New California law bars bans on circumcision

October 3, 2011

Jews, Muslims and their allies cheered recently as California Gov.
Jerry Brown signed a bill prohibiting all local bans on circumcision,
making it illegal for local authorities to restrict the medical or
religious practice.

Anticircumcision activists had gathered enough
signatures to place the issue on the ballot in San Francisco. Voters
would have been asked to decide if infant circumcision should be banned
as an unnecessary genital mutilation, a misdemeanor punishable by a
$1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.

A coalition of religious,
medical and civil liberties groups sued to stop the proposal; a judge
blocked the initiative in July, noting that only the state can regulate a
widespread medical procedure. The new statewide law signed October 2
prevents further efforts to ban circumcision by cities or counties.

The
U.S. circumcision rate is falling, from 85 percent in 1965 for newborn
boys in hospitals to 57 percent in 2008, according to the National
Hospital Discharge Survey.

Jews and Muslims continue to circumcise
boys for religious reasons, and other Americans opt for the procedure
based on aesthetics, hygiene or medical reasons. However, the American
Academy of Pediatrics neither recommends nor discourages infant
circumcision, citing "in­sufficient data."  —RNS