Federal Anti-anti-circumcision bill: H.R. 2400: Religious and Parental Rights Defense Act of 2011
The Federal government is trying to limit states and local governments. A recent House Bill seeks to prohibit states from restricting male genital cutting, although most states have such restrictions for female genital cutting. United States Representative Brad Sherman introduced a Bill in the House seeking to prevent any government entity in the United States from prohibiting male infant circumcision. The Anti-anti-circumcision bill was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce for consideration.
US Representative Brad Sherman is a California Democrat for the 27th District. He is joined in the Bill by 9 co-sponsors. The names and contact information for the Congressmen are listed below. Everyone is encouraged to contact these Congressmen and let them know how ill-conceived the Bill is.
The Federal Bill is remarkably similar to California State Bill AB 768, which is an Anti-anti-circumcision Bill for the State of California.
The proposed House Bill H.R. 2400 is reproduced below:
Much is wrong with the Religious and Parental Rights Defense Act of 2011 House Bill. Even the name evokes a sense that the government is trying to protect a traditional practice that is being threatened. A short analysis of the House Bill is provided below. It is time that our elected officials began representing the people and doing what is in the best interest of the people.
Congressional Fact Finding
The Federal House Bill includes the statement: "Congress finds the following: (1) Male circumcision carries significant medical benefits, including lower risk of sexually-transmitted diseases, certain kinds of infection, and overall improved hygiene." Congress is going to have to hold evidentiary hearings in order to substantiate the claims about circumcision. The public will have the opportunity to be heard at these hearings.
I am sure many intactivists will be able to provide evidence showing that male infant circumcision is genital surgery that carries substantial medical risks, both to the infant and the man the infant grows up to be. Many men consider the complications from their infant circumcision to have seriously impacted their life.
I am also sure that many will point out that that infants do not get sexually-transmitted diseases from sex. With no risk of STDs, there is no pressing need to remove part of the sex organ of healthy infant boys.
A finding regarding "certain kinds of infection" is ambiguous and likely not to be supported. Old studies on urinary tract infections (UTIs) showed increased UTIs for uncircumcised males, but recent studies show that male infant circumcision has no benefit with respect to UTIs, which are readily treated by antibiotics.
Relying upon hygiene to support the surgical removal of healthy genital tissue is a specious reason to circumcise. Non-therapeutic male infant circumcision is elective surgery that is not essential to the continued good health of the infant.
First Amendment: Separation of Church and State
Another troubling aspect of the proposed Bill is that HR 2400 likely runs afoul of the First Amendment of the US Constitution. The first part of the First Amendment says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." That means no law can show a preference for or favor a particular religion.
The Federal House Bill includes the statement: "Congress finds the following: . . . (2) Male circumcision is an important part of many world religions, including Judaism and Islam, and observers have safely embraced its practice for generations." The stated findings specifically call out religions that practice the conduct that is being sought to be protected. A very strong argument can be made that the Bill is unconstitutional because it supports specific religions.
The second finding also makes the claim that the practitioners of infant circumcisions have "safely embraced its practice for generations." There is evidence accumulating that the risks and complications of infant circumcisions are more prevalent than commonly thought. For example, many complications, such as skin bridges and excess skin removal do not become apparent until well after the surgery, oftentimes such complications are discovered by the adult when it impacts his sexual behavior. There are also studies showing that the most severe risk of infant circumcision, death, occurs more frequently than the medical industry wishes to be known. One study estimates that over 100 infants die as a result of circumcision each year in the United States. Id.
Fifth Amendment: Due Process
The fifth amendment prevents individuals from being deprived of life, liberty, or property without "due process of law."
Modern society is increasingly recognizing that all citizens, even the youngest among us, have rights. The right to bodily autonomy is a basic human right. The House Bill seeks to legislate the prevention of any effort to protect the youngest among us from having a portion of their body removed without consent. Infant circumcision forcibly removes a portion of the penis for non-medical reasons. The tissue removed is healthy tissue that serves a function for the male.
Fourteenth Amendment: Equal Protection Clause
The first section of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution states, "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." As written, the 14th Amendment applies only to state governments, but it is interpreted to apply to Federal Government actions of the United States as well.
The US federal government has a Female Genital Mutilation Act that protects females from circumcision, excision, or infibulation of "the whole or any part of the labia majora or labia minora or clitoris." Females are protected from circumcision or other genital cutting at both the State and Federal level. The proposed House Bill H.R. 2400 seeks to treat males differently than females. Why is it that the genitals of girls are protected, but boys can have their genitals freely cut? Shouldn't males enjoy the same protection as females under the law?
Generally, statutes that discriminate on the basis of sex are reviewed with intermediate scrutiny. That is, under intermediate scrutiny a law is unconstitutional unless it is "substantially related" to an "important" government interest. The House Bill discriminates based on sex. Females are currently protected from genital cutting. The Bill seeks to prevent others from prohibiting male genital cutting. The reasons cited in the Bill are insufficient to show an important governmental interest for allowing genital cutting of only males.
Parents have Limits on what they can do to their children
Also troubling is that House Bill HR 2400 seeks to foster a parental right to cut the genitalia of their child. The words of the bill do not create a parental right to circumcise their sons, but the title implies that there is currently such a right and it must be defended. There is no parental right to have elective surgery performed on their infants. There are laws that specifically prevent such elective surgery if the child is a daughter. There is a long line of US Supreme Court cases that place limits on what parents can inflict upon their children. One such early case is Prince v. Massachusetts. The Court stated, "Parental authority is not absolute and can be permissibly restricted if doing so is in the interests of a child's welfare."
Why this Bill?
The above reasons show the House Bill HR 2400 has little hope of passing constitutional muster. So why is Congressman Sherman and the other Congressmen sponsoring a Bill that places limits on state action? The Bill prevents states and local governments from protecting male infants from genital cutting Why are these men seeking to allow the practice of male genital cutting while there are laws prohibiting genital cutting of females?
If these men continue to support this Bill though hearings, I am sure many will guess at their motives. It may be that these men are circumcised and they are supporting the continued practice of genital cutting to justify what happened to them when they were young. Some of these men may support infant circumcision for religious reasons. I do not know why. And it does not matter.
I do know that these elected representatives are failing their youngest constituents by working to continue the ancient practice of genital cutting, which we euphemistically call male infant circumcision. It is genital cutting. It meets the definition of genital mutilation. And it is time that we offered genital integrity to all of our children, not just females.
Sponsoring Congressmen Contact Info:
The following Congressional Representatives are currently sponsoring the Anti-anti-circumcision House Bill. I implore all to contact their representatives to let them know that all children have the basic human right to grow up whole, with all their body parts.
For the greatest impact, those contacting the listed US Representatives should be constituents of the Representatives. It is also a good idea to contact other Representatives, particularly those on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which is considering the Bill.
Howard Berman [D-CA28] Online contact form
14546 Hamlin Street, Suite 202
Van Nuys, CA 91411
Phone: (818) 994-7200
Fax: (818) 994-1050
Steve Israel [D-NY2] Online contact form
150 Motor Pkwy Ste 108
Hauppauge, NY 11788
Phone : (631) 951-2210
Fax: (631) 951-3308
Sander Levin [D-MI12] Online contact form
27085 Gratiot Ave
Roseville, MI 48066
- RestoringTally: California proposes an Anti-anti-circumcision bill
- The Library of Congress, Thomas: Bill Summary & Status, 112th Congress (2011–12), H.R. 2400
- GovTrack.us: H.R. 2400: Religious and Parental Rights Defense Act of 2011
- Men's Stories about their circumcision and how it has affected them
- Cohort study on circumcision of newborn boys and subsequent risk of urinary-tract infection. Circumcision may protect boys from UTI, but the magnitude of the effect is less than previously thought.
- United States Constitution: First and Fifth Amendments
- Late complications of newborn circumcision: a common and avoidable problem
- Thymos: Journal of Boyhood Studies, Vol. 4, No. 1 / Spring 2010. More than 100 infants die annually as a result of infant circumcision.
- Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
- USC Title 18, Sec. 116: Female genital mutilation is a federal crime
- Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158, 64 S.Ct. 438, 88 L.Ed. 645 (1944)
- Sherman to Introduce Bill to Protect Male Circumcision (June 14, 2011)
- Rolling Doughnut: Congressman Brad Sherman Is Wrong On Circumcision (June 15, 2011)