The Unkindest Cut?

. January 29, 2013.

Many choices face new parents, but those with newborn boys have a particular choice to make — to circumcise or not to circumcise? Circumcision, the surgical removal of the foreskin covering the head of the penis, has been practiced by various cultures throughout human history. In many cultures, including Judaism and Islam, it is a ritual marker of religious or ethnic identity.

In the Western world, circumcision has long been routinely performed on newborns for health reasons, in the belief it promoted better hygiene. Some 77 percent of adult American males report being circumcised. But there is a strong current of minority opinion the practice is unnecessary, or even harmful. (Recently, a group in Santa Monica, California attempted to have it banned, though the measure was defeated after outcry from religious groups.) Some parents simply feel subjecting an infant to any unnecessary surgery is cruel. But the pain of the procedure is minimal, and there is some evidence circumcision does in fact decrease the risk of some infections, and even sexually transmitted diseases. Parents should consult their doctor, but be secure in the knowledge that their son will be fine, no matter what choice they make.