The American Academy of Pediatrics has shifted its stance on infant male circumcision , announcing this week that new research, including studies in Africa suggesting that the procedure may protect heterosexual men against HIV, indicated that the health benefits outweighed the risks. But it stopped short of recommending routine circumcision for all baby boys, saying the decision remains a family matter.
The long-delayed policy update comes as sentiment against circumcision is gaining strength in the United States and parts of Europe . Circumcision rates in the United States declined to 54.5% in 2009 from 62.7% in 1999, according to one federal estimate.
In Europe, a government ethics committee in Germany last week overruled a court decision that removing a child’s foreskin was “grievous bodily harm” and therefore illegal. The country’s Professional Association of Pediatricians called the ethics committee ruling “a scandal.”
A provincial official in Austria has told state-run hospitals in the region to stop performing circumcisions , and the Danish authorities have commissioned a report to investigate whether medical doctors are present during religious circumcision rituals as required.
“We’re not pushing everybody to circumcise their babies,” Dr Douglas S. Diekema, a member of the academy’s task force on circumcision , said in an interview. “This is not really pro-circumcision . It falls in the middle. It’s pro-choice , for lack of a better word. Really, what we’re saying is, ‘This ought to be a choice that’s available to parents.”
But opponents of circumcision say no one has the right to make the decision to remove a healthy body part from another person .”The bottom line is it’s unethical ,” said Georganne Chapin, director of Intact America, a group that advocates against circumcision . “A normal foreskin on a normal baby boy is no more threatening than the hymen or labia on your daughter.”