New parents are faced with many decisions regarding the care of their babies. Will you breastfeed? Should you vaccinate? How about a name for the kid?

In those first few days after the birth of a new baby, there are a lot of questions to answer and decisions for new parents to make. But, come November, new parents who reside in the city of San Francisco may have one of those decisions made for them.

San Francisco Proposes Ban on Circumcision

When San Francisco voters head to the poll this November, they will be asked to vote on a measure that woud make the circumcision of a male child under the age of 18 a misdemeanor crime. The crime would be punishable by either a fine or jail time, and religious exemptions would not be allowed.

The circumcision initiative was officially added to the November ballot after anti-circumcision activists collected over 7,700 signatures from city residents in support of the vote.

Lloyd Schofield, the longtime San Francisco resident who spearheaded the effort to get his San Francisco Male Genital Mutilation Bill on the ballot, believes that the vote in San Francisco is a crucial first step in ending the practice of infant male circumcision in our country completely.

"It's been kind of under the radar until now, but it was a conversation that needed to happen... We've tapped into a spark with our measure — something that's been going on for a long time."

This will be the first public vote in the United States over circumcision, and, of course, it is not without controversy.

The Circumcision Debate

Advocates of circumcision cite both religious and medical reasons for continuing the practice. Circumcision is an important religious rite of passage in the Jewish faith, and is widely practiced within the Muslim religion as well. Many in San Francisco's Jewish community believe that the proposed ban violates their First Amendment right to freely exercise their personal religious beliefs.

Medical benefits are also cited as a reason to continue performing circumcisions. Studies conducted in Africa, where the spread of HIV/AIDS is a vast crisis, have indicated that circumcision can greatly reduce the spread of the disease in heterosexual men. Studies have also linked male circumcision to reduced rates of sexually transmitted diseases, certain cancers, and urinary tract infections.

Oppenents of circumcision, however, question the validity of this research, particularly in regard to HIV. Intactivists, as they like to refer to themselves, view circumcision as a potentially dangerous procedure that is primarily cosmetic and completely unnecessary, and argue that possible benefits do not outweigh the risks.

Circumcision Already on the Decline?

According to an article published last year in The New York Times, around 80% of men in the United States are circumcized, giving the U.S. one of the highest circumcision rates in the developed world. But, according to the same article, these rates are also dropping steeply and quickly.

In 2006, only 56% of newborn males were circumcized; in 2009, the number had dropped to just 32.5%. With circumcision already on the decline, could the city of San Francisco be starting a new trend as it seeks to ban the practice completely?

What Does the AAP Say?

In its Circumcision Policy Statement, written in 1999 and updated in 2005, the American Academy of Pediatrics addresses the link between circumcision and the transmission of HIV/AIDS by stating that:

"[B]ehavioral factors appear to be far more important risk factors in the acquisition of HIV infection than circumcision status."

The AAP also claims that existing scientific evidence is not conclusive enough to mandate the recommendation of routine infant circumcision. However, they do not call for a ban on the procedure, either. Officially, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that:

"In the case of circumcision, in which there are potential benefits and risks, yet the procedure is not essential to the child's current well-being, parents should determine what is in the best interest of the child."

In San Francisco, though, it appears that it will be the citizens who show up at the polls in November, and not the individual parents, who will get to cast the deciding vote.

Do you have an opinion about circumcision? What about San Francisco's proposed ban? Who has the right to be making these decisions?

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