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U.S. Academy of Pediatrics will endorse circumcision just as Germany bans it

Published: Tuesday, June 30 2015 3:21 a.m. MDT

In this photo provided by the Furer family Rabbi Abraham Dauss, left, and  Moishe Furer, a rabbinical student in Berlin holding his son Elchanan attend a circumcision ceremony in Berlin, Germany, Friday, June 29, 2012. Elchanan was born five days before a regional court in Cologne ruled in June that the practice of circumcision amounted to causing bodily harm to a child.  Though the Cologne court's decision has raised fears among Muslims and Jews that circumcising their children could get them into legal trouble, it has had little practical effect in reducing religious circumcisions _ especially since the government has weighed in with assurances to both communities that their practices will be respected.   (Aviel Granov, Associated Press) In this photo provided by the Furer family Rabbi Abraham Dauss, left, and Moishe Furer, a rabbinical student in Berlin holding his son Elchanan attend a circumcision ceremony in Berlin, Germany, Friday, June 29, 2012. Elchanan was born five days before a regional court in Cologne ruled in June that the practice of circumcision amounted to causing bodily harm to a child. Though the Cologne court's decision has raised fears among Muslims and Jews that circumcising their children could get them into legal trouble, it has had little practical effect in reducing religious circumcisions _ especially since the government has weighed in with assurances to both communities that their practices will be respected. (Aviel Granov, Associated Press)

The American Academy of Pediatrics will endorse infant male circumcision as a routine health practice, shifting from its previous neutral position. The change comes just as the practice comes under fire in German court decisions.

A 2010 incident in which a Muslim doctor botched a circumcision on a 4-year-old boy spawned controversy there. The child was taken to the hospital.

The doctor "was later cleared of any wrongdoing since he was a certified medical professional and the practice of circumcision was not yet a crime, but the court ruled that in the future, circumcisions constituted an act of inflicting bodily harm, comparing the act to female genital mutilation, which is widely banned throughout Europe," according to a detailed report in the Daily Beast.

Earlier this week, a new study was released outlining the health and cost risks that would be incurred if U.S. circumcision rates (currently 50 percent) dropped to European levels (currently 10 percent).

The AAP statement does note that infant circumcisions are much less prone to complications than those performed on older children or adults.

"In a study out Monday, researchers say falling infant circumcision rates could end up costing billions of U.S. health care dollars when men and their female partners develop AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections and cancers that could have been prevented," wrote Kim Painter in USA Today.

The text of the AAP policy statement, which was leaked and appeared in multiple places this week, noted numerous health benefits and cost savings associated with the practice, including a reduction of urinary tract infections among children and reduced risk of sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV.

"Although health benefits are not great enough to recommend routine circumcision for all male newborns," the statement reads, "the benefits of circumcision are sufficient to justify access to this procedure for families choosing it and to warrant third-party payment for circumcision of male newborns. It is important that clinicians routinely inform parents of the health benefits and risks of male newborn circumcision in an unbiased and accurate manner."

"The statement solidifies the scientific consensus behind the advisability of infant male circumcision (noting that complications are more likely to arise when the procedure is performed later in life) and places the traditional practice squarely within the realm of sound medical science," wrote Yair Rosenberg in The Scroll.

The practice has come under increasing fire in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Earler this month a rabbi in Cologne, Germany was prosecuted, and another rabbi in Bavaria is now being charged as well.

"The audacity that some lawyer is mulling over prosecuting a mohel who has done 3,000 brit milahs is outrageous," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper at the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Los Angeles to the Jewish Chronicle.

“If democracies decide that they are going to ban brit milah and shechitah, this is an engraved invitation to European Jews to leave," Cooper said. "They are saying ‘We don’t respect your religious freedoms’, and you can’t get more explicit than that."

Eric Schulzke writes on national politics for the Deseret News. He can be contacted at eschulzke@desnews.com.

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