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Attorneys for the Rights of the Child - Safeguarding Children's Human Rights to Bodily Integrity since 1977

Legal scholar Peter Adler, Attorneys for the Rights of the Child, destroys any defense of baby circumcision in his groundbreaking analysis, "IS CIRCUMCISION LEGAL."

His paper will be the framework for a ruling by the Supreme Court someday that the 14th Amendment protects baby boys under the same law that protects baby girls.

Mr. Adler concludes, "Moreover, physicians and parents would need to prove that the surgery is in the best interests of the child, which includes proving that the child, if able, would have chosen the surgery for himself.

Circumcision fails all of these tests. In short, under any analysis, circumcision is illegal."

Legal scholars, foreign medical associations, intactivist organizations, and increasing numbers of men claim the opposite, namely that circumcision is painful, risky, harmful, irreversible surgery, that benefits few men, if any.

These opponents of circumcision argue that, in any event, boys have a right to be left genitally intact, like girls under federal law, and to make the circumcision decision for themselves as adults.

These opponents of circumcision can point to a June 2012 decision by a court in Cologne, Germany, which held that non therapeutic circumcision for religious reasons is criminal assault. The German court reasoned that circumcision causes grievous bodily harm, and that boys have a fundamental right to genital integrity that supersedes their parents’ religious rights.

Thus, a battle is unfolding in courts and legislatures as to the legality of circumcision. Amidst all of the divisiveness and hyperbole, we need to ask, what are the relevant facts, legal issues, and what is the applicable law?


Almost all mammals have foreskins.

The male and female genitalia, which are identical in early gestation, have evolved to function together during sexual intercourse over sixty-five to one hundred million years.

Male and female circumcisions have been practiced for thousands of years, usually for religious, cultural, and personal reasons.

Male circumcision has been performed as a religious ritual, a painful obligatory rite of passage, to mark or brand slaves and members of religious or tribal groups, and to suppress sexuality. American physicians introduced the practice in the late 1800s in an unsuccessful effort to prevent masturbation. For the following century, American physicians claimed that circumcision prevented or cured a long list of diseases such as epilepsy, paralysis, hip-joint disease, bad digestion, inflammation of the bladder, and tuberculosis; in fact, an uncircumcised penis was “seen as the cause of most human diseases and socially unacceptable behaviors.”

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