Almost 80% of AMAB people are circumcised, but is it necessary?
(Worldwide, that number is 30%). Penile circumcision is the surgical removal of some or all of the foreskin. The CDC actually encourages circumcision for health reasons (via), as does the American Academy of Pediatrics (via). But is it actually necessary? Is it as painless as it's presented? And if it is necessary, does it have to be done right away, or can it wait a few years?
The benefits are a little contentious.
There are some perceived social benefits (like looking like one's parent or peers), but what about the medical pros and cons?
+There are fewer instances of HPV in groups of uncircumcised people (and HPV is believed to cause 100% of cervical cancers, 90% of anal cancers, and 40% of cancers of the penis, vulva, and vagina (via).
+Neonatal circumcision is more effective at preventing penile cancer than circumcision performed later (via), though penile cancer itself is rare.
+Circumcised people experience fewer urinary tract infections (via).
+In a medical setting the number of severe complications is extremely low (0-2%), and the most common complications are bleeding and infections, which are easy to prevent and manage (via).
+HIV risk can be lowered to near 0% with correct and consistent condom usage (via).
+Some studies contend that the health benefits listed above (originating from the CDC and AAP) are overblown (via).
+Circumcision is not always covered by medical insurance. The procedure can cost about $250 for newborns and $6,000 for older patients (who require general anesthesia and sometimes an operating room) (via).
+Analgesia is recommended because the procedure itself is painful (via).
+It's a non-reversible procedure.
+While it can be more costly and dangerous for someone to be circumcised later in life, it's entirely possible to wait until the person is older and can give informed consent for the procedure.
+Some studies suggest that circumcised people feel a decrease in sensitivity, while other studies suggest there is no change (via).
Not really a pro or a con, just a weird fact: Circumcision wasn't popular in the U.S. until the Victorian Era, when doctors advocated circumcision to prevent masturbation (via).
So while there are some pros... is it necessary?
No. Even the AAP, which supports circumcision, has said that it's not necessary for all children to be circumcised, and that the long-term effects have not been adequately studied (via). And of course, infants aren't capable of giving informed consent. By law doctors are required to get informed consent when it comes to the kind of care we receive so we can make a decision regarding our bodies and health. They need to tell us the risks and benefits of any treatment, as well as our other options. That's not really a conversation you can have with a baby, so it's often left up to the parents to decide.
Other reasons for circumcision.
Many religious groups require circumcision for AMAB members, and there have been some cases where bans on circumcision came not out of concern for infants, but in an attempt at religious persecution (as was the case in Bulgaria).
My conclusion? It's kinda messed up.
There's no overwhelming reason not to wait until someone is older and let them decide if they want to be circumcised. Yes, the cost increases because of the use of anaesthesia, but circumcision seems like a really personal choice. Especially when the evidence that it's actually beneficial is so contentious (and relies heavily on the assumption that the person being circumcised will have sex in certain ways and with multiple partners) it seems medically unnecessary to perform the procedure during infancy. Why rush?