San Francisco Could Ban Male Circumcision

San Francisco's municipal ballot this year may include a measure to ban the circumcision of baby boys. Considering some of the other things banned in San Francisco, it might actually have a shot.

According to the San Francisco Examiner, the ban would make it unlawful to "circumcise, excise, cut or mutilate the foreskin, testicle or penis of another person who has not attained the age of 18." Anyone who does so could face a $1000 fine and a year in jail — though adult men could legally seek the procedure after the age of 18. The ban's main backer is SF resident Lloyd Schofield, who says he was inspired by a nationwide campaign against "male genital mutilation" and that he "always knew this was something wrong to do to a child." He's campaigning for the bill outside area supermarkets with the following pitch: "Would you like to help protect the children from forced circumcision? This is a human-rights issue."

Not everyone agrees. In a joint statement, Anti-Defamation League, the San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Council, the Board of Rabbis of Northern California and the American Jewish Committee said,

For thousands of years, Jews around the world have engaged in this important religious ritual, which is of fundamental importance in the Jewish tradition. The organized Jewish community is deeply troubled by this initiative, which would interfere with the rights of parents to make religious decisions for their own families.

Female genital mutilation has cultural (though, some have argued, not strictly religious) underpinnings too, and it's already illegal in San Francisco. Schofield says the same should be true for male circumcision: "People can practice whatever religion they want, but your religious practice ends with someone else's body." It's worth noting, though, that while some say male circumcision can interfere with sexual sensation, its impact on sexual health and function is generally far less severe than that of female circumcision.

So can the bill pass? NBC says it needs just 7,000 signatures to get on the ballot, which isn't a big hurdle. Earning passage will be another matter — but San Francisco has already banned plastic bags at supermarkets, and is considering banning plastic bottles too. Maybe a ban on cutting foreskins isn't far behind.

SF May Ban Infant Circumcision [NBC Bay Area]
Jewish Groups Condemn Effort To Ban Circumcision [JTA]
San Francisco Circumcision Ban Headed For November Ballot [SF Examiner]

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