Would You Sign the Bill?

A back-and-forth with an activist group

In my gubernatorial campaign to challenge Gavin Newsom, I get lots of inquiries. Here’s one from the advocacy group Intact Political Action (IPA).

“Hello. If you are elected Governor of California, would you sign a bill banning non-therapeutic circumcision of boys if it came to your desk? Would you sign a bill banning non-therapeutic genital cutting of intersex children?”

And here’s how I replied.

“Greetings, IPA

      No, I would not sign either bill. And here’s why…

    1. Sexuality, in its unitive and procreative dimensions, is a core good of the person.
    2. As such, there is a right to one’s sexuality.
    3. Circumcision does not undermine male sexuality; as such it is not a form of mutilation.
    4. Circumcision does, to be sure, require proper medical procedures, and they should be regulated.
    5. The parents of intersex infants and children should ordinarily determine the choice of regulated medical procedures to secure stable sexuality.
    6. Discussions of the above points should insist that health care is a service and not, as it so often seems, an industry.
    7. Discussions of disputed medical policy should aim for ethical consistency. Consider the following statement:

‘Our messaging will, at all times, be consistent with our mission – that every child has the inalienable right to an intact body. We will advocate against both male and female genital mutilation (circumcision) and gender assignment surgery on intersex children.’ [from the IPA website.]

There is indeed a right to an intact body, and it is a right that abortion, the deliberate destruction of a preborn infant, manifestly violates.”

Needless to say, the IPA pursued its inquiry, using splices, as follows.

“Thank you for responding. You raised a lot of points, and we would like to refute them in depth:

Circumcision does not undermine male sexuality; as such it is not a form of mutilation.

“It is not clear what you mean by ‘sexuality’? But there are many studies and medical organizations which have concluded that circumcision does adversely affect sexual function, sensitivity, pleasure, etc. The threshold for ‘mutilation’ is applied inconsistently depending on the sex of the victim. Female Genital Mutilation Type 4 (pricking the clitoral hood [AKA the ‘female foreskin’]) removes no tissue (male circumcision does remove tissue), so in this case, it would be less severe and have less of an impact on ‘sexuality’ than male circumcision does. Despite this, all forms of Female Genital Cutting, regardless of severity, are recognized as ‘mutilation’ and are banned. It is a double standard!

Circumcision does, to be sure, require proper medical procedures and they should be regulated.

As far as we can tell, there is no requirement that it be carried out by a medical professional, or that adequate pain relief be administered.

The parents of intersex infants and children should ordinarily determine the choice of regulated medical procedures to secure stable sexuality.

Depending on the ‘procedure’, Intersex Genital Cutting can actually be more severe than many of the severe types of Female Genital Cutting. Many intersex children do not need genital surgery to be healthy, and these procedures often cause problems. They do not ‘stabilize sexuality’, they adversely affect it. The state of California has already condemned Intersex Genital Cutting in a non-binding resolution, and it has been condemned by the United Nations as well. So no, IGC is not a normal ‘medical procedure’- it is mutilation.

Discussions of disputed medical policy should aim for ethical consistency.

Female Genital Cutting is already banned in California at the state and federal level; Male Genital Cutting & Intersex Genital Cutting are not. We advocate against all non-therapeutic genital cutting of children, so we are ethically consistent. You, on the other hand, are not ethically consistent, since you seem to be okay with the status quo: genital integrity for girls, but not for other children.

There is indeed a right to an intact body, and it is a right that abortion, the deliberate destruction of a preborn infant, manifestly violates.

Well, evidently you do not believe there is a right to an intact body, if you support altering a child’s genitals without their consent. If you support an intact body when it comes to ‘abortion’, why do you not support it when it comes to genital cutting? Also, bringing up abortion to deflect from the actual question we asked is a red-herring logical fallacy.”

-Intact Political Action

In my reply I first noted that “‘in depth’ requires more than a few paragraphs, doesn’t it?”

Then I said that “‘Studies,’ as studies show (!), require confirmation and critical analysis. So do medical organizations, beginning with the AMA.” I noted, too, that “the circumcised male population, over many centuries, has enjoyed sexual function, sensitivity, and pleasure…and has often abused it.”

With regard to FGMT 4, I could only ask what it’s purpose is. But on mutilation I had more to say.

“Something can be recognized by some as mutilation without its in fact being so. Some people think that tattoos are a form of mutilation. But, used reasonably, they strike me as body art, sometimes successful and sometimes not.”

I added that on two points we largely agreed. “(1) In the practice of circumcision there ought to be a requirement of proficiency; pain relief, if there is significant pain, should be required and (2) we need to look at specific procedures.”

On my alleged inconsistency, I answered that “equals should be treated equally and unequals unequally in proportion to their relevant differences. That’s a consistent standard. We haven’t worked out what the relevant differences are.”

On my alleged red-herring I replied that “I’ve borrowed the term ‘intact’ from you. Some forms of altering the body are trivial, e.g., having a haircut. Others are harmful, e.g., those that undermine a basic good. Abortion is a deliberate attack on the good of life. Your answers above indicate a regard for consistency. So I’m not deflecting; rather, I’m directing you to consider an inconsistency.”

There ended our discussion. And now, gentle reader, would you sign such a bill?

 

Jim Hanink is an independent scholar, albeit more independent than scholarly!

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