The Ethics of American Circumcision in a Globalized World

By Elizabeth Reis.

Published by The Global Studies Journal

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Recently a controversy erupted in the American Academy of
Pediatrics (AAP)
over the cutting of immigrant girls’ genitals. In an effort
to promote cultural
sensitivity and foster good relationships between physicians
and parents from
cultures that practice female genital cutting, the AAP ruled
in 2010 that
pediatricians can satisfy cultural requirements by
substituting ritual “nicks”
for the more severe cuts. To discourage parents from sending
their daughters back to Africa, Asia, or the Middle East to
get the “real thing,”
the AAP made a decision allowing doctors to show respect for
decision-making (an argument they make with male
circumcision as well) and
save girls from undergoing more severely disfiguring
procedures. Many
objected to the AAP’s statement and within weeks the AAP
reversed their
contentious ruling. In a separate development, the Centers
for Disease
Control and Prevention and the American Academy of
Pediatricians are
currently considering whether or not to recommend neonatal male
circumcision to parents of baby boys. This paper examines
the ethical
challenges of both issues.

Keywords: Female Genital Cutting, Neonatal Male Circumcision, Medical Ethics, American Academy of Pediatrics

Global Studies Journal, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp.45-50. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 724.815KB).

Prof. Elizabeth Reis

Associate Professor, Women's and Gender Studies, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, USA

Elizabeth Reis graduated from Smith College in 1980 and received her PhD from University of California at Berkeley in 1991. She is the author of Bodies in Doubt: An American History of Intersex, which was published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 2009. She is also the author of Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New England (1997) and the editor of Spellbound: Women and Witchcraft in America (1998) and American Sexual Histories: A Blackwell Reader in Social and Cultural History (2002, 2nd ed. 2012). She has also edited Dear Lizzie: Memoir of a Jewish Immigrant Woman (2000). She is an Associate Professor in the Women’s and Gender Studies Department at the University of Oregon, where she teaches women’s history, medical ethics, and the history of sexuality. Her current research is on the medical ethics of sex surgeries.


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