About a dozen members of an anti-circumcision group demonstrated in San Rafael on Monday outside the Bay Area chapter office of the American Academy of Pediatrics, after the academy adopted a new policy on male circumcision.
Academy officials announced Monday that after a comprehensive review of the scientific evidence, they had decided the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks, though the benefits are not great enough to recommend universal newborn circumcision. The new policy statement is published in the Aug. 27 issue of the journal of Pediatrics.
Members of Bay Area Intactivists picketed outside the chapter office at 68 Mitchell Blvd. from noon to about 1 p.m. Some of the group's signs displayed a photograph of a wailing baby undergoing circumcision while others read: "Sex criminals for hire -- inquire within."
"I think circumcision is one of the most grotesque forms of sexual and physical abuse you can inflict on someone," said Jonathan Conte of San Francisco, one of the leaders of the demonstration. "If I were to hold down my neighbor against his will, restrain him or her and cut away at their genitals, I would be arrested."
Beverly Busher, executive director of the academy's chapter office, called the San Rafael Police Department after several of the demonstrators dropped by her office to present her with an "award of shame."
"I don't think they should accost me in my own office," Busher
Lloyd Chofield, one of the demonstrators who called on Busher, said they knocked before entering her office and were invited in.
San Rafael police Cpl. Ronda Reese cautioned the demonstrators to limit their demonstration to the sidewalk outside the chapter's office.
According to the academy, a task force it formed in 2007 to evaluate the recent scientific evidence on male circumcision found several benefits, including a reduced risk for urinary tract infections, penile cancer and transmission of some sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. The academy recommends that circumcision be covered by insurance.
"It's a personal matter for the families to decide," Busher said. "The academy is not advocating one way or the other."
But those demonstrating outside Busher's office challenged the idea that parents should have the right to circumcise their male children.
Ruth Davis of Sebastopol, who brought along her 10-month-old son and 2-year-old daughter, said, "I don't think it is our choice to make, to cut our baby. It is our baby; but it's not our body."
The demonstrators asserted that the health benefits cited by the academy were exaggerated and not worth the damage caused by circumcision.
Another protester, Kirsten Barquist of Santa Rosa, asserted that the academy's medical rationale for circumcision simply masks a vested financial interest.
"The only thing they're protecting is their income stream," Barquist said. "It is to prop up and justify third-party reimbursement for something that is unethical."
Linda Peacher of Novato, a passerby who briefly debated with the demonstrators, said she opposes government placing limits on male circumcision.
Peacher said, "In this instance, it's the doctors and parents who should decide what is best for their child."
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