Attorneys for the Rights of the Child
        2961 Ashby Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94705

FOR RELEASE: March 1, 1999   5 p.m. (E.T.)

CONTACT:  J. Steven Svoboda 510-848-4437 (


Berkeley, CA—The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has been
charged with continuing to betray vulnerable children in its release
today of a new policy regarding circumcision.  According to Attorneys
for the Rights of the Child (ARC), an organization of lawyers
working to protect all children from breaches of their fundamental
human rights, millions of boys will as a result continue to undergo
medically unjustified and harmful surgery in order to perpetuate
a social custom.

ARC Executive Director J. Steven Svoboda congratulated the AAP for
its finding that no medical reason exists to support infant
circumcision, saying, ``Since the AAP has now confirmed that
circumcision is not a medical issue, it is clear that compelling
legal and human rights concerns demand that it be eradicated.''
Svoboda noted that the rights to bodily integrity, to liberty and
security of the person, and to freedom from discrimination on
grounds of sex, religion or race are guaranteed by a number of
globally accepted human rights documents including the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the
Child, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Svoboda said, ``Circumcision seriously breaches the child's
rights and is utterly incompatible with the doctor's legal and
ethical duties toward the child patient.  A parent's consent
cannot justify removal of healthy tissue—whether it be a finger,
a breast, a clitoris, or a foreskin—without a valid medical

According to Svoboda, the AAP will not succeed in its apparent
attempt to protect itself and its members from criminal and civil
liability for performing circumcisions by mentioning ``potential
medical benefits'' to the procedure.  Svoboda said, ``The AAP
itself concedes that routine newborn circumcision is without medical
justification.  Its assertion that cultural, religious and ethnic
traditions may be taken into account is quite inconsistent with
medical ethics as well as unjustified by domestic law and human
rights principles.''

Svoboda commented, ``We now understand that cultural, religious
and ethnic traditions do not justify circumcising a girl, which
many countries throughout the world have made illegal, so how can
such considerations justify taking a knife to a boy's penis
without his consent and cutting off highly specialized and important
tissue?  An average circumcision removes approximately half the
penile skin sheath, which renowned anthropologist Ashley Montagu
has termed a highly significant loss.''

Svoboda noted that leading authorities on female genital mutilation,
including Hanny Lightfoot-Klein and Nahid Toubia, have warned that
it is never acceptable to remove functioning body parts from children
without medical justification, and have emphatically stated that
circumcisions of boys and girls both violate medical ethics, legal
requirements, and human rights principles.  One of Canada's
leading medical ethicists, Dr. Margaret A.  Somerville, has also
stated her opposition to the practice as a form of criminal assault.

The AAP cannot reconcile its current position with the advice of
its own ethics committee, Svoboda added.  Citing the AAP Bioethics
Committee for its article, ``Informed Consent, Parental Permission,
and Assent in Pediatric Practice,'' PEDIATRICS Vol. 95 No. 2
(February 1995), Svoboda said, ``The AAP's own Bioethics
Committee has acknowledged that it is the child who is the patient
and not the parents, and moreover, that the doctor has a legal and
ethical duty to render medical care based on the patient's needs
and not on parental desires or proxy consent.''  Svoboda added,
``The AAP has committed a serious disservice to its members and
to the American public by continuing to ignore its own ethical
guidelines and by failing to help to bring an end to this painful,
harmful and profoundly damaging practice.''

Svoboda concluded, ``There could have been no better way for the
AAP to move child care into the new millenium than by taking the
clear stand against circumcision that human rights and medical
ethics as well as decency, fairness, and humanity demand.  While
there are aspects of the AAP's statement that have merit, its
failure to condemn the practice will create legal and medical
repercussions which will haunt it and the American public for many
decades to come.''

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