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posted: 9/17/2012 5:26 PM

Group protests pediatrics organization's stance on circumcision

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  • From left, Dan Strandjord, Erica Wijenayaka and Ron Low, were among a group protesting the American Academy of Pediatrics' stance on circumcision at the association's Elk Grove Village headquarters Monday morning.

       From left, Dan Strandjord, Erica Wijenayaka and Ron Low, were among a group protesting the American Academy of Pediatrics' stance on circumcision at the association's Elk Grove Village headquarters Monday morning.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
 

A group of local protesters called on the American Academy of Pediatrics to retract a recent statement supportive of infant male circumcision in front of the group's Elk Grove Village headquarters Monday.

While the statement doesn't recommend circumcision, it claims that its potential benefits outweigh the risks of harm.

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The AAP's position, as revised Aug. 27, is that the potential benefits -- which include prevention of urinary tract infections, penile cancer and transmission of some sexually transmitted diseases -- justify continued access to the procedure for families who choose it in consultation with their pediatrician.

Members of the AAP's circumcision taskforce, whose research was the basis of the organization's position, could not be reached for comment Monday.

"This was a cultural statement, not a medical statement, from the AAP," protester Dan Strandjord of Chicago said Monday morning.

He argued that it is largely cultural reasons and the fear of lawsuits that have maintained the practice of infant male circumcision in the United States long beyond its Victorian origins in the 19th century, Strandjord said.

He believes the "potential benefits" of circumcision mentioned by the AAP are akin to recommending the removal of breast tissue from girls as a means of preventing breast cancer.

Erica Wijenayaka of Elk Grove Village, who organized the protest, said the AAP's statement makes no mention of the anatomical function of the foreskin for both male and female sexual partners.

What's most continuing the practice in the U.S. to a degree no longer seen in most English-speaking countries and Europe is that fathers believe their sons should have the same procedure they had, Wijenayaka said.

She added that she would eventually like to see the procedure legally banned in the same way female circumcision is, and that even religious beliefs should not grant exceptions.

"Your religious freedom ends where someone else's body begins," Wijenayaka said.

Strandjord said the AAP is the only medical organization in the world without a clearly defined position that doctors and parents shouldn't be participating in this practice. He suspects there also is a profit motive keeping the practice alive, as the procedure costs between $400 and $600 and a surgeon can make $50,000 a year on circumcisions alone.

While some organizations have been fighting the practice of circumcision for 30 years, there has been a reduction in the percentage of male infants having the procedure, Strandjord added.

Wijenayaka said the movement is realistic about the pace at which such a cultural change can truly happen.

"We're not going to end circumcision tomorrow through this protest, but we hope to put pressure on the AAP," she said.

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