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Who Are You Calling an Intactivist? (Guest Post)

A Real Intactivist Responds to the Death of Baby Joshua Haskins and the Virtual Mudslinging. 

written by pediatrics advocate and health professional, Jennifer Coias

Intactivists are social reformers and, as such, have a long-standing history of ruffling feathers and challenging the mainstream.  While intactivism is not new to criticism and attacks from those with opposing views, I’ve never witnessed something as volatile as the virtual mudslinging that ensued during this past week.  Intactivists everywhere have been blamed, attacked and even threatened over what appears to be a complex web of lies and gossip as well as a general misunderstanding of the intactivist position concerning the death of baby Joshua.  In order to clear up such a loaded debacle I find it necessary to speak for my community and explain the nature of our interest in the events that lead to Joshua’s death, as well as, to address the backlash concerning our community’s response to the this tragedy.

Before I delve into the details about the community’s true response to Joshua’s passing and the allegations leveled against the intactivist community, I’d like to take a minute to outline who intactivists are and what intactivists do.  I firmly believe that much of this misunderstanding stems from the fact that the general public genuinely does’t understand the work of intactivism.  This ignorance leads to hasty generalizations, unfair accusations, and, ultimately, resentment toward a group of people who have done nothing to warrant such foul treatment.  Readers need to know, first and foremost, that simply being a person who is against circumcision is not the definition of an intactivist.  Simply being a parent who did not circumcise their child(ren) does not make a person an intactivist.  A person who was circumcised as a minor (a victim) and is now upset about what happened to them is also not necessarily an intactivist.  Finally, it should be known that intactivists are not anti-circumcision.  Intactivists are solely concerned with forced circumcision of minors and take no position against the personal choices of consenting adults with regards to their own bodies.      

So what is an intactivist and what do they do? 

-  An intactivist is someone researches heavily to gather scientific evidence for the purpose of  educating society and medical professionals as to:  the functions of the intact genitalia; the proper care and natural development of the intact genitalia; the true, documented risks and complications  of circumcision; and the harms of performing genital reduction surgery on non-consenting minors. 

-  An intactivist is someone who spends a great deal of time reviewing the following: circumcision statements and the ethical code statements of medical associations from around the world, the history of circumcision, the endless studies conducted for the purpose of either supporting or denouncing circumcision, human rights literature, litigation involving circumcision and any other material that involves circumcision.

-  On the internet platform, some intactivists engage in open forum debates for the purpose of using reason, logic and scientific evidence to combat irrational thinking and to debunk common myths about circumcision and intact genitalia, however, other intactivists prefer to seek out parents who are in need of information.  Many intactivists provide parents, both on the internet and in person, with information and resources so that they can make an informed decision before subjecting their child to this non-therapeutic surgery.

-  At the activist level, intactivists participate in marches and peaceful demonstrations around the globe and push for legislation to regulate routine infant circumcision. 

-  Intactivists are primarily concerned with promoting bodily integrity - the right to a whole body - as one of the most essential and basic human rights granted to every person regardless of age, gender, race, nationality, religion, class and/or culture (meaning your body belongs to YOU), thereby giving a voice to our most innocent and fragile of citizens: babies and children.  

The events leading up to Joshua’s death. 

Joshua was the newborn son of Jill and Shane Haskins and his short life was plagued with a series of heart complications due to congenital heart defects CHD (congenital heart defects).  The events surrounding Joshua’s death were posted publicly by his mother, Jill, via her blog; however, have since been removed.  For this reason, I will summarize the events leading to the loss of this loved baby boy.  The day prior to Joshua’s death, his parents consented to an elective circumcision.  The doctor who performed the surgery accidentally severed an artery in the penis which resulted in hemorrhaging.  The doctor applied pressure and powders to attempt to stop the bleeding, but even after hours of doing so, was unsuccessful..  Only after 6.5 hours of bleeding did a pediatric surgeon finally come to see Joshua’s wounded penis.  At that point the surgeon recognized that an artery had been cut and informed the his parents that he would need a couple stitches to stop the bleeding.  That evening Jill recounted the events in a teary, heart wrenching blogpost titled, I Almost Killed My Son.  Jill wrote: 

Right at this moment, Joshua is now back on 85% oxygen through his nasal cannula, his stats are in the upper 60s, he’s drugged, pale, and his crit levels are 41.  They are going to give him until midnight and run his crit levels again.  If they have not risen, then he will receive yet another blood transfusion.   

I should have known better, I should have said no.  I had hoped that he would do well and that it wouldn't be such a big deal. But instead I almost killed my child by consenting....I’m watching him sleep and I’m struggling with extreme guilt over all this.  I put him through it, Shane and I chose to have this done to him.  It wasn’t necessary.  Why did we do that?  Why is this so freaking hard? 

The following day, Joshua went into cardiac arrest and tragically departed this world.  He was seven weeks old. Following his death, Jill’s friend, Carla, reported on the blog that the hospital doctors had,  “reassured them over and over that that circumcision had nothing to do with Joshua’s death”.  Jill and Carla have both reported that there were several mean, attacking comments left by readers in response to the blogposts about Joshua’s death.  From there it was assumed by Jill, blog readers and even some intactivists that the intactivist community or at least some members of the community were heartlessly bullying, threatening and blaming this grieving mother and family.   Jill also tweeted to the Elen Degeneres show, “I just lost my 7 wk old son today. died in my arms. the anti circumcision community is bullying. he died of CHD not circ. help”. 

Intactivists Respond. 

            Why can’t the real intactivist “just shut the f*** up” (as requested by this blogger) about the death of this infant boy?  Well the answer is rather simple: duty.  Duty to Joshua and duty to every other innocent baby boy subjected to genital reduction surgery.  As a community that seeks truth and transparency regarding the issue of circumcision, we have an obligation to speak up when what is being reported is inconsistent with the facts, especially when the facts would tend to show that circumcision was the primary culprit in the death of a defenseless child.   As tempting as it might be to just bury our heads in the sand and let our knowledge and experience go unused, doing so would be a disservice to our society, to parents and to the boys who we work so diligently to protect.  Our end goal is to protect non-consenting minors from the harms of circumcision and to prevent irresponsible actions and decisions, which result in pain and suffering, from going unpunished and undocumented.  Mistakes are a part of life, but unless we take the time to recognized and learn from those mistakes they will continue to happen again and again, as has been the case for little boys subjected to non-therapeutic circumcision.  One could say that without mistakes and taking the time to process and learn from mistakes there can be no true progress.  Based upon the events surrounding Joshua’s death, as presented by his mother, there are enough inconsistencies and red flags that make it well-worth everyone’s time to investigate his death.  Regardless of how things turned out for Joshua, the hospital doctors made some serious errors in judgment which put Joshua at risk, plain and simple.  That said, let’s take a minute to examine some of the facts and inconsistencies as well as address some intactivist concerns regarding little Joshua’s death.  

            When considering the evidence available to us it is virtually impossible for Joshua’s doctors to make the claim that Joshua’s death was entirely unrelated to the complications of his circumcision.  Peaceful Parenting already blogged about the well documented risk of cardiac arrest and hemorrhage resulting from circumcision.  These are real risks for a even healthy newborns and the harsh reality is that circumcision surgery is extremely taxing on little hearts.  Readers should know that professional organizations such as the RACP, AAP, CPS and others have even listed circumcision as contraindicated for unstable infants.  The day prior to Joshua’s surgery Jill blogged:

Now that Joshua is is ‘somewhat’ stable condition, the doctor didn’t want to wait any longer to get it done.  There is a risk that comes with having Joshua circumcised.   Once babies are bigger, they run a higher risk of bleeding too much.  The longer we wait, the higher the risk of bleeding.  So the doctor ordered for it to be done TODAY.

Following his death Jill’s friend Carla posted the news of his death with the following explanation, “Put simply, he has been working his heart since birth. Every day was a stress on his heart and it was just not able to continue”.  So based on his mother’s perception Joshua was somewhat stable; however, based on the doctor’s testimony that everyday was a stress on his heart, it is clear that Joshua was in no way stable and therefore not a candidate for elective surgeries.  Additionally, Joshua hemorrhaged for 6.5 hours before a surgeon came to assess his condition.  His mother described how they were applying pressure and a powder to stop the bleeding but nothing worked because, unbeknownst to her, the doctor who performed the surgery had actually severed an artery.  This level of hemorrhaging causes the heart to work harder and beat faster due to a rise in blood pressure.  Combine that with the extra work the heart already had to do during the actual operation and you have one extremely tired little heart.  A six-seven hour workout for an already fragile heart will have lasting effects, even into the following day.  The heart is a muscle and just as you can feel soreness or tiredness the next day after a big workout, the heart also gets weak and tired after a big workout.  If everyday stress was enough for Joshua’s heart to give out, would it not stand to reason that the 6.5 hours of extra work his heart did the previous day could have been the finger that pulled the trigger of a loaded gun?  How can a medical doctor reason that everyday stress caused Joshua’s death but not the added exhaustion from hours of hemorrhaging the previous day?  Finally, it is still unclear whether Joshua received a blood transfusion, but if so, that is another factor that could have lead to his cardiac arrest.  Cardiac arrest is a well documented risk of blood transfusions.  It is entirely possible that the blood transfusion, which would have been required as a result of the hemorrhaging, could have caused little Joshua to go into cardiac arrest.  In fact, there were a cascade of medical interventions that ensued after the complications of his circumcision.  Given this reality, there are simply too many factors surrounding Joshua’s circumcision complications and subsequent medical interventions to rule out circumcision as a root cause of death.   

            It is highly appropriate to point out that the blatant negligence of the hospital and how that could have played a role in the loss of an innocent life. 

            -Should doctors have ever cut into the most sensitive, nerve-laden part of this fragile boy’s body knowing that he had this preexisting condition and that he was not in stable enough condition to manage even the stresses of everyday living?  Why didn’t these doctors honor their oath to do no harm and to put the interest of their patient first? 

            -Should this NICU infant have been left to bleed for six hours without being assessed by a surgeon when it is well known that even an ounce of blood loss is enough to cause hypovolemic shock and 2.4 ounces of blood loss in a healthy newborn results death by cardiac arrest secondary to exsanguination? 

            -Should doctors have openly pressured Joshua’s parents to consent to a non-therapeutic surgery, claiming that the older he was, the higher the risk, especially considering that most parents of extremely fragile NICU babies are advised to wait a full year before electing to circumcise, at a time when the child is stronger and general anesthesia can be used safely? 

These are all very hard but necessary questions that community members, government authorities and intactivists should be asking Joshua’s medical care providers.  The doctors were the ones who were ultimately responsible for Joshua’s wellbeing.  What is particularly interesting is the way in which the hospital doctors went about reassuring Jill and Shane “over and over” that the circumcision played no role in Joshua’s death.   In yet another blogpost following his death, Jill wrote, “The team of neonatologists and cardiologists made it extremely clear that Joshua's cardiac arrest was NOT in any way related to the circumcision. His heart simply could not work any more. He put up a good fight, but he just simply couldn't do it”.   While it is very appealing and comforting to trust that the hospital is telling the absolute truth to these grieving parents, after examining the blatant negligence, it is highly likely that this hospital is just trying to cover up their own fatal errors to avoid a lawsuit, especially in light of the media attention that yet another circumcision lawsuit would arouse (Mario’s lawsuit).  In other words, we don’t buy it!  These doctors are scrambling to discredit the complications of Joshua’s circumcision as a possible cause of his heart failure but the evidence says otherwise.  Doctors probably see it as a win, win situation.  They never have to face the repercussions for their errors and Joshua’s parents never have to go to bed wondering whether the circumcision was what pushed this baby boy’s heart over the edge.  

            While it might be too late for Joshua, we must think about the next boy who will enter that NICU and about all of the other families with sick newborns who are considering circumcising.  It is a fact that almost all infant deaths from routine infant circumcision are due to cardiac arrest and/or hemorrhage resulting from the circumcision.  It is also a fact that only a small fraction of actual deaths resulting from these well-documented circumcision complications are formally linked to the actual act of circumcision within the medical record of each victim.  This means that while these boys’ records report “blood loss”, “hemorrhaging” and/or “cardiac arrest” there is absolutely no mention of the root cause, circumcision.  This is a huge problem that should concern all parents.  Based on this sketchy reporting by doctors, researchers acknowledge that the current statistical figures for circumcision death rates and complications is far lower than the actual death rates and complication rates.  If parents are making decisions about the fate of their son’s penis it only makes sense that they should also have access to accurate statistical information prior to opting for this potentially life-threatening genital reduction surgery.  At present, parents don't have a clear understanding of the true risks of circumcision because the medical community has not been able to provide reliable statistics concerning death and complication rates.  Essentially, this means that no parents able to give true informed consent when they sign off on genital reduction surgery for their son.  This is yet another reason we need to ask some hard questions when these tragic situations arise. 

            Intactivists are working against more than a century’s worth of misconceptions and tradition.  If we are ever to free our world from the hold of genital mutilation, or at the very least expose the truth regarding the dangers of circumcision, we must ask the tough questions and challenge a medical community that continues to partake in cosmetic surgery on non-consenting minors.  While educating parents is an important step to progress, the single most effective way to end unnecessary circumcision is to remove this non-therapeutic operation from the hospital menu. We can only do this by holding the medical community accountable for their actions.  Gone are the days where people sit back and accept the proclamations of doctors as the gospel truth.  Doctors are not gods and they are not perfect.  Like anyone else, they have their own agenda and they have their own livelihood to protect.  At this point, every medical association in the world agrees that circumcision is non-therapeutic in nature and that there is not sufficient evidence to support routine infant circumcision.  So why then are doctors still doing this to healthy babies and, more importantly, why are they doing it to extremely ill babies?  I challenge readers to seek the answer.  

On the Backlash.

            It is evident that an entire community of professional intactivists (who work tirelessly to accomplish the items listed at the beginning of this article) are being blamed for the voices and actions of a handful of people who happen to be against circumcision or possibly even a few trolls (circumcision fetishists in disguise).  There is little doubt that several attacking, mean statements were made to Joshua’s mother; however,  readers should be reminded that the internet is a rather a big space, with contributors from all walks of life.  When something is posted on the internet there should always be healthy skepticism of the the origin and validity of the statement.  Blog comments and tweets are two particularly anonymous means of communication in which it is very difficult to assess the true intentions and origins of what is written.  Let it be it known that our community does have a few well-documented enemies who troll around and impersonate intactivists for the sole purpose of making us unpopular and creating distrust in our organizations and message.  In particular, there is a user by the name of CIRCINFO on twitter who has created additional fake accounts in order to cause exactly these types of uproars.  Sadly, there are actually individuals, such as this user, who have an obsession with ensuring that pro-MGM (male genital mutilation) propaganda is perpetuated.  While I believe it is quite easy to understand why a particular interest group, such as ours, would be in support of protecting children’s bodies, it is beyond rational understanding as to why any person would spend their time and energy trying to ensure that doctors cut as many children as possible by way of spreading myths and out-dated information on the internet.  The intentions of these particular people are sick and can usually be linked back to circumcision fetishist sites and organizations, such as Circlist.  Finally, as stated previously, simply being against circumcision does not make a person an intactivist.  People who are simply against circumcision but don’t aspire to the goals listed at the beginning of this article often share their opinions in a haphazard manner and create a lot of confusion as to what really constitutes an intactivist.  These pseudo-intactivists simply don’t have the expertise or experience with the subject matter to make well-rounded, articulate discourse.  Any person who made nasty remarks or attacks against Joshua’s mother is not, I repeat, not a true member of the intactivist community.  The intactivist community has absolutely zero interest in attacking, threatening and/or making cruel statements, especially towards parents who have lost children because of circumcision.  Such behaviors are not only fruitless to our goals but they are simply not becoming to a group of people who ultimately wish to promote peace and humanity.

Among my intactivist colleagues, which are innumerable, I have not encountered a single person who is without deepest sympathy for the this family’s loss.  Let it be known that intactivist community has absolutely no interest in blaming Joshua’s death on his parents or attacking a grieving family.  Placing the blame or attacking these loving parents does virtually nothing to further any of the goals or interests of intactivism.  I’ll take a moment to speak for my community... If Joshua’s parents are reading this now, I would like to extend our sincerest condolence for your loss.  No parent should ever be faced with the agony of burying a child, our hearts go out to you and your entire family. 

Jennifer Coias

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Reader Comments (61)

Bravo Jennifer! Very well written! Thank you for this post.

October 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

THANK YOU for this Guest Post!

"Readers need to know, first and foremost, that simply being a person who is against circumcision is not the definition of an intactivist."

AMEN! :)

October 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAs Nature Intended

What a beautiful and well-written post. Thank you so much for so eloquently explaining the sorrow our community has felt for the tragic loss of Baby Joshua, as well as for the pain we've felt over being labeled as angry, unsympathetic fanatics. The truth of the matter is that we do what we do because of our compassion and concern for the rights of children. And cheers to Navelgazing Midwife for having the courage to remove her previous post.

October 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPunkinheadDeluxe

Note that the mom in the story, Jill, put up a blog post (http://fierceandfiesty.blogspot.com/) about an hour ago that says (and I copied and pasted, typos are hers):

"I wasn't going to post about this again. But you have given me NO CHOICE.

For those of you who have taken matters into your own hands regarding Joshua's death I am APPALLED.

You have contacted the coroner? You have contacted the local newspapers who have called me for an interview within a day of my child's death for an interview.

Do you people have no mercy? Can you not let a family grieve the loss of their son without the harassment? HOW DARE YOU?!


You have brought me to my breaking point. I am no longer able to be silent. I will persue legal counsel. This has GOTTEN OUT OF HAND. You have crossed the line.



October 12, 2010 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

I think she's in pain, and taking out her grief and anger at the wrong people. I don't know of any intactivist group that is talking to the media. She tweeted to Ellen after her son died, claiming bullying by intactivists, so privacy is not what she's after.
I think the only people she should think of suing are the doctors who pushed her to cut her son, knowing it was contraindicated.

October 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

I suspect someone is harassing her. Someone left very nasty comments along the lines of "you mutilated your son and that's why he's not here" a couple of days ago. Whether that person is or is not an intactivist is unclear (though I am guessing the person would say that she is), but I hope that eventually the compassionate intactivist comments will be what Jill and her husband remember.

October 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Trias

Well said! The actions of a few have caused an unwarranted firestorm on the Internet. Everyone, on both sides of the issue, would do well to read this post.

Everyone's anger should be focused on the doctor for allowing elective surgery to be performed on an infant in such fragile medical condition. We need to forget the few insensitive clods and consider how best to prevent babies from being put in similar conditions in the future.

October 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRestoring Tally

Wow, you really need to thread your brows or something.

October 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGloria

Thank you for this incredibly insightful post. I had very little knowledge about the Intactivist movement, and as a student midwife I have been very curious to learn more. I appreciate the compassion and honesty with which you wrote in a very troubling time.

Also thanks to the Navelgazer herself. You have deeply impressed me with the willingness you had to apologize for words that were heartfelt but rash. Thank you for hosting Jennifer's words here, for all of us to share.

October 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

Gloria? That's an interesting response. Clever? Hmmm... still under consideration.

October 12, 2010 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Thank you so much for writing this Jennifer. Thank you Navelgazing Midwife for hosting this letter.

October 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterZenbuoyant

All this time i thought I was an intactivist, I guess not (though I have spoken to one or two friends about not circíng their boys - it is pretty rare in Australia).

First let me say that I believe harrassing this family in any way is deeply, deeply wrong. However, in my heart I just cannot find myself feeling a hell of a lot of sympathy for them. Death is always a risk from circumcision, and I can't understand a parent who would consent to this procedure without fully researching it.

October 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSikamikanico

I am writing this response with my 3 week old son sleeping on my chest, snuffling his peach fuzzy hair.

When we found out we were having a boy, my husband and I waffled back and forth as to whether or not to circumcise him. In the end, and without a tremendous amount of conviction behind the decision, we chose not to do so. I am SO profoundly grateful we made the decision we did. After he was born, as I looked at his tiny, sweet body, I could not imagine letting someone hurt him for no good reason.

This poor woman--how terrible she must feel. What wracking guilt; of course she must know that the choice she made was the wrong one. Even if the circumcision really did have NOTHING to do with the baby's death--which I do not believe, and which I doubt she could really believe, either--to know that her son spent so many of his final hours experiencing pain and fear and MORE unnecessary interventions must be killing her. Thinking about her hurts my heart.

Her doctors, though, are a whole different story. Why, dear god, why would they have advised her to have the circumcision done? Did the doctor who did the procedure have a boat payment due? And why the HELL did he think that a baby with a heart problem bleeding for 6.5 hours was somehow okay? What a sort of a hack IS this person?

This entire debacle is so part and parcel with the way the medical establishment treats women and birth and babies, generally. So much, "Trust me," and "Tut-tutting," and doing things simply to do them because that's always how they're done.

It fills me with sadness to know that so many of the people we are supposed to be able to trust with our care are, so often, completely unworthy of that trust.

October 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKate

I'm so glad to have a wonderful, eloquent intactivist like Jen Coias to explain this situation in a way that is easy to understand in the face of increasing criticism against the movement, due to the actions of a small minority.

Thank you as well to the Navelgazing Midwife Blog for replacing her angry response to the angry comments with this post instead. I hope everyone who had pinned this all on the intactivist movement will take the time to read this post and realize the truth.

Thanks for posting and thanks to Jen for writing it all! :D Awesome.

October 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoel

Thanks everyone for the positive feedback and thank you Navelgazing Midwife for featuring this article! I hope this helps us to move forward with a better understanding of what is behind...

October 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJen

I wanted to take a minute to respond to the question Navelgazing asked about what was written by Jill most recently. Joshua was a person, first and foremost, and so I think it appropriate to contact the authorities if there was negligence or foul play resulting in death of a person and those actions were being withheld for the purpose of avoiding further investigation. The appropriate authorities should conduct their own investigation with unbiased medical experts to determine whether the doctors involved should be held accountable. This system of checks and balances protects others and is important in maintaining integrity within the medical community.

I am not aware of any reporters being contacted by intactivists. This case was hotly debated over the internet so it is highly likely that the media made their own discovery of this case via the many blogs and communities where it has been discussed. Media usually don't respond to "informants" in my past experiences. They do, however, do online searches for happenings in their community/area. There is just know way of knowing.

Gloria, I wasn't going to respond to you initially but your comment made me laugh. Yes, my eye brows are a force to be reckoned with. What can I say, that is what happens when you cross a Puerto Rican with a Russian. ;)

October 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJen

@Gloria, I'm curious about your motivation for posting such an out-of-place comment here. It actually seems disrespectful, given the tragedy being discussed. As an aside, Jennifer is beautiful and her brows are absolutely gorgeous.

October 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPunkinheadDeluxe

I guarantee that mother is not lying about the harassment. I've been equally harassed for NO REASON other than some psychos started some lies about me. For months I have received messages calling me a mutilator, a criminal, saying my kids should be taken away - all because of some stupid rumor started on the intactivist message board. You can see a nut on my facebook page today. These people don't exist in the i2 community? BULL. It's a PRIVATE board - if they're not in your clan, then you can REMOVE them. But you don't. You egg them on.

On more than a dozen occasions in the last week, I've personally witnessed people who I thought were my "friends" on Twitter and Facebook telling other people that if they decide to circumcise, then they don't deserve to be parents. You call that activism, and I call that HATE. Spread your message - fine - but if people don't agree, then the conversation should be OVER.

Jill's family is GRIEVING. She deserves to be left alone. And NOBODY should judge her for how she's handling the harassment. Until you've had your inbox filled with horrifyingly cruel messages from psychotic stalkers telling you that you're a murderer, you have NO right to judge how somebody else handles being attacked.

October 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTheFeministBreeder

I'm right there with you about the topic being over-extreme at times. I draw the line at calling circumcision "mutilating" - and I *really* have issues with shaming the parents who've circumcised because that shame drips onto the children. I worry about the kids who've been circumcised feeling deformed, ugly and imperfect. The genitals are pretty important in one's life and to focus so much anger onto that area... well, I can't see a lot of good that will come from that as the boys grow up in the extreme-Intactivist beliefs and comments.

But, I did choose to give Jen the floor because *her* words are (to me) sane and clear. Perhaps the extremists in the movement can temper their anger and use Jen's explanation as a guide towards appropriate behavior when interacting with others, including those that make different choices.

It's probably a dream, but it is a hope.

October 13, 2010 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

I think everyone who is posting, and reposting, and analyzing, and Monday morning quarterbacking this baby's life and medical care and death even though they were not there and had nothing to do with anything and wouldn't have known this family if they'd fallen over them in the street need to take a step back, stop taking this baby's name in vain, stop putting their soapboxes on his grave, and leave this family alone.

October 13, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterzchamu

I think that Jill is being harassed. It seems very likely to me. However, even after her post today she did make a comment (in her comment thread) about how MOST intactivists have been compassionate and good. I'm glad to see her say that because I can completely understand how she could lose sight of that given some of the comments made TO her on her blog.

October 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Trias

Jennifer, Thank you for your excellent explanation / description of "intactivist." We're currently seeing a sea change with this issue. Increasing numbers of people are seeing forced "circumcision" for what it is genital mutilation, human vivisection.

As one Amazon book reviewer mentioned in his review of As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl, everyone connected with David Reimer's life (destroyed by circumcision) has blood on their hands.

All of the people associated with baby Joshua's short life and death have blood on their hands. Makes me wonder, was there ever anyone in the immediate vicinity of Joshua with a sane voice raised in opposition to cutting HIS genitals?

One of the problems with forced "circumcision" (genital mutilation of male children) is the passing of responsibility and blame. Everyone who participates in it has excuses. The excuse list is long and pathetic. The blame and responsibility gets passed around until no one is willing to be accountable. The "doctor" says the parents wanted it. The parents say it must be a good (healthy) thing because the "doctor" does it. The mother says she'll leave it to her husband to decide.

In a case like poor Joshua's everyone scrambles to shake off blame. It may not be so easy to do this time with the mother's blog sharing all the details publicly.

I remember a presentation by Dr. Jim Snyder a urologist who works with children who have had horribly botched circumcisions. He had a photo of one young man whose penis had been completely destroyed, then rather grotesquely rebuilt from a flap of abdominal skin. Snyder said "this young man, now entering puberty, is beyond angry."

What is it going to take for ordinary good people to speak up? What is it going to take for all good people to become intactivists?

October 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJames Loewen

I wrote Jill personally as an intactivist who is ashamed by the abuse being heaped on this family. The procedure is mutilation, and probably did cause the death of her son, but like so many other things done in the medical community, the burden is on the doctors and true informed consent. We go to doctors because we did not want to pursue medical degrees of our own, the same as we go to lawyers and mechanics and veterinarians. I do not research my electrical system when calling in an electrician. I assume and trust in his education,knowledge and experience. It should be the same with doctors. They have a responsibility to heal the sick, and inform thier parients of the risks and benefits to any given procedure. BUT THEY DON"T. This mother lost a precious baby, to the poster who couldn't find sympathy in her heart, yoou better look again, because there but for the grace of god go any of us. Not every family is exposed to intactivist information. Most of the info is so clouded with opposing views that unless one already has a skeptical mind about doctors, one doesn't know what to do with the information. Very few people intentionally harm their children. Great article by the way, Jennifer.

October 13, 2010 | Unregistered Commentertabitha

Exhibit A why the Intactivist Movement falls backward: James.

October 13, 2010 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Not surprised TFB has found a way to make this about her. Par for the course. How about ACTUALLY discussing this post????????

October 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

I agree with James. We don't worry about "shaming" parents who smack, stigmatising them or making them feel bad. I have heard parents who choose not to circ say of those who do "I wouldn't make the same choice as my friends X&Y, but they love their kids just as much". Umm...no. Such a dangerous, painful procedure is not a choice of love. Why are parents who circumcise given such leeway when other forms of abuse are not tolerated? By all means arm parents with the medical facts. But stigma IS a large part in eradicating harmful behaviours - look at smoking.

Again I state it is wrong to contact this family, but they made a choice to have an unnecessary procedure with a risk of death performed on their son. One of his few experiences on this planet was intolerable pain. And his parents chose that for him.

By the way, you mention Circ Info (from twitter). He is a worthy focus of anger here - he has said, to me, that rare circumcision deaths are worth it in cases of routine circumcision. Now he is pretending to be an advocate for this family. That s worse than anything Joshua's family ever did.

October 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSikamikanico

An Exhibit B so quickly?

What is UP with you all? Jen, HELP! Are *these* the people your group embraces? Are their attitudes the ones you all are proud of? Your post doesn't sound *anything* like their venom towards parents and their choices.

It's so interesting, watching this frenzied zeal from 25 years out of it. I, too, was one of the zealots, but mine was for breastfeeding and homebirthing. It took a lot of really painful lessons to remind me I am not the Queen of All Decisions Surrounding Moms & Babies. I wince thinking of the lessons coming down the pike for those who act like/talk like the two Exhibits above... or worse.

If these people are your people, Jen... that scares me. It's no wonder folks roll their eyes and close their ears to what you all have to say. Grow up. Speak like mature human beings with compassion and understanding. Use your knowledge intelligently and round off your jagged edges before trying to "convert" anyone. If you don't, no one's going to give a shit what the message is, they'll tune you out until the cause no longer has any hope of moving things forward.

October 13, 2010 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

In July I had the distinct pleasure to hear a discussion with Suzanne Arms (Birthing the Future.) Suzanne is a wise and articulate woman who has published a remarkable book, Immaculate Deception, made educational films and exquisitely beautiful artistic photographs of mothers, infants and birth. She was gracious enough to sit with me after her presentation for a discussion about circumcision.

My perspective, as a man genitally wounded in this way as a child is only one perspective. I try always to speak my own truth about this in a way that will hopefully be effective and cause the least offence. I know I cannot always succeed because with this issue, genital cutting on healthy children, there are people looking for excuses to attack the messenger rather than address the topic.

For this reason I use my simple skills to help carry forward the voices of others discussing this horrible thing. LIke other issues of social justice this one will eventually sort itself out. As Martin Luther King said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

I hope you'll listen to the video interview with the very wise Suzanne Arms. Her calm and loving manner brings some sanity to the discussion of this issue, and give some valuable insight into how to broach the subject.

October 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJames Loewen

Again, I reiterate that it does no good to blame parents, particularly not these parents who have so tragically lost their son. Doctors cut children, not parents. Parents only consent and they usually do so out of ignorance (not knowing better). Maybe they have been told it is what is healthy by the care providers they entrust. Maybe they are blinded from growing up in a cutting culture. Whatever it be I firmly believe that parents are trying to do good for their children, even if their reality of what is "good" might be skewed. When we know better we do better and that is why the focus of intactivism is to educate parents not blame or attack them. As for the doctors, it is their business to know better. They are the ones who should be held accountable for continuing to participate in something that they know to be non-therapeutic. No accrediting medical organization in the world recommends RIC and this alone should compel doctors to stop violating their oath to do no harm, to start being honest about the harms of circumcision and, most importantly, to put down their knives. And yes Navelgazing, compassion, integrity and humanity are the cornerstones of our movement.

October 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJen

Thank you, Jen. Very much.

October 13, 2010 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Wow, I went into the hospital to have my thankfully non-hospital ride babe and I missed soooo much.

I'm sorry for this child and for this child's family. I'm sorry for their loss. I'm sorry for his struggles, including the last day of his life. The loss of a child is the worst pain a parent can go through and I would not wish it on my worst enemy. My heart goes out to everyone mourning this child.

I do think that some intactivists can and do take it too far, every day. I chose not to circumcise my oldest son. I choose again this week not to circumcise my newborn son. I haver ead the 'information'-laden posts of some intactivists now and in the past. I will say sometimes I am infuriated by the lack of compassion, the lack of shades of grey that I see, and I'm someone who nominally is on the same 'side.' Attacking people under the guise of informing them of the 'right way' to do things, I just never see why that's ever ok.

I would love to live in a world where all activists work towards changing the future, not shaming the past.

October 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJen

After reading this and following Joshua's story over the last week, it occurred to me that perhaps the anger and outrage that is coming from some of the people in the anti-circ (and possibly intactivists?) movements, is a direct reflection of the outrageousness and cruelty that is circumcision. I am in no way excusing it, it's just an observation. There is a lot of pain and hurt for the cut grown men and for those who are very sensitive to child abuse- especially sexual abuse. This is shining a light on all of the pain we have and the healing we need.

October 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMamamia

The only thing more atrocious than the baby's death is the mother clinging to magical thinking in order to shirk her parental responsibility to have a malpractice investigation launched. If anything it is 'God's' will that other parents are reached by the tragedy and choose to leave the circ. decision to their sons once they have reached the age of consent. Maybe 'God' will send her a competent malpractice attorney. Fingers crossed-I mean palms folded.

October 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCandice

I really appreciate this thoughtful post, as well as the follow-up posts that show understanding that parents that circ are well-meaning. To those who can not understand why anybody would circumcise their child, I say as a mother who "knew better" and still has a circ'ed son:

Would I have loved him better if I had left his father to avoid having him circ'ed? Would a broken home for 3 children have been better mother's love than a "mutiliated" penis for one? Would I have even been able to get a court order to stop my (would-have-been-ex-)husband from having him circ'ed? (It is legal, regarded neutrally by the AAP, and my husband would have had equal rights to our children as I would have.) Would he really have benefited from having a mother with postpartum anxiety (as I know I would have, if I'd had to leave my man and fight that court battle)? If I had somehow managed to convince my husband, my in-laws would have disowned us (this is not an exaggeration) - foreskin or grandparents, which is more valuable? Which should I have let him keep to best love him? And my other two (intact, female) children?

I was fully aware I had the lesser of two evils to find. I am still not sure it was the lesser. I have regrets. Because of these factors I would have regrets if he was intact as well. I weighed the physical harms against the psychological harms; I'll never know which would have been worse. You may have made different choices even under the same exact circumstances and I respect you for it; offer me the same respect.

Life is not always black and white. Find compassion and trust that most parents make choices for their children out of love.

The permanent changing of another being's body without their consent was always the sticking point for me. But if I had been GBS+ and chosen antibiotics during labor, I would have made a choice with risk of lifetime health ramifications for my baby - and while you may believe those risks are worth the benefit of GBS prophylaxis, I believe the antibiotics do more harm than good ... so should I say if you chose antibiotic GBS treatment, you committed child abuse for harming your baby? Nope, I believe that you believed you were doing what was best for your baby. Oh wait, that *one* top-off of formula you gave when your baby was 24 hours old and your milk wasn't in and the pediatrician was worried about your baby losing a few ounces - that permanently changed your baby's digestive tract for the worse! Now he's more likely to get a whole host of ailments in his lifetime! You harmed him, you child abuser! Nope, you were loving your baby the best you knew how. You gave your child 5 vaccinations in one visit??? Your child has had no vaccinations ever??? How could you put your child's life at risk like that? (Do I still have to say "nope" so nobody misses the irony?)

Just because these permanent harms are not visible from the outside does not make them any less real than the harm done by circumcision, and these harms may be controversial as to whether/how much damage they do - but so is circumcision, and as someone who hopes circumcision will be gone from our culture before my children have children, I am dismayed by the lack of solid scientific evidence as backed by citations that I see on intactivist websites.

So, intactivists, please: make change by being respectful, remembering that you've only ever walked in your own shoes, and using scientific evidence. To be holistic - to look at the whole picture of a person's well-being instead of one piece at a time. To enact change by building people up instead of breaking them down. And again: to trust that nearly all parents make decisions for their child out of love. And get this work done so that intact babies will be the norm and never something that puts a woman or a baby in a no-win situation like my family's.

October 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Brava! Brava! Beautifully said... and much more eloquently than I could have.

There is the reality that *everyone* has difficult, life-changing decisions to make about their children and you are correct, some are visible, but far, far more are invisible.

It is the arrogant who believe they will *never* have to make such decisions; they will fall the hardest and beat themselves up the most, remembering the cruel things they said to others. While the situations might not be the same, each one of us gets our own unique tortures; none of us is ever, *ever* spared.

October 14, 2010 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

First, let me just say thank you for allowing me to share my views here.

I am rather perplexed by those intactivists who take the softly softly approach on this issue - as if they are more concerned with the feelings of the parents who circumcise rather than the babies who undergo it. Look, either you think circumcision is hideous abuse - or you don't. We don't say to parents "please don't whip your children, but if you choose to do so, we respect that and support you". Society should and must provide support for parents in that situation so they have other alternatives but if it continues to happen, there comes a time when as decent people we must say no more. The law remains hazy on thses issues but society has spoken - and the same could happen here.

As for the issue of parents trusting their doctors - there was once some truth to this; in the 1950s circ was often performed in the delivery suite and as mothers were often drugged and fathers were not present, many in the general population were unaware there was such a thing as a foreskin or that it was ever removed. Those days, and the days of people placing blind faith in the medical profession, are behind us. In this information age we have a right and duty to question what we are told by doctors, and this goes 100x for parents protecting their children. There is a plethora of circ info easily available for responsible parents to find.

And a point has been made - no parent wants to deliberately hurt their child. We all wish that was not true. I hve heard a conversation start at an afternoon BBQ where men proclaimed their hopes that having their infant sons cut would "toughen them up", "make them a man". What "reason"can you bring to that?

Lastly - Anon - I am not sure what to say. I find your post very disturbing. I am worried what sacrifices you would make to keep your marriage intact? If your husband started hitting you - or your DS or DDs? You don't have to answer me, but please ask these questions of yourself.

October 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSikamikanico

It is the "softly softly" approach that will be heard much more than the hammer on the head approach you obviously espouse.

And spanking *is* allowed in this country and while many of us disagree with it, it's just one of those facts we have to suck up or be driven crazy about.

Just like circumcision. You can be decent and share your knowledge and information or you can be obnoxious and have slews of people roll their eyes at you and label you a whacko... you and anything you have to say. I mean really... ever hear the catching flies saying? You know... honey and all?

But, I see "Intactivists" like you, Savi (and plenty of others), seem to thrive on riling up people, not caring *why* they are riled up, just that they are. If you want people to talk about circumcision at every opportunity, no matter *how* it is spoken about, then keep yackin' it up... you're getting your wish! But, if you think you're doing the movement any good, you are wildly mistaken. Until you figure that out, you're doing much more damage than any scalpel on a foreskin.

When people ignore anything you say because of *how* you say it, more babies will be circumcised than would have. If you talked like a sane, calm human being, your words have much more credence.

When I did trainings for EMS about homebirth, one EMT said something brilliant that fits into many different circumstances.

"When we go to a call, we talk to the most calm person in the room. The rest, we ignore."

Good advice.

October 14, 2010 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife


I have to agree with NG Midwife, because she makes an important point clear.

Being RIGHT about circumcision will not end circumcision. Circumcision will only end when we can get through to those who believe it is okay to perform on a child.

Insulting the intelligence and suggesting a parent does not care for their child, or saying things in a way that turns them off from listening to you will NOT fix the problem.

Intactivists who go REALLY "soft" on a family are FORCED to do so by angry anti-circ posters who have insulted a family almost to the point of making it impossible to get through to them.

Being angry AT someone makes them want to defend their actions, and makes them want to prove you wrong, to justify themselves. How is that at ALL beneficial to the cause to immediately make someone closed off to your message?

Really think about that... because if it's worth spending time talking to people about this cause (and it TRULY is) it is worth doing it in a way that makes a positive difference. It's worth getting through to people.

October 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoel

Does anyone know this family IRL, and have proof this is for real, that she actually had a baby and this really did happen?

There is something suspicious about her public tweeting about the death, and engaging people on line like this as her baby dies.

I'm a NYC out spoken loud mouth birth and breastfeeding activist for many years it's just not the style of any activist mother to go on attack to a grieving mother.

Some of it feels made up by this mother or it's the work of trolls attacking her.

Trolls haunt women in the natural birth and mothering.com community, and they are a vicious group of women who create this type of problems!

I wonder if it's them creating the vitriol towards this family.

This is the troll website, i wonder if it's thier work:

October 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNew York LactActivist

LactActivist (I thought it was Lactivist... did that change?):

Yeah, we've all talked about the troll issue.

It will do all of us who support intact babies well to use this case as a hypothetical superimposition of the millions of circumcisions around the world, remembering that this very scenario *does* happen... perhaps not in every NICU, but certainly in enough of them that it demands our attention and focus.

I see "Joshua's Story" as important as "Amber's Story" - the Amber that created the Amber Alert in order to, nationwide, find missing children. Amber Hagerman was a real child who was murdered after being abducted, but she also represents a multitude of faceless (to us) children who are real and needing help from all of us.

So, too, I see this case, real or not... being able to fictionalize it wouldn't be a bad idea.

But, if it is real, and by reading the account as it happened, it seemed it was to me (from my hospital knowledge, sick baby knowledge and lay person lingo when dealing with those situations), we do owe the baby -and parents- our attention. Not any less than other circumcised babies, but this child now has a face, whereas too many other circumcised babies do not.

Except all those millions who are running around right in front of us.

October 15, 2010 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

As the cut (but restoring) father of an intact teenage son, I've been researching the topic for the better part of two decades, and have always tried to maintain a reason-based approach to educating others. I've been criticized for being too emotional, not emotional enough, and been ridiculed for attempting restoration. Regardless, the line of reasoning is always the same:

Is the foreskin normal? Yes.

Is it a birth defect, requiring removal? No.

Is a circumcised penis healthier or easier to clean? No.

Is it ethical for a doctor to amputate normal, healthy, highly functional tissue from a non-consenting minor without medical cause? No.

Does any accrediting medical body in the world recommend it to be done routinely? No.

Do parents have an ethical right to give proxy consent for a non-therapeutic cosmetic surgery for their child? "Customary", perhaps. "Legal", not clear. "Ethical", no.

Do I feel compassion for a parent who had their son(s) cut and regret it? Absolutely. My parents were two of them. I have friends who had their boy(s) circumcised and now know that it was not their decision to make.

The bottom line is that in most of the world, circumcision is no more a choice that "parents have to make" for their sons than amputating fingers or toes (and makes about as much sense). The dropping rates in the US are a testament to the passionate (and compassionate) educational efforts of intactivists from all over the world, all professions and walks of life.

As for the recent tempest-in-a-teapot: It is one thing to ask for compassion on this topic (and I witnessed a lot of it focused on Jill and her family from the intactivist community), but it is quite another to make continuous public statements and call upon the media for attention, while demanding anonymity and threatening legal action (against whom?). The backlash has been Jerry Springer level crazy, and any self-respecting intactivist would be well advised to walk away. We so don't need to be identified with that kind of behavior.

October 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTD

While circumcision makes me angry and I am very passionate about educating parents to be, I also realize that so, so many people including doctors and nurses, are totally in the dark and clueless about the facts.
We must be sensitive to where people are in their learning curve on this subject and give information accordingly.

October 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMamamia

You know, through all this I've been thinking there's a term we ought to maybe use a lot more than we do--we talk about "informed consent" (often in its omission) and "uninformed consent;" until I looked it up just now I had never heard the term "misinformed consent." Which really isn't consent at all.

I wish people would leave Mrs. Haskins alone, and give her the benefit of the doubt both on the informed/misinformed consent question as well as her state of mind since then--it reminds me of another case of Internet Drama recently where a newly grieving mother struck out at someone she reacted badly to and was ripped to shreds over it; how many of us are in our "normal" minds the first couple of months after the birth of a HEALTHY baby, dealing with the crazy postpartum chemical cocktails having a party in our brains, let alone what a mother with all that going on PLUS the deep heartbreaking pain and loss of a child's death must be experiencing.

(Not to diminish Joshua's tragic death and the uproar around it as mere Internet Drama, I didn't mean that at all...)

And as I said on another thread (one of the removed ones, I think)--the thing that seems to be getting lost in all this isn't that a routine circumcision caused the death of an already weak baby, it's that a BOTCHED OPERATION on an already sick baby likely caused his death. The doctor gave bad advice and then SCREWED UP THE OPERATION. If the circumcision had gone as expected and was a "successful" routine procedure, then MAYBE they could get away with saying it wasn't related to his death. The doctor NICKED AN ARTERY. One of those big blood-carrying vessels, you know? For them to say it had nothing to do with his death is just insane, and the fact that circumcision itself is becoming the center of the drama rather than an incompetent doctor and a lying hospital is very discouraging to me.

Jennifer, thank you for your wonderful and eloquent post. And you have great eyebrows. :-)

October 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJenn

TD: Right on. On all fronts.

mamamia: Ayup.

Jenn: I *totally* agree with you that, if the case is presented as the truth and if I was asked to give an opinion from this far away (which I haven't been), I would say that Joshua absolutely died as a direct cause from the circumcision. That nicked artery should have been attended to within the first half hour, as far as I'm concerned. It stuns and horrifies me it took over 6 hours to help that poor baby.

He lived for *7* weeks and then, within 12 hours of his circumcision, died? I can't imagine anyone seeing a different reason than the unnecessary surgery that caused his death. That is, again, if everything we know were the complete and utter fact and truth, which surely, it cannot be.

My own spouse Sarah is so livid she can hardly stand to talk about the situation/case/story. Her major issue is one you bring up, Jenn, that women who are immediately postpartum have raging hormones on the best days under the best circumstances, so a mom, even 7 weeks postpartum, with a baby in the NICU, in all likelihood, cannot even be equipped with making an INFORMED decision about cosmetic surgery on her baby.

Just like women in labor, even the most Bradley-prepared, the most strong and powerful with an incredibly informed partner and a doula for extra measure... just like women in labor are able to be manipulated and nudged along to make decisions they absolutely did not want when they were pregnant... the same for this "informed consent"... women under stress shouldn't *have* to make these kinds of decisions. We hire healthcare providers to be the expert in helping us know what to do when the shit hits the fan. Just like blaming a Bradley-trained woman who chooses an epidural, blaming the mother for going along with the doctor is suspect and, to me, borders on (or is?) medical abuse.

This does *not* mean parents should/need to look at the outcome or even examine the process that led to the outcome. Might the Bradley mom been misled somewhat that it would be possible to buck the hospital system if she just said, "No!" enough times? (Not picking on Bradley; I was a Bradley mom. It's just an obvious choice because of hospitals' continue hatred of Bradley couples.)

And this mom *wanted* her son circumcised, so when the opportunity seemed to have been presented to her, she wasn't even prepared to think twice, trusting her doctor to make that (life-taking) decision for her. I can't imagine being in her place, but if it *were* me, I would *never* trust a doctor again... or it would take a spectacular one to do so. Maybe, like ICAN was formed by duped cesarean moms, this mom can start an international group speaking up about circumcision... representing, educating and allowing families fair discussions of the pros (ha) and cons of circumcising their babies... and providing a safe place for those who have circ'd at least one of their children and now regret it (me, for instance), for Jewish moms who will face a lifetime of antagonism by their families and their faith and for others who feel compassion for the whole circumcision experience in this culture.

But, I agree... keeping *far* from this specific case would be a pretty darned wise thing to do. The press is surely leering, trying to find THE most radical Intactivist out here to put on a talk show... either with this mom or even on a panel of doctors and Jews who think Intactivists are nut jobs. It'll happen. Just watch.

October 15, 2010 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

The mother is not a Jew, nor is the father in this case, so their decision was not based on their Jewishness. Even if they WERE Jews, they wouldn't be obliged to circumcise a medically fragile infant since the faith allows for that exception.

If they had been Jews it probably would have gone much better for them since most Jewish families have at least one doctor and one lawyer, and the family would have circled it's wagons.

It would be interesting to do a circumcision study to see how many deaths and botched circumcisions occur in the Jewish community vs. the 'Goy' community. I'd bet hard cash that their (Jewish) complication rates are lower.

October 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCandice


In the south where I am from, there isn't much anti circ info unless you are in the homebirth community. So while the national average is lowering for circ here it isn't. Most people have never seen an uncircumcised penis in their lives where I am from. I know I hadn't till I started hanging out with hippie mamas and babes. Its rarer than breastfeeding./ My intact son is a tiny minority. So in this day and age it is possible to not know any better. My own mother thinks it gross that we did not circ, and my sister had her boy done. I was the one who had to tend that wound, because my sister was incarcerated so I showed his mutilated penis to anyone I could Because so few people had seen what the fresh mutilation looks like. It is not so cut and dry and people have ways of keeping themselves blind to what is uncomfortable. Kindness and comassion will rule, and thats all there is.

October 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTabitha

I'd have to agree with Candice about the Jewish circumcision point. I studied Judaism (to prepare for conversion) for a long-ass time (finally decided to leave Judaism over the circumcision and anti-homosexual issues) and know that the not-circ'ing "medically fragile" babies is a HUGE admonition to pregnant women. (The term "medically fragile" is specifically used, too. They don't need to be in NICU, either. And any doctor can determine if a baby is medically fragile or not. [hmmm... wonder if a midwife would be able to?])

Tabitha: I grew up in Orlando and am totally aware of the circumcision rates down there. Hmmm... we should talk to Jenny Joseph (a black Licensed Midwife in Orlando) and see if/how she does anti-circ education for her families, many of whom are at-risk. I'll msg her now and ask. While I haven't been in the South for a decade, your experience is exactly what it was when I was there working at the birth centers. People would have been horrified to not circumcise.

Anyway, thank you for the gentle reminder to look beyond our own front yard.

October 16, 2010 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Sikamikanico, I see your point, and indeed I did think about that. But the metaphor is incorrect in that it assumes that leaving my husband would have ended the possibility of my child being circumcised, as leaving a husband who was hitting me would end the hitting. I can not imagine getting a court injunction against a legal procedure from a parent with joint custody - certainly not in time.

I do not, as you said, make sacrifices just to keep my marriage intact - but when undesirable situations arise, I strive to find the path that best serves the overall well-being of the whole person/family. And that would include leaving my husband if that loss would provide a net benefit.

You're disturbed by my post... good. So am I. I'm disturbed that society is so pro-circ that I couldn't change my husband's mind. I'm disturbed that I allowed this to happen to my son - even though I think the other path would have done more damage to him (and my other kids). I'm disturbed that intactivism isn't working fast enough. I'm disturbed that some people define my parenthood by his circumcision - this boy that is so clearly well-adjusted and the happiest child I've ever met. I'm disturbed that some people are so strenuously anti-circ that their politics are doing more damage to their boys who they circ'ed before they knew better, than the circumcision ever did. I'm disturbed by the lack of compassion parents have for each other, and how rampantly thinly veiled criticism masquerades for support.

Sigh. To a better future...

October 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

"Why can’t the real intactivist “just shut the f*** up” (as requested by this blogger) about the death of this infant boy? Well the answer is rather simple: duty. Duty to Joshua and duty to every other innocent baby boy subjected to genital reduction surgery. As a community that seeks truth and transparency regarding the issue of circumcision, we have an obligation to speak up when what is being reported is inconsistent with the facts, especially when the facts would tend to show that circumcision was the primary culprit in the death of a defenseless child."

this is bullshit

October 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterdBSM

"...that women who are immediately postpartum have raging hormones on the best days under the best circumstances, so a mom, even 7 weeks postpartum, with a baby in the NICU, in all likelihood, cannot even be equipped with making an INFORMED decision about cosmetic surgery on her baby. "

You're walking that slippery slope with statements like these. What would be the solution, to do hormonal tests on women to determine their intellectual functioning and capacity? Sounds like the Mother's Act...

October 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterdBSM

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