Pediatricians group withdraws statement on female circumcision

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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has reversed its controversial decision on female genital cutting (FGC). The ritual of female circumcision — practiced in some African and Asian countries — is illegal in the U.S., but the bioethics committee of the national pediatricians group suggested in April that doctors be allowed to perform a ceremonial pinprick or nick on a girl’s genitals if it would keep her family from pursuing full circumcision overseas.

In a May 11 article, our colleague Belinda Luscombe explained:

Immigrant families that wish to preserve their local traditions sometimes approach Western doctors to perform FGC on their daughters. In its new report, the AAP advises doctors to inform families that the procedure is medically unnecessary and even dangerous. Should the families be resolute, the AAP raises the idea of legalizing a less-severe ritual cutting — akin, the policy statement says, to an “ear piercing” — to dissuade parents from sending their daughters to be circumcised in their home country, where medical conditions are likely to be far worse. “We knew that it was a controversial idea,” says the report’s lead author, Dena Davis, a professor at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University. “We knew simply making the language more neutral was highly controversial.” (Previously, the ritual had been known as female genital mutilation, or FGM.)

Now, the AAP has reversed its advisory to allow ceremonial nicking (which is illegal in the U.S.), having faced strong criticism from opponents of any form of female genital cutting.

The revised policy statement says the pediatricians group opposes all forms of female genital mutilation (FGM), and recommends that doctors “actively seek to dissuade families from carrying out FGM.” It also advises pediatricians to “provide patients and their parents with compassionate education about the physical harms and psychological risks of FGM” and “decline to perform any medically unnecessary procedure that alters the genitalia of female infants, girls, and adolescents.”