11 Health Matrix 487 (2001)
Male and Female Genital Alteration: A Collision Course with the Law

handle is hein.journals/hmax11 and id is 493 raw text is: MALE AND FEMALE GENITAL
ALTERATION: A COLLISION
COURSE WITH THE LAW?
Dena S. Davis
I. INTRODUCTION
IN MARCH OF 1999, the American Academy of Pediat-
rics (AAP) released a policy statement on the circumcision of
newborn males, stating that the practice does not have health
benefits strong enough to warrant recommendation as a routine
procedure.' This withdrawal of medical support for routine cir-
cumcision requires us to face some uncomfortable facts, and
raises intriguing constitutional questions.
It is now illegal in the United States to perform genital al-
teration on female minors, no matter how minimal the surgery
or how safe and sanitary the procedure. Newborn male genital
alteration, however, is an accepted procedure in the U.S. Al-
though there is some controversy over this practice, for most
people it is a familiar part of life in America. The law takes no
cognizance of the male procedure, with no records kept of cir-
cumcisions performed outside of hospitals, and with no over-
sight or licensing of ritual practitioners.
Why does the law turn a blind eye to one procedure and
criminalize the other? Two possible answers present them-
selves. The first answer claims that male genital alteration is
medically beneficial, whereas female genital alteration is purely
cultural. As I will show later in this article, this is a weak ar-
gument. There are no health benefits to the female procedures,
certainly, but the health benefits for males are contested and
tenuous.
t Professor, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. B.A., Marlboro College;
J.D., University of Virginia; Ph.D. (Religion), University of Iowa.
1 See Task Force on Circumcision, American Academy of Pediatrics, Circum-
cision Policy Statement, 103 PEDIATRIcS 686 (1999) [hereinafter AAP, Circumcision
Policy Statement] (reviewing medical literature concerning circumcision).
487

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