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Local activists crusade to cut circumcisions

Protesting male circumcision
By CHRIS FARAONE  |  July 29, 2009

What do William Shakespeare, Don Johnson, Sean Hannity, Redd Foxx, and Ralph Nader have in common with Jenna Jameson flicks and 70 percent of men worldwide?

They're all uncut.

"Martin Luther King Jr. was never circumcised either," says John Iozza, a foreskin-bearing operative with the Boston-based Circumcision Resource Center (CRC) (and its corresponding Web site, "Elvis had all his parts, too — I'd say he did pretty well for himself."

Iozza and CRC Executive Director Ronald Goldman, PhD, have protested male circumcision for more than 20 years, during which time they've participated in symposiums worldwide, and, in the latter's case, published several journal studies condemning genital mutilation. They claim that they have largely been marginalized by the media due to the fact that their pet cause involves the taboo of penises, and also by the fact that, for fear of angering religious groups, most news outlets wouldn't want to touch this story with a 10-foot . . . er, you know. But now they see a media moment thanks to the current economic meltdown.

"MassHealth currently pays for circumcision," says Iozza, who has a habit of asking pregnant strangers if they plan to snip their male offspring. "And there's never been a better time than now to argue that tax dollars shouldn't pay for needless procedures." (According to a reasonable estimate by Goldman, Massachusetts — which is one of 34 states in which Medicaid pays for circumcision — spends nearly $7 million on the procedure annually. The state disputes that figure, putting it closer to $344,000.) Legislation to ban circumcision in the Commonwealth altogether has been kicked around since 2007 and is currently unscheduled for hearing in the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.

"Dr. Goldman is a sincere, dedicated person with deeply held views on the matter of circumcision," says MassHealth Commissioner Dr. Roger Snow. "[But] at this time, the professional opinion about non-therapeutic circumcision is so diverse and inconclusive that the course most in the interest of MassHealth members is one that maximizes their autonomy."

"The problem is that this is disguised as a medical issue," says Goldman, a cut Jew who has been secular "since his Bar Mitzvah." Though different research both supports and rejects claims that circumcision is medically prudent, one prevailing effort by University of Illinois-Chicago Professor Robert Bailey dramatically shifted the international dialogue. Since Bailey's 2006 study showed that circumcision lowered HIV-infection rates in Southern Africa by nearly 60 percent, the United States government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have thrown more than $50 million at the cause.

"That's not a credible argument here in Massachusetts," notes Goldman. "You know what really helps protect against HIV/AIDS? Condoms. . . . [Y]ears ago, circumcision was promoted as a preventative cure for masturbation . . . and we know that didn't work."

Studies aside, the greatest impediments to anti-circumcision crusaders are religious and family traditions. "One argument we always hear is that fathers who are circumcised want their sons to look like them," says Iozza. Adds Goldman: "But that logic falls on its face when you apply it to anything else; if the father was missing a finger or an ear or a toe, would he want his son missing one, too?"

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Re: Local activists crusade to cut circumcisions
By ENCRYPTED on 07/29/2009 at 6:51:08
Re: Local activists crusade to cut circumcisions
"maximizes their autonomy" ? Tell that to everyone on MassHealth who cannot get their legitimate medical needs covered. Where is their autonomy? Furthermore, correct me if I'm wrong, but as I understand it, the purpose of MassHealth (Medicaid) is to provide coverage of NECESSARY medical care for LEGITIMATE medical needs. Circumcision is neither necessary or legitimate and remains, at best, and elective cosmetic procedure. Not to mention that it is elected by someone other than the patient who never consents to it, and in most cases, would not. We have enough challenges in front of us with health care. Let's stop wasting our tax money on this useless procedure. For more information on the state of Medicaid and circumcision, see // Find us on Facebook //
By Carolinew6462 on 07/29/2009 at 8:32:19
Re: Local activists crusade to cut circumcisions
"... the course most in the interest of MassHealth members is one that maximizes their autonomy."Dr Snow, the course that maximizes the autonomy of infant MassHealth members is to leave their penises alone, for them to autonomously decide how much they want to keep when they are old enough to do so.  (And it is they, and not their parents, who are the patients/clients/customers of MassHealth in this instance.) HIV? A study from Uganda now suggests that male circumcision increases the risk of transmission to women, by as much as 50%, but the researchers cut the study short :( before it could become statistically significant. Since women are at greater risk, this needs further investigation.
By Hugh77 on 07/29/2009 at 8:54:42
Re: Local activists crusade to cut circumcisions
The research by Robert Bailey is not only false but fraudulent.  Bailey has a 25+ year history of promoting infant male circumcision and these studies are just a continuation of his agenda. Bailey claims circumcision has a 61% protective factor against HIV infection.  We can closely estimate the effect on a population by comparing this with other diseases and interventions.  For instance, the polio epidemic was stopped in it's tracks in a single generation with the Salk vaccine that was only 70% effective.  Polio is highly infectious and can be transmitted by simply touching contaminated surfaces.  In contrast, HIV has an extremely short life span outside the body and can only be transmitted via contaminated body fluids.  If male circumcision had the protective effect Bailey claims, HIV could have never gotten a foothold in The US as the vectors of transmission would have been sufficiently interupted for it to be passed.  Bailey is a epidemologist at The University of Chicago and most certainly knows this therefore the entire study is a conscious lie meant to turn the current trend of not circumcising newborns. Mathematical models confirm this.  If male circumcision were effective prevention as Bailey claims, there would be stark differences in circumcised and uncircumcised populations.  Such differences are not seen anywhere in the world.  The stark fact of the matter is that if you have sex with an infected person, you will also become infected regard less of your circumcision status. In yielding to his sexual fetishes, Bailey has convinced Africans to submit to circumcision believing it will protect them.  Already in this circumcision season, 52 young South African men have lost their lives.   When Bailey's circumcision campaign fails to provide results as it surely will, I can imagine Bailey's life will not be worth a plug nickel in South Africa and I would not blame them at all.   .
By Frank OHara on 07/31/2009 at 12:33:43
Re: Local activists crusade to cut circumcisions
 Dr Roger Snow says "...the course most in the interest of MassHealth members is one that maximizes their autonomy."What will maximize the autonomy of the MassHealth members most directly involved is to leave their genitals alone until they are old enough to decide for themselves whether they want integral, healthy parts cut off. They almost certainly won't.
By Hugh77 on 08/01/2009 at 2:10:12
Re: Local activists crusade to cut circumcisions
Genital cutting is a human rights issue. Girls are protected in the USA, but not boys. The glans of the penis is intended to be an internal organ and it needs its foreskin just like your eye needs its eyelid. The foreskin is not a cosmic error or a birth defect. We need to protect minors from sexual amputation that no medical society in the world recommends. This article did not help; please think of the poor baby boys who have no say in this barbaric ritual and can only oppose it with their screams.
By Elizabeth Noble on 08/02/2009 at 12:49:57

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