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Parents, not government, should decide on circumcision

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
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Circumcision: Who makes the call to cut?
  • San Francisco voters are due to decide on a circumcision ban for those younger than 18
  • LZ Granderson: Government has no business keeping parents from making choice
  • He says it's fine to educate parents of the pros and cons of the practice

Editor's note: LZ Granderson writes a weekly column for A senior writer and columnist for ESPN The Magazine and, he has contributed to ESPN's "Sports Center," "Outside the Lines" and "First Take." He is a 2010 nominee and the 2009 winner of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation award for online journalism and a 2010 and 2008 honoree of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association for column writing. Watch him on CNN Newsroom Tuesday at 9 am ET.

Grand Rapids, Michigan -- Just so I'm clear, the state of California is broke, right?

Californians are facing billions in tax hikes and spending cuts that could mean more cutbacks in services and givebacks by state workers.

And yet, for some reason the debate over foreskin has a place.

You read me right, anti-circumcision activists convinced thousands in San Francisco to sign a petition, and now in the fall voters will decide whether to ban the procedure from being performed on boys younger than 18. Don't laugh, Santa Monica was looking at a similar vote up until this week, and the organization responsible for this movement wants to see this on the ballot all over the country.

I can see the lawn signs now -- Circumcisions: Nip 'Em in the Bud.

Besides the measure having no provision for religious practices -- thereby making it unconstitutional -- it's downright ludicrous when you consider that Matthew Hess, the man who has written similar, but failed, legislation for states across the country, is the same Matthew Hess who demonizes Jewish culture in his online comic book "Foreskin Man."

The creator of "Foreskin Man" is a leader in the battle to once again force the nose of government into some extremely private business.

I wonder what's next, "Captain Vasectomy?"

"The Penile Crusader?"

San Francisco could ban circumcision
2010: The controversy over circumcision
San Francisco to ban circumcision?

We chuckle, but from interracial marriage to masturbation, politicians have been trying to tell us what to do with our genitalia for centuries. It's just a microcosm of our culture's sexual immaturity which craves to know every sordid detail surrounding New York Rep. Anthony Weiner's sexting photo but is too giggly to say what it's a photo of, a penis. Or better yet, why don't we simply mind our own business, seeing how the perfectly legal photo was not taken for the general public's consumption in the first place?

Opinion: Weiner's only choice is to resign

I get the science behind not having the procedure done: There are nerve endings that are being severed during the procedure, and it is normally not medically required. But generally speaking it has not been proven to be medically harmful either, though there have been rare occasions of infection and excessive bleeding requiring stitches.

Besides being an important aspect of some religions, circumcisions improve hygiene, which is effective in limiting urinary tract infections and the transference of STDs. And speaking of sex, having a circumcised penis saves the young man of the potential embarrassment of having a new partner look at his nude body and say "What in the hell is wrong with your... penis."

Or something like that.


A recent study conducted by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researcher suggests the number of circumcisions performed dropped from 56% in 2006 to 33% in 2009. So chances are you or someone you know is uncircumcised, a fact that is really none of the business of complete strangers -- government officials and busy-body voters alike. Why someone would sign a petition making it their business is beyond me.

San Francisco due to vote on circumcision ban

I could see the government getting involved in the decisions parents make about their children if there was evidence that circumcisions were a life-threatening practice -- like failure to use car seats for young children. I could see if the proposed ban was addressing a patriarchal practice such as female genital mutilation.

But it's not.

This is about choice and preference and opinion and I am really tired of being subjected to ridiculous laws instituted by religious conservatives pandering to a bunch of crazy people or by meddling liberals who have nothing better to do.

The New York Times reported that Jena Troutman was one of the people trying to get the ban on the Santa Monica ballot. She has run a pro-foreskin website for two years, and said she is "just a mom trying to save the little babies."

Fortunately this week she changed her focus to just educating parents after learning about the anti-Semitic link to the San Francisco ban. I'm still irritated she took the issue as far as she did.

Seriously, if municipalities in San Francisco or Santa Monica honestly believe parents can't be trusted to decide what's best for their newborn's foreskin, why on earth would they let them leave the hospital with the rest of him? It just doesn't make sense.

But few things do with regards to the government and genitalia, with states all around this country sprinkled with laws about how two people can have sex, complete with debates over whether or not it's legal for police to come into your bedroom and arrest you for "breaking the law."

I'm not kidding. A case that started in Texas, after a police officer walked into a bedroom in an apartment and arrested two men for having sex, went all the way to the Supreme Court. And in 2003 there was a ruling -- a ruling -- about how two consenting adults can have sex in the privacy of their own home. But get this -- it was voted 6-3. There were three people on the Supreme Court who felt the government in Texas had a right to tell two consenting adults what they can do in bed.

No wonder these anti-circumcision organizers have their sights on the rest of the country. We're a bunch of nosy busy bodies who believe in an abbreviated version of freedom where we're free to publicly debate what someone else should do with their private parts or the private parts of their newborn.

There's nothing wrong with educating parents about the pros and cons of circumcision, but to restrict parental rights because Foreskin Man said so?

You have got to be kidding.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

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