San Francisco Man Hopes to Bring About Ban on Circumcision

Lloyd Schofield has to collect 7,200 to qualify the bill for a ballot later this year; local rabbi: It’s about the fragility of life and most people support it.

Natasha Mozgovaya
Natasha Mozgovaya
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Natasha Mozgovaya
Natasha Mozgovaya

In a country where bris is many times a default choice not only for Jewish parents for their baby boys, it was natural to expect some people to protest the practice. These groups are called “intactionists” or “intactivists”.

A San Francisco cable car.Credit: AP

There are even a few Jewish religious figures that do not object or actively support providing nervous parents with a baby naming ritual without circumcision if they are not sure about the circumcision.

In addition to the annual protests of "intactivists" in several cities in the United States, - in San-Francisco, there is sort of escalation of their fight with proposals to ban circumcision submitted to an impressive number of local lawmakers.

Most rejected or ignored the proposal; in Massachusetts the bill failed, and one of the places that got most coverage on the issue was San-Francisco, where last autumn, city resident Lloyd Schofield started to collect signatures in order to put a proposal to outlaw the procedure on a city ballot in November 2011.

The prospect is not a total non-starter, for he needs only about 7,200 signatures to qualify the bill for the ballot, and in San-Francisco there are plenty of “intactivists”.

At his website that presents the proposed bill and a picture of a happy baby, Schofield calls for the residents’ support that “will help us to protect all infants and children in San Francisco from the pain and harm caused by forced genital cutting," adding that "damage ranges from excruciating pain, nerve destruction, loss of normal, natural and functional tissue, infection, disfigurement and sometimes death."

According to the bill, performing circumcision will be made a misdemeanor punished by a 1000 dollars fine or jail time for up to a year, or both.

The only exception in Schofield's vision will be made if the surgical operation "is necessary to the physical health of the person on whom it is performed because of a clear, compelling, and immediate medical need with no less-destructive alternative treatment available, and is performed by a person licensed in the place of its performance as a medical practitioner."

The parents in the United States can't totally make up their mind, and physicians are more hesitant to give them a recommendation. According to a quite recent report, in 2006 65% of the male babies were circumcised in the US (Jewish population is only about 2%), however, in 2009 the numbers dropped to 32.5%.

As one could expect, the Jewish community leaders are not really happy about the initiative.

"I think it's horrible," Rabbi Micah Hyman of the Conservative synagogue Beth Sholom in San Francisco told Haaretz.

"It's not a brutal ritual, it's emotional and deep but it's very powerful," Hyman said, adding, "It's religious freedom, a cornerstone of our tradition, something that will always be a part of the tradition."

"Last quarter they tried to ban "Happy Meals" in McDonalds, now they are trying to legislate morality? I believe it has very little support, I think people talk about it only because of the media coverage," the San Francisco rabbi added.

Speaking of the support rate he felt existed for the prospected ban, Hyman said he didn't "have mohels calling me, saying 'help me,' and I don’t have people questioning it."

"It’s the fragility of life and most people support it. If it will pass, I’ll defeat it in the courts, and if there will be no choice I’ll take it to the Supreme Court," Hyman said, adding that the move was "not a popular decision to legislate other peoples morality, and what makes me particularly upset is that our city government has so much other issues to deal with – drug addiction, HIV, homeless, health issues. This is a personal religious decision it has nothing to do with why we put them in office."



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