California proposes an Anti-anti-circumcision bill
I am speechless. At least I can still write, though. I just found out that the state of California is proposing to outlaw any local effort to restrict male circumcision. California State Bill Number AB 768, amended, was introduced by Assembly Member Gatto.
Assemblyman Gatto is seeking to reform California's initiative process. California allows members of the public to file ballot measures through the initiative process. Although subject to abuse by monied interests, the California initiative process allows the public to participate in governing themselves.
Along with Assemblyman Gatto's initiative reform, he also seems to be targetting one initiative in particular, the San Francisco Male Infant Circumcision Ban that is coming up for a vote in November.
The proposed California State Bill AB 768, as amended, is reproduced below :
The bill was originally written to amend the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006: Low Carbon Fuel Standard. On July 7, 2011, Assembly Member Gatto rewrote the bill to specifically pevent any local government from trying to restrict male circumcision, such as currently being proposed in San Francisco.
The proposed bill AB 768 poses several troubling issues.
Male Infant Circumcision has Risks and Complications
Bill AB 768 includes the statement: "The Legislature finds and declares as follows: (1) Male circumcision has a wide array of health and affiliative benefits." I assume that Assembly Member Gatto plans on holding public fact finding investigations to support such a claim. I am sure that many would volunteer to offer lots of evidence showing that the male circumcision for infants has few, if any, medical benefits.
The declaration that Assemblyman Gatto seeks to make is not supported by medical professionals. Worldwide, no organization of medical professionals currently endorses non-therapeutic male infant circumcision. For example, recently the South African Medical Association's Human Rights, Law & Ethics Committee stated that it was unethical and illegal to perform circumcision on infant boys. Further, the Committee expressed serious concern that not enough scientifically-based evidence was available to confirm that male infant circumcision prevented HIV contraction and that the public at large was influenced by incorrect and misrepresented information.
First Amendment: Separation of Church and State
Another troubling aspect of the proposed bill is that AB 768 likely runs afoul of the First Amendment of the US Constitution. The first part of the First Amendment says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." That means no law can show a preference for or favor a particular religion.
California has an approximately 22% male infant circumcision rate. Also, the current percentage of the California population that is Jewish is approximately 2.9%. Considering that most Jews circumcise their infant boys, a significant proportion of all male infant circumcisions are performed for religious reasons. A very strong argument can be made that the proposed Bill AB 768 unconstitutionaly favors a specific religious practice.
Fourteenth Amendment: Equal Protection
The first section of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution states, "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
California has a law making female genital mutilatin a felony. "'Female genital mutilation' means the excision or infibulation of the labia majora, labia minora, clitoris, or vulva, performed for nonmedical purposes." The US federal government has a Female Genital Mutilation Act that protects females from circumcision, excision, or infibulation of "the whole or any part of the labia majora or labia minora or clitoris." Females are protected from circumcision or other genital cutting at both the State and Federal level. The proposed California Bill seeks to treat males differently than females. Why is it that the genitals of girls are protected, but boys can have their genitals freely cut?
Parents have Limits on what they can do to their children
Also troubling is that Bill AB768 seeks to create a parental right to cut the genitalia of their child. The rights of parents are not absolute. Bill AB 768 seeks to establish by law a parental right for male circumcision. That Assemblyman Gatto believes that parents can have part of their child's penis cut off flies in the face of California's restriction on parents tattooing their children. I think cutting off part of a male's penis is much worse than getting a tattoo.
To learn more about California Bill AB 768, including its current status, visit the California State Legislature page. In the Bill Search block on the right side of the page, search for bill number "AB 768" or for keyword "circumcision." You will end up with a page of links showing the current Bill status, the Bill's history, how the Bill has been amended, the Bill's committee analysis, and who has voted on the Bill.
- Wikipedia: Initiative
- Sacramento Bee: Viewpoints: Approve reforms to ballot measure system, June 15, 2011
- California Bill AB 768: Male Circumcision, as amended on July 7, 2011
- California Bill AB 768: California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006: Low Carbon Fuel Standard, as amended on April 25, 2011
- South African Medical Association denounces circumcision of infants
- United States Constitution: First Amendment
- MGMBill.org: Hospital Circumcision Rates by State
- WikiPedia: States with the highest proportion of Jews
- Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
- California Penal Code §273.4: Female genital mutilation is a felony
- USC Title 18, Sec. 116: Female genital mutilation is a crime
- California Penal Code §653: Tattooing a minor is a misdemeanor
- Jewish Journal: Circumcision fight moves to California State Legislature