A bill that would prohibit Medicaid from funding the non-therapeutic circumcision of infants was heard by a house committee in New Hampshire very recently. Predictable dissent ensued.
18 states have cut Medicaid funding for the elective, non-therapeutic procedure, and Republican Keith Murphy sponsored the bill, asserting that New Hampshire should join them.
As with many politicians, Murphy's heart is in the right place, but his stated reasons as to why New Hampshire should cut Medicaid funding, have made the bill easy to shoot down by dissenters.
According to a recent news article, Murphy "firmly believes circumcision is dangerous – potentially, very dangerous."
Distraction from the issue
Murphy is quoted saying "One hundred and seventeen children a year, on average, die from circumcision complications. In fact it’s one of the leading causes of neonatal male deaths."
It must be said that, although intactivists know that circumcision is responsible for infant deaths, we also know that, because hospitals are not required to release information regarding infant deaths related to infant circumcision, and because doctors do their best to hide deaths due to circumcision by deliberately misattributing them to other causes, we can't know for sure, and any figure given is an estimate at best.
It is really sad that Murphy isn't anything in the way of a medical doctor who is well-versed in the risks and complications of circumcision, for someone who is could attest to the fact that the risks of male infant circumcision include infection, hemorrhaging, partial or full ablation, and yes, even death, are very real.
It is a real shame that attention from the fact circumcision is medically unnecessary in healthy, non-consenting newborns, and that Medicaid funds could be put to better use, has to be diverted to disputing the validity of one particular figure which is at best, a modest estimate, given reality.
Same old rationale
In opposition to the proposed bill, Planned Parenthood was ready to fire back that "[C]ircumcision carries public health benefits, including lowered risk of urinary tract infections and some sexually transmitted diseases." (This response isn't too surprising, given that they've already been trying to pass the lack of a foreskin as "normal," and they're busy pushing circumcision on Africans...)
This despite the fact that not a single respected medical organization in the world recommends the circumcision of infants based on the current body of medical literature.
Our very own AAP stated in their latest policy statement in 2012 that the so-called "benefits" of circumcision were "not great enough to recommend routine circumcision for all male newborns."
Even the CDC shies away from an actual recommendation in their latest release, dumping the onus of responsibility, as the AAP did 2 years prior, on parents.
It needs to be asked, if the so-called "benefits" of circumcision are "not great enough to recommend routine circumcision for all male newborns," how is it something that should be funded by Medicaid?
What do respected medical organizations in other industrialized nations have to say?
Circumcision fails to prevent disease transmission. So ineffective is circumcision at preventing sexually transmitted disease, that circumcised men must still be urged to wear condoms. This is a fact that no doctor, or "researcher" can deny.
How is circumcision even a consideration, where urinary tract infections and sexually transmitted disease are better thwarted by antibiotics and condoms respectively?
The trend of opinion on routine male circumcision is overwhelmingly negative in industrialized nations. No respected medical board in the world recommends circumcision for infants, not even in the name of HIV prevention. They must all point to the risks, and they must all state that there is no convincing evidence that the benefits outweigh these risks. To do otherwise would be to take an unfounded position against the best medical authorities of the West.
One Jay Smith, a retired family physician, speaking on behalf of the New Hampshire Public Health Association defended: "Basically, I think we just feel that it’s bad public policy to remove a procedure from Medicaid that is still approved for other insurance," said Smith.
Really doc? You don't think it's bad public policy for public funding to cover non-medical, non-therapeutic elective procedures, especially on healthy, non-consenting minors?
Even a rabbi weighs in, saying that cutting Medicaid funding for male infant circumcision would discriminate against low-income Jews. (Right, because the proposed bill would deny only Jewish parents of male children a Medicaid handout.)
Staying on topic
Murphy brings up a very good reason why circumcising infants should be a concern, but the risk of death and the rate of infant deaths related to circumcision are a distraction from the conversation that should be happening, and a diversion from the questions that need to be asked.
1. What is the purpose of Medicaid?
2. Why should Medicaid give handouts to doctors who perform elective, non-medical surgery on healthy, non-consenting individuals?
3. Shouldn't public coffers cover only treatment and procedures for which there is clear medical indication?
4. Without medical or clinical indication, can doctors even be performing surgery in healthy, non-consenting individuals? Let alone be eliciting any kind of "decision" from parents? Let alone expect to be reimbursed by public monies?
5. What other elective, non-medical, non-therapeutic procedures on healthy, non-consenting individuals, should Medicaid be expected to cover?
The bottom line
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, present in all males at birth; 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 individuals 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 individuals, much less be eliciting any kind of "decision" from parents, and much less expect to be reimbursed.
Medicaid money could be better spent on medical treatment that is actually needed, instead of controversial elective surgery on healthy, non-consenting individuals.
New Hampshire, and eventually all 50 states should cut Medicaid funding for elective, non-medical, non-therapeutic circumcision, especially in healthy, non-consenting minors, and put it to better use.