circumcision
A mohel performing a circumcision. Photo by Daniel Bar On
Text size
related tags

A week after it was announced that a bill to ban male circumcision made it on the November 2011 ballot in San Francisco, a similar campaign was proposed on Wednesday in Santa Monica.

The group MGM Bill wants the anti-circumcision measure on the November ballot in Santa Monica. The San Diego group got more than 7,700 valid signatures from city residents, meaning voters will be asked to weigh in on what until now has been a private family matter.

MGM stands for male genital mutilation.

MGM Bill founder Matthew Hess told the Los Angeles Times that California law prohibits female genital mutilation and boys should get the same protection. He said circumcision removes nerve endings and is a painful and unnecessary procedure.

Circumcision of male infants is a religious requirement in Judaism and some say a ban would be a violation of 1st Amendment prohibition against government interference with a person's practice of religion.

Last week, San Francisco elections officials confirmed that the initiative had received enough signatures to appear on the ballot.

If the measure passes, circumcision would be prohibited among males under the age of 18. The practice would become a misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or up to one year in jail. There would be no religious exemptions.

The San Francisco initiative was the first of its kind in the country to make it to the ballot, though a larger national debate over the health benefits of circumcision has been going on for many years. Banning circumcision would almost certainly prompt a flurry of legal challenges alleging violations of the First Amendment's guarantee of the freedom to exercise one's religious beliefs.

International health organizations have promoted circumcision as an important strategy for reducing the spread of the AIDS virus. That's based on studies that showed it can prevent AIDS among heterosexual men in Africa.

For years, federal health officials have been working on recommendations regarding circumcision. The effort was sparked by studies that found circumcision is partially effective in preventing the virus' spread between women and men. The recommendations are still being developed, and there is no date set for their release, said a spokeswoman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.