Jeff Jacoby
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ON THE BALLOT in San Francisco this fall will be a proposal making it a crime to circumcise male children. If the measure passes, anyone convicted of circumcising a baby boy could be fined up to $1,000 and sentenced to a year in prison. Even for San Francisco, this is madness.

The circumcising of newborn boys is perhaps the most familiar type of surgery in the United States. According to the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, US hospitals perform the procedure more than 1.2 million times each year. While there are wide variations by ethnicity and region, and while circumcision rates have declined in recent years, the great majority of American men are circumcised. And in nearly every case, the decision was made for them in their infancy by their parents -- just like the decision to breastfeed or bottle-feed, or to use cloth or disposable diapers. Even in the most childless major city in America, it's hard to see voters approving what would be an egregious infringement on parental rights.

The health benefits of circumcision are clear, if modest. The Mayo Clinic website reflects the medical consensus, noting that circumcised men and boys generally have a lower risk of urinary tract infections, penile cancer, and sexually transmitted diseases; and that circumcision makes genital hygiene easier. At the same time, Mayo endorses the view of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which doesn't consider the advantages of circumcision compelling enough to recommend that infant boys be circumcised as a matter of routine. The academy's bottom line is commonsensical: "Because circumcision is not essential to a child's health, parents should choose what is best for their child by looking at the benefits and risks."

In short, circumcision is something about which reasonable people can and do disagree. But there is nothing reasonable about the fanatics trying to make it a crime.

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Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby is an Op-Ed writer for the Boston Globe, a radio political commentator, and a contributing columnist for Townhall.com.