases in which he has been involved; 3) an article by the UK’s Antony Lempert regarding progress being made at the United Nations; 4) my eyewitness account including a photo spread of Genital Autonomy’s outstanding conference held in the UK in September; 5) A piece by Matthew Young about being an intactivist medical student; 6) a section summarizing the numerous recent positive developments in Europe; 7) several eyewitness reports on important grassroots events; 8) news reports; 9) my book review of a fascinating new book about problems with the profit-driven US medical system; 10) a reprint of my invited article in the National Post, one of Canada’s top newspapers; and more.

I am particularly gratified about the news from the UN. As some readers know, I organized a team that travelled to Geneva in July-August 2001 (see photo elsewhere eon this page) and placed on the official UN record the first (and to my knowledge still the only) document ever centrally devoted to male circumcision as a human rights violation. Now our European friends have picked up the ball and moved it way up the field, which is fantastic news.

We are making serious progress, not only in Europe but also in the US. I see a trend continuing whereby genital integrity is being discussed more in the context of other issues and is filtering more into mainstream awareness. In addition to the United Nations now coming to see it in the context of other human rights violations, Jennifer Margulis addresses circumcision as one of several issues in her book. Most strikingly, recent developments with the Rabbi who got international attention for botching a circumcision and the Israeli mother who was fined for keeping her son intact are bringing this issue to the attention of many who may have not thought about it much in the past and inducing them to ponder it carefully. Ten years ago or even five years ago, both these events—not to mention the Northeast Tour on which ARC Newsletter Editor/Webmaster Jonathan Friedman fascinatingly reports in this issue-- would have attracted much less interest. And of course the success we enjoyed in our team victory in Charleston, South Carolina could never have happened.

We are again very honored that In Search of Fatherhood magazine (http://globalfatherhooddialogue.blogspot.com) featured me (along with a couple other activists on other issues) on the cover of each of its four 2013 issues, with each issue reprinting a different article or article excerpt of mine.

Webmaster (and Newsletter Editor) Jonathan Friedman and Legal Advisor Peter Adler are two of the best comrades and colleagues I could possibly have. Peter was an invaluable key to our success in Charleston on all levels—practically, logistically, and emotionally. Jonathan continues to do awesome work on our website and in strategically planning ARC’s future with me and our wonderful board members. Social Networking Director Travis Konzelman and my local colleague, ARC Legal Strategist David Wilton have also helped tremendously with what has truly been a team effort.

As always, we sincerely appreciate the invaluable support each of you offers us, whether it comes in a form that is financial, emotional, logistical, as colleagues, or a combination of these roles. We literally could not do it without you! 100% of all tax-deductible donations go directly to defraying the costs of safeguarding children. Donations can be sent to J. Steven Svoboda, ARC, 2961 Ashby Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94705, or made through Paypal at our website (www.arclaw.org/donate) or using the Paypal address sarah@arclaw.org.

I retrospectively wish all the happiest of Hanukkahs and the merriest of Christmases, and I hope everyone has a very joyful New Year.

J. Steven Svoboda
Executive Director
Attorneys for the Rights of the Child

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