THE DAILY NEWS, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Saturday, March 25, 2006.

N.S. circumcisions continue to drop

Province has second-lowest rate in the country

By Andrea MacDonald
The Daily News

Baby boys in Nova Scotia are among the least likely in Canada to be circumcised, new data show.

The controversial practice has been plummeting since the 1970s, with this province posting the country's second-lowest rates in the most recent figures available.

In 2003, just 1.1 per cent of baby boys born in Nova Scotia went under the knife. That figure had dropped even from the previous four years. (Newfoundland reported no circumcisions for 2003.)

The Association for Genital Integrity, a lobby group that's trying to outlaw circumcision unless it's medically necessary, compiled the data from health ministries and Statistics Canada.

One proven benefit

Their figures may not include circumcisions performed outside hospitals, such as those common at a Jewish ceremony called a bris.

Only about three doctors in Halifax will perform circumcisions. The Canadian Pediatric Society has spoken out against the practice, saying the only proven benefit is a lesser chance of urinary-tract infection.

Halifax residents Susan MacDonald and Craig Clothier didn't think much about it until their son Jacob was born in September 2003, while they were living in Australia.

MacDonald had a few minor complications with the birth, so the baby had already seen a pediatrician. The doctor was willing to circumcise, but felt it was a bit invasive.

He told the couple he believed there was no real need because today's world is much more sterile.

Didn't bother

"We just kind of thought, 'OK, it sounds like he doesn't need it, so we won't bother,'" Clothier said.

"We didn't have any kind of religious issues with it, or anything like that."

MacDonald added:

"The only thing we did worry a little bit about was, what if he's on a sports team or in the shower room and other boys make fun of him? What if he's the only one and has this sort of funny-looking penis?

"But they told us down there that more people than not opted not to go through with the procedure.

We thought, 'OK, he's going to at least be 50-50 if he's hanging around naked with some boys, so he should be OK.'"

When the couple had another boy in March 2005, they wanted him to resemble his brother, so they opted not to circumcise him, either.

Dennis Harrison, spokesman for the Association for Genital Integrity says circumcision is a human-rights issue:

"Baby boys are the only group in society having medically unnecessary surgery without their consent."

(File created 26 March 2006)