Circumcision of newborn boys in the United States has been regularly performed since the invention of the procedure in the late 1800s, but the number of American baby boys being circumcised has dropped in recent years as parents, medical authorities and vocal critics question its benefits.
Routine circumcision began in the United States in the years before the start of the 20th Century as a means to curb masturbation, and became a common procedure during the 1900s. Proponents say it helps stave off urinary tract infections in infant boys, and can offer some protection against contracting sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV.
However, many parents and doctors say the procedure is unnecessary and can cause reduced sexual sensation later in life, as well as traumatic pain and risk of infection at the time of the procedure. In recent years, more and more parents have opted to leave their male children’s foreskin intact.
“It’s a pretty common question for both first-time and more experienced parents,” said Dr. Poj Lysouvakon of the University of Chicago Hospitals. “Many have heard it’s painful for babies, and some men who were circumcised as infants say they feel they were assaulted or violated. As a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which no longer recommends routine neonatal circumcision, I tell them it’s a cultural issue and a personal decision.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of circumcisions performed in the United States fell from 85 percent in 1965 to 57 percent in 2004. Critics say that circumcision is usually reserved only for religious regions in most other parts of the world, and Americans are beginning to realize it may not be medically justified.
Circumcision rates in recent years have significantly decreased in the western United States, where many states’ Medicaid programs — including those in California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Nevada and Montana — have stopped paying for neonatal circumcisions. While 80 percent of infant boys in midwestern states are circumcised prior to their hospital release, only 32 percent of baby boys in western states undergo the procedure, according to the CDC.
Conventional medicine critic Mike Adams, author of “Take Back Your Health Power,” said circumcision is a “cruel, painful and permanently damaging” procedure that seriously damages infant boys’ sex organs.
“Circumcision has no medical justification whatsoever,” Adams said. “Even the myth that circumcision prevents AIDS offers no justification for the procedure. Since when did society decide that future disease prevention should be accomplished by mutilating infants born today? It makes about as much sense as preventing future obesity by performing bariatric surgery on infants to shrink their stomachs.”
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