The New AAP Circumcision Policy: Wrong in Fact and Law

Peter W. Adler, Attorney
Attorneys For the Rights of the Child

The American Academy of Pediatrics asserts that the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks, that parents have the right to make the circumcision decision for religious, cultural, or other reasons, and that insurance such as Medicaid should pay for it. The AAP is wrong on all counts.

As to the facts, the surgery risks catastrophic injury and death (which the AAP has never acknowledged), and harms all boys and men without conferring any real benefits. Among other disadvantages, it is painful, irreversibly amputates living tissue, radically alters the appearance of the penis, destroys normal sexual function (as anyone can see), removes the most sensitive parts of the penis, reduces penile girth and length, and leaves a scar. It does not benefit infants, who are not at risk of penile cancer or STD’s, and men must still wash and practice safe sex to avoid those diseases.

As a legal matter, the rule is that physicians cannot operate on healthy children. Boys, like girls and adults, have absolute rights under the common law, constitutional law, and human rights law to bodily and hence to genital integrity, to be free from harm, and to choose their own religion or no religion. Physicians cannot take orders from parents for reasons having nothing to do with medicine. Physicians and parents also cannot lawfully circumcise boys because men rarely choose circumcision for themselves. In fact, physicians and parents have a legal duty to protect boys from circumcision.

As to Medicaid, it only covers necessary health care, not elective cosmetic surgery. Medicaid claims for circumcision are false claims against the government.

We condemn the AAP’s new circumcision policy. We call for more than a retraction. The AAP should tell its physicians to stop cutting body parts off of our helpless, trusting, vulnerable children.

Conflict of Interest:
None declared