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INTACT AMERICA

Washington’s Pending Child Protection Legislation: Unconstitutional!

March 18, 2019

by
Georganne Chapin, MPhil, JD
Intact America
March 17, 2019

The state of Washington has a pending child protection bill before its legislature. While we share legislators’ condemnation of the activity this bill seeks to regulate, we also wish to point out the fact that the bill violates the Constitution of the State of Washington.

Senate Bill 5257, introduced January 15, 2019, would prohibit the practice of “female genital mutilation” or FGM – i.e., the culturally-based practice of pricking, incising, or cutting a minor girl’s genitals. The bill arose, in part, as a response to the November 2018 dismissal by a federal court in Michigan of a case against a physician prosecuted under a similar federal law (18 U.S. Code § 116, also known as the Federal Prohibition Against Female Genital Mutilation Act of 1996) for operating on the genitals of three young girls. In dismissing that case, the judge said that despite the heinous actions of the physician (a woman from an Indian sect that practices female genital cutting), the federal law under which she was charged was unconstitutional because the behavior it proscribed falls under the rubric of “local criminal activity,” which is properly regulated by states.

So, what is wrong with this Washington State bill prohibiting medically unnecessary genital surgery on girls? In three words: it is unconstitutional!

Washington’s Constitution contains a “equal protection” clause which states: “No law shall be passed granting to any citizen, class of citizens, or corporation other than municipal, privileges or immunities which upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens, or corporations.” In other words, Washington’s laws should never favor, protect, or privilege one group over another. While the anti-genital-mutilation law summarized above rightfully protects girls from medically unnecessary surgery on their genitalia, whether carried out in a “cultural” or medical context, it denies through omission such protection to boys.

Should not all children be protected from the medically unnecessary surgical modification of their genitals? Are boys not entitled to the same rights to bodily integrity, autonomy, and self-determination as girls?

“Routine” infant male circumcision – like “female genital mutilation” – entails the removal of a normal, natural part of a boy’s genitals in the absence of any medical necessity. Sometimes – as with female genital mutilation – male circumcision is performed for “cultural” reasons (I purposely draw no distinction between “culture” and “religion,” as there is simply no justification to favor the practices of groups who can point to a written text over those with a long oral tradition). And sometimes – just as with intersex surgery – male circumcision is performed simply as a social or cosmetic procedure, justified as in the child’s best interest, helping him to “fit in,” “be normal,” or “avoid problems in the future.”

It is not known how many girls are subjected to FGM in the United States, but the number is certainly less than one percent. By contrast, more than half of U.S.-born boys – more than one million babies each year – are subjected to the brutal removal of their their healthy, normal foreskins within a few hours of days of their birth.

Until the mid-19th century, surgical amputation of the foreskin was practiced only by Jewish and Muslim people, and by some tribal cultures. Victorian doctors introduced the practice in the United States and other Anglophone countries to stop boys from masturbating. By the mid-20th century, “routine” circumcision had become embedded in American medicine, and still today, the United States is the only non-Jewish, non-Muslim country in the world where doctors routinely remove baby boys’ foreskins (South Korea and the Philippines also have high circumcision rates because of the influence of U.S. military hospitals.) In the United States, the incidence of routine infant circumcision varies widely by region. At approximately 10 percent for in-hospital circumcisions, Washington’s current circumcision rate is well below the national average.

American men of all ages are expressing indignation about having undergone the removal of their normal, functional foreskins when they were too young to either consent or resist.

Legislators from Washington and every other state seeking to redress the ethically and medically unjustifiable practices of genital surgery performed on girls must take notice, to ensure that any new laws be consistent with the “equal protection” clauses of their constitutions, and to protect all children.

California’s Pending Child Protection Legislation: Unconstitutional!

March 14, 2019

by
Georganne Chapin, MPhil, JD
Intact America
March 14, 2019

The state of California has a pending child protection bill before its legislature. While we share the legislators’ condemnation of the activities this bill seeks to regulate, we also wish to point out the fact that the bill violates California’s state Constitution.

Senate Bill 201 seeks to “…prohibit a physician and surgeon from performing any treatment or intervention on the sex characteristics of an intersex minor if the treatment or intervention may be deferred until the intersex minor can provide informed consent…” The bill states: “‘Intersex minor’ means an individual born with atypical physical sex characteristics, including, but not limited to, chromosomes, genitals, or internal organs, and includes differences in sex development resulting from androgen insensitivity syndrome, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, and hypospadias.”

Because intersex surgery has been and remains the purview of the medical profession, the intersex bill contains extensive detail about the types of surgeries that have been traditionally performed upon children with anomalous genitalia in efforts to “normalize” the appearance of their sex organs toward either the male or female end of the spectrum of visible sex characteristics; it describes in similar detail measures that must be taken to prove medical necessity for such surgeries. The California intersex bill follows a 2018 resolution representing the first time a state set out to condemn and regulate “intersex surgery (the second was Connecticut and the third was Iowa, both in 2019)” and (b) includes extensive language about the rights of intersex people to “participate in decisions about surgery and other medical treatments or interventions on their physical sex characteristics, and to guarantee [them] the rights to bodily integrity, autonomy, and self-determination.” Bravo!

Since 1996, California has had a law on its books prohibiting female genital mutilation, also known as FGM. The law states: “‘Female genital mutilation’ means the excision or infibulation of the labia majora, labia minora, clitoris, or vulva, performed for nonmedical purposes.”  The current intersex bill is similarly sweeping.

So, what is wrong with the anti-FGM law? What’s wrong with the proposed intersex law? Why are they unconstitutional?

California’s Constitution contains an “equal protection” clause which states: “A citizen or class of citizens may not be granted privileges or immunities not granted on the same terms to all citizens…” In other words, California’s laws should never favor, protect, or privilege one group over another.

While they rightfully protect girls and intersex children from medically unnecessary surgery on their genitalia, whether carried out in a “cultural” or medical context, they deny these protections to boys.

Should not boys also be protected from the medically unnecessary surgical modification of their genitals? Are not boys entitled to the same rights to bodily integrity, autonomy, and self-determination as girls and intersex minors?

“Routine” infant male circumcision – like “female genital mutilation” – entails the removal of a normal, natural part of a boy’s genitals in the absence of any medical necessity. Sometimes – as in the case of female genital mutilation – male circumcision is performed for “cultural” reasons (I purposely draw no distinction between “culture” and “religion,” as there is simply no justification to favor the practices of groups who can point to a written text over those with a long oral tradition.) And sometimes – just as with intersex surgery – male circumcision is performed simply as a social or cosmetic procedure, justified as in the child’s best interest, helping him to “fit in” or to “avoid problems in the future.”

“Intersex” is a condition estimated to characterize somewhere between two and three percent of the population. It is not known how many girls are subjected to FGM in the United States, but the number is certainly less than one percent.

Possession of a penile prepuce (male foreskin), on the other hand, characterizes nearly half of the population. Until the mid-19th century, surgical amputation of the foreskin was practiced only by Jewish and Muslim people, and by some tribal cultures. Victorian doctors introduced the practice in the United States and other Anglophone countries to stop boys from masturbating. By the mid-20th century, “routine” circumcision had become embedded in American medicine, and still today, the United States is the only non-Jewish, non-Muslim country in the world where doctors routinely remove baby boys’ foreskins (South Korea and the Philippines also have high circumcision rates because of the influence of U.S. military hospitals.) While in the United States the incidence of routine infant circumcision varies widely by region, California’s rate remains among the lowest in the nation, at about 23 percent.

Just as intersex individuals are speaking out loudly against a medical establishment that overlooks individual autonomy in favor of social norms, American men of all ages are expressing indignation about having undergone the removal of their normal, functional foreskins when they were too young to either consent or resist.

Legislators from California and every other state seeking to redress the ethically and medically unjustifiable practices of “normalizing” surgery performed on the genitalia of girls and intersex children need to take notice, to ensure that any new laws be consistent with the “equal protection” or “laws uniform” clauses of their constitutions, and to protect all children.

 

Connecticut’s Pending Child Protection Legislation: Unconstitutional!

March 14, 2019

by
Georganne Chapin, MPhil, JD
Intact America
March 14, 2019

The state of Connecticut has two pending child protection bills before its legislature. While we share legislators’ condemnation of the activities these bills seek to regulate, we also wish to point out the fact that both bills violate the Constitution of the State of Connecticut.

The first bill, Senate Bill 505, forbids the practice of “female genital mutilation” or FGM – i.e., the culturally-based practice of pricking, incising, or cutting a minor girl’s genitals – and makes it a Class D felony. The bill arose in response to the dismissal by a federal court in Michigan of a case against a physician prosecuted under a similar federal law (18 U.S. Code § 116, also known as the Federal Prohibition Against Female Genital Mutilation Act of 1996) for operating on the genitals of three young girls. In dismissing the case, the judge said that despite the heinous actions of the physician (a woman from an Indian sect that practices female genital cutting), the federal law under which she was charged was unconstitutional because the behavior it proscribed falls under the rubric of “local criminal activity,” which is properly regulated by states.

The second bill in the Connecticut child protection pipeline attempts to regulate an activity that is only now becoming a topic of public discussion. Senate Bill 388 seeks to “…prohibit discrimination against a person on the basis of such person’s intersex status…” by banning “any licensed health care provider from engaging in medically unnecessary surgeries on an intersex person without such person’s consent.” Genital modification surgery of “intersex” minors refers to any surgical treatment to children born with atypical physical sex characteristics including but not limited to chromosomes, genitals, or internal organs.

Another related bill under consideration would bar discrimination against intersex individuals and provide a third option for gender designation on birth certificates, driver’s licenses and other legal documents. Taken together, the pending Connecticut intersex bills seek “to address the needs of [people in a] community who have suffered from discrimination, unnecessary surgery and inaccurate documentation of their gender, by providing relief from such issues.”

So, what is wrong with these bills prohibiting medically unnecessary genital surgery on girls and intersex children? Well, they’re unconstitutional!

Connecticut’s Constitution contains a “equal protection” clause which states: “No person shall be denied the equal protection of the law nor be subjected to segregation or discrimination in the exercise or enjoyment of his civil or political rights because of religion, race, color, ancestry or national origin.” In other words, Connecticut’s laws should never favor, protect, or privilege one group over another. While the anti-genital-mutilation laws summarized above rightfully protect girls and intersex children from medically unnecessary surgery on their genitalia, whether carried out in a “cultural” or medical context, they deny these protections to boys.

Should not boys also be protected from the medically unnecessary surgical modification of their genitals? Are not boys entitled to the same rights to bodily integrity, autonomy, and self-determination as girls and intersex minors?

“Routine” infant male circumcision – like “female genital mutilation” – entails the removal of a normal, natural part of a boy’s genitals in the absence of any medical necessity. Sometimes – as in the cases of female genital mutilation – male circumcision is performed for “cultural” reasons (I purposely draw no distinction between “culture” and “religion,” as there is simply no justification to favor the practices of groups who can point to a written text over those with a long oral tradition). And sometimes – just as with intersex surgery – male circumcision is performed simply as a social or cosmetic procedure, justified as in the child’s best interest, helping him to “fit in,” be normal,” or “avoid problems in the future.”

“Intersex” is a condition estimated to characterize somewhere between two and three percent of the population. It is not known how many girls are subjected to FGM in the United States, but the number is certainly less than one percent.

Possession of a penile prepuce (male foreskin), on the other hand, characterizes nearly half of the population. Until the mid-19th century, surgical amputation of the foreskin was practiced only by Jewish and Muslim people, and by some tribal cultures. Victorian doctors introduced the practice in the United States and other Anglophone countries to stop boys from masturbating. By the mid-20th century, “routine” circumcision had become embedded in American medicine, and still today, the United States is the only non-Jewish, non-Muslim country in the world where doctors routinely remove baby boys’ foreskins (South Korea and the Philippines also have high circumcision rates because of the influence of U.S. military hospitals.) In the United States, the incidence of routine infant circumcision varies widely by region. At approximately 70 percent, Connecticut’s newborn circumcision rate is well above the national average.

Just as intersex individuals are speaking out loudly against a medical establishment that overlooks individual autonomy in favor of social norms, American men of all ages are expressing indignation about having undergone the removal of their normal, functional foreskins when they were too young to either consent or resist.

Legislators from Connecticut and every other state seeking to redress the ethically and medically unjustifiable practices of “normalizing” genital surgery performed on girls and intersex children need to take notice, to ensure that any new laws be consistent with the “equal protection” clauses of their constitutions, and to protect all children.

 

Iowa’s Pending Child Protection Legislation: Unconstitutional!

March 14, 2019

by
Georganne Chapin, MPhil, JD
Intact America
March 14, 2019

The state of Iowa has two pending child protection bills before its legislature. While we share the legislators’ condemnation of the activities these bills seek to regulate, we also wish to point out the fact that both bills violate Iowa’s state Constitution.

The first bill, House File 299 (together with the related House Study Bill 115) forbids the practice of “female genital mutilation” or FGM – i.e., the culturally-based practice of pricking, incising, or cutting a minor girl’s genitals – and makes it a Class D felony. The legislation arose in response to the dismissal by a federal court in Michigan of a case against a physician prosecuted under a similar 1996 federal law (18 U.S. Code § 116, also known as the Federal Prohibition Against Female Genital Mutilation Act of 1996) for operating on the genitals of three young girls. In dismissing the case, the judge said that despite the heinous actions of the doctor (a woman from an Indian sect that practices female genital modification), the federal law under which she was charged was unconstitutional because the behavior it proscribed falls under the rubric of “local criminal activity,” which is properly regulated by states. It is safe to say that – from the perspective of public opinion – the proposed Iowa law and similar legislative activity taking place in other states are unlikely to meet with much pushback; Americans are rather unified in their revulsion toward “female genital mutilation,” sharing a presumption – even if they are not particularly well-informed about the issue – that this practice is indefensible from either a cultural or a medical standpoint.

The second bill in the Iowa child protection pipeline is more unusual in that it attempts to regulate an activity that is only now becoming a topic of public discussion. House File 576 seeks to prohibit genital modification surgery or “treatment or intervention on the [physical] sex characteristics” of “intersex” minors – defined as children “born with atypical physical sex characteristics including but not limited to chromosomes, genitals, or internal organs….” Because intersex surgery has been and remains the purview of the medical profession, the intersex bill contains extensive detail about the types of surgeries that have been traditionally performed upon children with anomalous genitalia in efforts to “normalize” the appearance of their sex organs toward either the male or female end of the spectrum of visible sex characteristics; it describes in similar detail measures that must be taken to prove medical necessity for such surgeries. The Iowa intersex bill is also noteworthy because it (a) represents only the second time a state has set out to regulate “intersex surgery (the first was California, earlier this year)” and (b) includes extensive language about the rights of intersex people to “participate in decisions about surgery and other medical treatments or interventions on their physical sex characteristics, and to guarantee [them] the rights to bodily integrity, autonomy, and self-determination.” Bravo!

So, what is wrong with these bills? Why are they unconstitutional?

Iowa’s Constitution contains a “laws uniform” clause (similar to an equal rights amendment) which states: “…the general assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens.” In other words, Iowa’s laws should never favor, protect, or privilege one group over another. While the two laws summarized above protect girls and intersex children from medically unnecessary surgery on their genitalia, whether carried out in a “cultural” or medical context, they deny these protections to boys.

Should not boys also be protected from the medically unnecessary surgical modification of their genitals? Are not boys entitled to the same rights to bodily integrity, autonomy, and self-determination as girls and intersex minors?

“Routine” infant male circumcision – like “female genital mutilation” – entails the removal of a normal, natural part of a boy’s genitals in the absence of any medical necessity. Sometimes – as in the case of female genital mutilation – male circumcision is performed for “cultural” reasons (I purposely draw no distinction between “culture” and “religion,” as there is simply no justification to favor the practices of groups who can point to a written text over those with a long oral tradition.) And sometimes – just as with intersex surgery – male circumcision is performed simply as a social or cosmetic procedure, justified as in the child’s best interest, helping him to “fit in,” or to “avoid problems in the future.”
“Intersex” is a condition estimated to characterize somewhere between two and three percent of the population.

Possession of a penile prepuce (male foreskin), on the other hand, characterizes nearly half of the population. Until the mid-19th century, surgical amputation of the foreskin was practiced only by Jewish and Muslim people, and by some tribal cultures. Victorian doctors introduced the practice in the United States and other Anglophone countries to stop boys from masturbating. By the mid-20th century, “routine” circumcision had become embedded in American medicine, and still today, the United States is the only non-Jewish, non-Muslim country in the world where doctors routinely remove baby boys’ foreskins (South Korea and the Philippines also have high circumcision rates because of the influence of U.S. military hospitals.) While in the United States the incidence of routine infant circumcision varies widely by region, Iowa’s rate remains among the highest in the nation, at well above 70 percent.

Just as intersex individuals are speaking out loudly against a medical establishment that overlooks individual autonomy in favor of social norms, American men of all ages are expressing indignation about having undergone the removal of their normal, functional foreskins when they were too young to either consent or resist.

Legislators from Iowa and every other state seeking to redress the ethically and medically unjustifiable practices of “normalizing” surgery performed on the genitalia of girls and intersex children need to take notice, to ensure that any new laws be consistent with the “equal protection” or “laws uniform” clauses of their constitutions, and to protect all children.

“Born Complete”: International Hypocrisy Day 2019

February 7, 2019

by Georganne Chapin

On Wednesday, February 6, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) rolled out — with much digital fanfare — International Zero Tolerance Day for Female Genital Mutilation.”

After scanning the promo, I’m inspired to suggest a few alternative monikers. How about International Zero Tolerance Day for Genital Mutilation (unless You’re a Boy, in which Case You’re Out of Luck)? Well, that’s probably too many words, so how about International Cultural Blindness Day? Or, better yet, International Hypocrisy Day? Let me explain.

On a polished new website for its “Born Complete” campaign, UNFPA decries the cultural practice of cutting girls as “reflect[ing] deep-rooted inequality between the sexes.” Really?

It’s good to hate FGM, and it’s essential to protect girls from the practice. It’s also irrefutable that many women around the world have less freedom and opportunity than their male counterparts. But to condemn FGM on the grounds that it constitutes sex discrimination is truly mystifying, given the nearly universal circumcision of boys in countries where FGM is practiced.

Particularly hypocritical and galling to me is the fact that my own country is the largest non-Muslim boy-cutting nation in the world: although the numbers are slowly falling, more than one million boys born each year in U.S. hospitals are sexually mutilated within a few days of their birth (and only a handful of those surgeries are carried out as religious rituals).

hypocrisy

Yet, the United States of America is blithely and uncritically on board with the UN’s claim that FGM constitutes sexual discrimination. This is corroborated by the current push by (mostly female) state legislators to implement laws declaring it a crime to cut only the genitals of girl children for non-medical reasons. This trend has accelerated in the wake of a Michigan court dismissing charges against a female doctor who performed minor genital-altering surgery on three young girls whose immigrant parents solicited the procedure. Incidentally, the dismissal was based on the judge’s ruling that the federal anti-fgm law is unconstitutional – NOT because it implicitly exempts boys from protection, but because it attempts to regulate activities that properly belong under the jurisdiction of the states.

I do believe it’s only a matter of time before there will be a court challenge to the state FGM laws as discriminating against boys and intersex children. I’m less sure when the international human rights establishment will start to celebrate “Born Complete” and being “intact” (am I being petty to complain that the UN appropriated this term from the American intactivist movement?) as applying to all children.

But those are topics for another day. In the meantime, hypocrisy rules!

The Power of You

January 16, 2019

gc soo email banner 2018

Happy New Year! When l look back on the progress we have made toward changing the way America thinks about circumcision, I am deeply moved and excited about the future.

Mostly, I am extremely grateful for YOU – for the generosity and compassion you showed in 2018. Because of you and our other donors, we were able to claim 100% of the generous $50,000 match put forward by a private philanthropist from Illinois. And to Intact America’s many new supporters: thank you for becoming part of this outspoken and uncompromisingly dedicated community.

Thank you for standing with Intact America to fight for the rights of baby boys to keep the bodies they’re born with.

Thank you for understanding the damage circumcision creates for boys, men and those who love them. And for your commitment to stopping this travesty.

Thank you for your support for this movement until true equality can be claimed – until all children can grow up knowing that their genitals and their rights to a healthy sexual future have been protected.

And thank you for sharing your passion for this cause with friends, family, and others. Every time you do, the wall of stigma surrounding a once-taboo topic crumbles a little bit more.

The national survey Intact America conducted in 2018, compared to the one we did four years earlier (the first of its kind), showed that the American public is increasingly accepting of the intact male body. We will survey again in 2019 to continue measuring the movement’s progress in reaching a tipping point.

The public response to American Circumcision, Brendon Marotta’s documentary, featuring interviews with many movement leaders including yours truly, has been nothing less than phenomenal. With the documentary now on Netflix, we have seen scores of individuals requesting Intact America’s e-newsletter, writing to ask questions about our organization, sharing their stories, and wanting to become more involved. This breakthrough film is a game-changer for our movement.

In the first quarter of this year, Intact America will launch a new mobile-friendly website – the leading source of information on intactivist issues. Stay tuned – we think you’ll love it.

We’re also launching the advocacy phase of “Made to Stick,” our Foreskin Protection Campaign, with a letter to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). It cites our survey findings – that 43% of American boys under 7 years old have had their foreskins forcibly retracted – mostly at the hands of pediatricians. In the letter, and in our follow-up actions, we’re calling upon the AAP to educate its members about foreskin anatomy and the harms of forcible retraction. And we’ll offer working with them to ensure that this practice comes to an end. We’ll also continue to collect more stories/cases to our national foreskin retraction registry.

This summer, once again, we’ll be a big, loud presence at New York City PrideFest, where record crowds are expected for WorldPride and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. Pride represents a totally unique opportunity to spread the intactivist message to millions of attendees. The LGBTQ community knows all too well the discrimination and stigma attached to threatening the status quo by simply being oneself. We are deeply grateful for this community’s alliance with intactivism.

I am proud to report that Intact America is alive and vibrant, and on track to reach the tipping point – where a critical mass of Americans believe that the intact male body is natural and normal – and that cutting a baby’s genitals is NOT an option.

In the meantime, we will continue to protect boys from harm and to serve as a safe space for men and families – to tell their stories, to feel acknowledged and validated. None of this would be possible without your support.

I want to close with a New Year’s toast to you. Join me in raising a glass – to your courage and your leadership to stand for justice in the face of so much fear and shame. To your vision that has shaped this transformative human rights movement over the last decade. And to your continuing partnership in 2019 with Intact America to achieve our collective goals.

Best wishes for a healthy and joyful New Year,


Georganne Chapin
Founding Executive Director

 

Intact America

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