by Marian Tompson, founder of La Leche League
This article on circumcision was written by Marian Tompson, the founder
and past president of La Leche League International. It appeared in "The
People's Doctor-A Medical Newsletter for Consumers" by Robert S.
Mendelsohn, M.D., Evanston, Illinois 60204, Vol. 4, No. 12, p 8.
"If our two sons had been born under any other circumstances, they
probably would have been circumcised. But to begin with, our family doctor
opposed circumcision- a rather unusual position for a doctor to take in
the late 1950's when our eldest son was born. Dr. W.* would not even
perform the operation unless medically indicated, and his opinion carried
a lot of weight with us. Then too, our sons were born at home, and the
whole idea of submitting them to the violence of surgery without
anesthesia and all the possible complications of surgery went against
everything we were trying to accomplish by having our babies at home,
particularly when that surgery seemed to serve no real purpose. So we
decided against circumcision, and we felt it was the right decision. We
did have some concerns, however, about the effect being "different" might
have on our sons as they grew up.
In those days, almost nothing appeared in print on the pros and cons of
circumcision. In fact, many people, unaware that the United States is the
only developed country where newborns are routinely circumcised for
non-religious reasons, didn't know they had a choice. Some of our friends
thought we might be breaking the law. Even in 1978, when the American
College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists adopted the position taken
several years earlier by the American Academy of Pediatricians that "there
is no absolute medical indication for routine circumcision of the
newborn," few heard about it. Indeed, during the following year, 85 per
cent of male newborns in the United States- nearly 1,500,000 babies- were
circumcised. (By way of contrast, in Norway where this surgery is
performed only when indicated, the rate is 0.02 per cent.)
When a writer for the "Village Voice" interviewed 10 per cent of Manhattan
obstetricians, more than half said they believed circumcision was unnecessary.
Nevertheless, they performed the operation on more than 90 per cent of the males
they delivered, indicating that the parents' desire
for the surgery was so strong it would have been useless to try and
convince them otherwise. But when mothers were interviewed, two out of
three stated that if the doctor had suggested their child not be
circumcised, they would have accepted his opinion!
Today, you don't have to wait for your doctor to bring up the subject. All
the information you'll ever want, and then some, can be found in the new
book "Circumcision, An American Health Fallacy" by Edward Wallerstein.**
Fully documented and based on an
intensive review of the medical and popular literature, this book
describes how circumcision became the "wonder drug" of American Medicine
and carefully examines the claims made over the years for the prevention
and cure of a list of ailments ranging from asthma, epilepsy and
tuberculosis to modern-day worries about cancer, hygiene and sexual
Still, what about the effect on a boy of being different? To quote a young
man we know very well who has been through it, "Don't worry about it!""
*Dr. W. refers to the late Dr. Gregory J. White, whose wife Mary helped found La
Leche League International with her friend and fellow Catholic, Marian Tompson.
FROM: The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, Third Edition
La Leche League International, Franklin Park, Illinois, July 1981: 92-93.
ELECTIVE SURGERY FOR YOU OR BABY
If you are going to be in the hospital anyway for the birth of your baby,
you or your doctor may suggest that you have some other medical matter
attended to. Examples of elective surgery for the mother include
stripping the legs of varicose veins or tying the fallopian tubes (tubal
ligation). As for the baby, it may be considered almost routine to
circumcise boy babies when they are only a few hours or days old. But
circumcision is elective surgery and you have a choice of whether or not
to have your baby circumcised. You can also choose to wait a while before
having this done. We bring these subjects up because, physically and
emotionally, these procedures all take their toll on mother and child.
Since they represent elective surgery, their appropriateness at this
critical time must be questioned.
Circumcision is as painful a procedure to a newborn as it is to an adult.
As a religious rite, circumcision is not performed until the baby is eight
days old, when he is less apt to hemorrhage. The reasons given in the
past for the non-religious, almost routine circumcision of the newborn
were generally hygienic and are no longer accepted by many physicians and
parents. If you're interested in learning more about this subject, see
the Book List at the end of this book.*
* Book List (page 349)
Circumcision: An American Health Fallacy by Edward Wallerstein
Springer Publishing: 1980. Softcover.
Available from Birth & Life
A very definitive book, covering twelve years of research. The author
feels that circumcision is a solution in search of a problem. Extensive
arguments against routine circumcision are presented in a most readable