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Circumcision: A Man's Right to Choose

Posted by Ryan Morgan on September 19, 2012 at 12:00 PM

When most people think of reproductive rights, they think of a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body, her right to decide whether, when, and how to start a family. Men’s reproductive rights, if discussed, usually boils down to more of a reproductive responsibility: wear a condom.

“If men could become pregnant,” predicts NPR reporter Michelle Andrews, “they’d probably visit the doctor more often.” But since they can’t, men might have a more difficult time thinking about what “reproductive rights” as opposed to “reproductive responsibilities” means to them.

One men's rights issue that’s come up recently is that of infant circumcision, the removal of the foreskin from a baby's penis. While the news story focused on a rare circumcision method, for men I talked to, it re-opened the very question of infant circumcision as a de rigueur sexual health practice in the United States.

From a public health standpoint, studies demonstrate male circumcision significantly reduces the risk of men acquiring HIV from female partners, it prevents infant urinary tract infections, penile cancer, inflammation of the foreskin and glans, and phimosis. In terms of women, it reduces the risk, among other things, of HPV, which can lead to cervical cancer.

The case against infant male circumcision is pretty simple: we shouldn’t unnecessarily cut off part of child. Infant circumcision is a permanent decision that a baby's parents/hospital make for him. He has no say in what happens to his body.

Further, if HIV transmission is the key concern, then aren’t there other, less violent options for men? Like education and condom use?

The Tell Them Bill of Rights declares that we all have the RIGHT “to make medical decision about [our] health care personally, privately and freely.” Doesn’t this include a man’s right to choose if his foreskin gets clipped?

To be clear, I’m speaking my OWN opinion, not that of Tell Them’s. But this is a genuine question for me: if circumcision is merely one way to help prevent HIV, shouldn’t a man have a choice in his circumcision?

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