‘Precipitous’ three year drop seen in US circumcisions

Kim LaCapria - Author

Jun. 15 2013, Updated 10:40 p.m. ET

Is the American love affair with the circumcised penis finally coming to an end?

Like breastfeeding, abortion and tipping, circumcision is one of those topics that most Americans are pretty strongly for or against. And while the procedure has admittedly few benefits and arguably many drawbacks (can we start with loss of sensation?) the idea that an uncircumcised penis is a sign of lax personal hygiene, immigration status or hippie woo-woo ness has been pretty prolific in the US. But is the tide finally turning against the mostly-cosmetic procedure?

Interest in circumcision has been dipping, but according to health care data from between 2006-2009 (data that wouldn’t include religious circumcisions, for instance) even babies born in hospitals are far less likely to be circumcised:

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A little-noted presentation by a federal health researcher last month at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna suggested that the rate had fallen precipitously — to fewer than half of all boys born in conventional hospitals from 2006 to 2009, from about two-thirds through the 1980s and ’90s…

The slide portrays a precipitous drop in circumcision, to just 32.5 percent in 2009 from 56 percent in 2006. The numbers are based on calculations by SDI Health, a company in Plymouth Meeting, Pa., that analyzes health care data; they do not include procedures outside hospitals (like most Jewish ritual circumcisions) or not reimbursed by insurance.

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The NYT quoted one anti-circumcision advocate who believes parents are beginning to realize the procedure isn’t of much benefit:

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“Word has gotten out that it’s not necessary, it’s harmful and it’s painful,” said Georganne Chapin, executive director of Intact America, a nonprofit organization based in Tarrytown, N.Y.

Greater awareness about female circumcision may have influenced parents as well, she said, asking, “How can you think it’s O.K. to cut little boys, when you are horrified by the idea of cutting little girls?”

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The CDC concedes that rates of those opting for the procedure are dropping, but would not comment on the data.


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