I have found the ongoing discussion over the proposed San Francisco law outlawing circumcision from being performed in The City, very interesting.  I thank the many commenters to my two recent previous posts (here and here) for their participation, frankness, and passion.

It is that very passion that has me genuinely puzzled—and a bit alarmed.  To me, the opposition to circumcision lacks perspective, a sense of balance, and seems driven almost purely by intense emotionalism.  Commenters have repeatedly called it a “mutilation,” although, as I noted in a reply to a comment in the first post about this topic, it doesn’t fit the definition because circumcision doesn’t disfigure, maim, or interfere with function.  It has been compared to chopping off a child’s hands, which is clearly over the top.  It has been labeled self evident child abuse, and yet no state law that I know of so holds and no physician or rabbi, to my knowledge, has ever been arrested for performing a circumcision.

Indeed, the responses are so explosive, most have completely missed that the post isn’t about pro or anti circumcision—I don’t care—but whether this is a proper subject for the voters of a city to decide. I don’t see how it can be, given the status of the law, the opinions of medical organizations, and the religious protections offered about the practice by the First Amendment.

But if voters do have the right to outlaw circumcision based on the majorities’ values, what other procedures parents might want to have performed on a child could a city decide to outlaw?  How about orthodontia that involves the pulling of teeth? This procedure is usually not done for health reasons, but purely for cosmetic purposes.  It removes healthy natural body parts.  It is painful.  It is something that can be easily delayed until adulthood when the person with crooked teeth can decide for him or herself whether to get them straightened.

So, if the voters of SF can outlaw the removal of an infant’s foreskin, why can’t they also decide to prevent parents from having their child’s healthy teeth extracted? Frankly, that seems a far closer analogy to circumcision than the hyperbole I have seen in the comments.   And if you think voters should not be able to outlaw orthodontia, how can you support their outlawing circumcision?

Articles by Wesley J. Smith

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