To circumcise or not to circumcise — that has been the controversial question posed to every parent of a newborn boy for decades in the United States.
Circumcision rates peaked at over 90 percent in 1964, according to Circumstitions.com. Since then the practice has declined in regularity to nationwide estimates that range from 33 percent (MGMBill.org) to 55 percent (CBS News).
“Over the last five, almost six years, between 2007 and 2012, there has been a slight decline in circumcision procedures, from 58 percent to 55 percent,” says Good Samaritan Hospital spokeswoman Leslie Kelsay. “We don’t know if a 3 percent change is statistically significant."
Despite circumcision's steep drop in popularity, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) changed its official stance on the procedure on Monday. According to Parenting.com, the AAP is now saying that "the preventative health benefits of infant circumcision clearly outweigh the risks."
In both 1999 and 2005, the AAP remained staunch that circumcision was "not essential to the child's current well-being."
After several years of study, Michael Brady, M.D., chairman of the department of pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH, said "it’s now obvious there’s a preventative effect" associated with circumcision.
Namely, circumcision has been shown to be positively correlated with lower HIV rates in heterosexual males in Africa, low HPV rates and smaller risk of contracting syphilis and genital herpes. In addition, studies have shown that circumcised babies are less prone to urinary tract infections, and that the procedure can reduce the risk of penile and prostate cancer later in life.
Some opponents of circumcision cite decreased sexual pleasure, but according to Parenting.com, "study participants in Africa who had been circumcised as adults reported either no effect or increased pleasure." Other opponents claim the operation is barbaric and unfair to the infant, who has no ability to choose.
Dr. Brady, who serves on the AAP Task Force, suggested that circumcision be included in Medicaid coverage. A study at John's Hopkins found that opting not to circumcise could cost $313 in related health care expenses to a person over a lifetime. The projected health benefits of circumcision are used to justify the AAP's recommendation for universal coverage for the procedure.
According to MGMBill.org, just 22 percent of baby boys in California were circumcised in 2010. West Virginia lead the country with a circumcision rate of 86 percent that same year. See MGMBill.org's graphic of circumcision rates by state in the photos above.
-Mayra Flores De Marcotte contributed to this article
What do you think of the AAP's revised stance on circumcision? Do you think the reported health benefits are enough? Weigh in below.