In Keller, Texas,  pediatrician Jason Terk is going over some graphs analyzing 30 years of circumcision data. If you were to trace that graph with your finger, you’d notice something.

“There’s been a slight drop in the rates of circumcisions – it’s not dramatic,” Terk says.

It’s only a 10 percent decline overall in the United States. But if you were to break that data into regions, you’d notice the decline in the western states was huge – 37 percent. Not the south, though. Here, rates have remained almost steady.

At a February rally of the Intactivist movement – a group that advocates for intact penises – both male and female protestors wore white pants. They had red stains on their crotches to simulate bleeding.

Circumcision truly is something we don’t talk much about.

Nicole Villalpando recently caught a lot of heat when she did. Villalpando is the Parenting columnist and blogger for the Austin American-Statesman.

“What got me is that everyday I pass these signs that feel like – well they kind of feel like bullying quite frankly,” she says. 

The signs are popping up on Texas highways.

“I have seen ‘Genesis 17 is a criminal act – Do not circumcise’ and then the latest one is ‘Don’t you dare circumcise’ and it’s all in red letters – capital letters,” she says. 

For Villalpando, circumcision is a tradition – a cherished legacy of her Jewish faith.

For me? Well, it was something we never thought to discuss before I gave birth to my son.

But soon after he was born, I was faced with the decision – and I heard opinions from both sides. A doctor friend called circumcision a mutilation. She said if you wouldn’t do it to your daughter why would you consider it for your son? Now, my friend is not a pediatrician. So I asked one – Dr. Jason Terk – about the medical benefits.

“We now understand that circumcision does lower the risk of acquiring certain sexually transmitted infections that include HIV, Syphilis, Human Papilloma Virus – which is a very common infection that can cause cancer and Genital Herpes,” Terk says.

If we know all that, why are circumcisions declining? It’s certainly not just from a protest here and there. Terk says part of the decline has to do with money.

“Over the last couple of decades some state Medicaid programs have stopped paying for the procedure and therefore circumcisions were not done in those circumstances,” Terk says

You know what else is happening? We are becoming a more diverse society. That’s another prong contributing to the decline in circumcisions – Texas’ fastest growing ethnic groups, Asians and Hispanics, are groups that traditionally do not circumcise.

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  • Olivia September 2, 2017 at 6:32 pm

    Routine infant circumcision is a violation of basic human rights along with the drs oath to do no harm. Circumcision without medical reason or consent is mutilation. Condoms not cutting prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

  • Brian April 20, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    Glad it’s happening. Circumcision is abuse. It is sexual abuse. It is Make Sexual Mutilation. It is stopping because people are learning the truth.

  • Heather Clegg April 20, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    If your doctor tells you that circumcision, not condoms, prevent SDIs and HIV, you should probably fire him. HIV rates in the US alone disprove the idea that circumcision prevents HIV. Teach your son to take a shower a few times a week and to use a condom and then you won’t have to cut off part of his body.

  • Katapaltes April 20, 2016 at 10:31 am

    Same old recycled arguments from the same old population… American Jews like Villalpando and Terk get offended by/dismiss parents who seek to protect their children from the life-long harms of genital cutting. Attributing the dropping rates of circumcision in Texas to minorities ignores the fact that many white parents in the state are no longer imposing this cruelty on their children or the men they become. And Medicaid didn’t stop paying for circumcisions in many states due to budget cuts – they stopped paying because it was medically unnecessary.

  • GregH April 19, 2016 at 8:11 pm

    All children, regardless of gender, culture or parental religion, have a fundamental right to keep all their healthy, functional genitalia. Since an infant is incapable of religious beliefs, imposing an irreversible body alteration on him violates the freedom to choose his own religion as an adult. It differs from religious education, which can be changed. My body belongs to me!

  • Hans Castorp April 19, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    In the real world, circumsion correlates with REDUCED genital health.

    European men are overwhelmingly intact.
    The HIV rate in the US is 200-300% greater than virtually every European country. STD rates are far higher here as well.

  • Michael April 19, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    The author also might want to check out Doctors Opposing Circumcision for more info from experienced American medical professionals willing to talk about circumcision.
    http://www.doctorsopposingcircumcision.org
    However, it’s difficult to get a clear and concise picture from American media on this subject, as Americans tend to be highly emotionally invested in either the promotion or ending of the practice. Here’s a piece where many European professionals came together to speak on this subject.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23509170

  • Sarah April 19, 2016 at 12:18 pm

    In the absence of disease, cutting off a healthy, functional part of someone else’s body without their consent is a human rights abuse. This is also an equal rights issue – since girls’ genitalia is protected by law. The pediatrician, Terk, interviewed for this article is regurgitating flawed studies. There is no definitive proof that circumcision lowers rates of STDs and HIV. What there is solid data on is the rate of HIV/STDs between highly circumcised USA (80% cut) and minimally circumcised Europe (10% cut). Europe has lower HIV and STD rates than the US!

    • Lisa Sullivan April 20, 2016 at 8:56 am

      He also states that HPV can cause genital herpes. Two completely different viral infections. This guy needs a virology refresher.

  • Cynthia Maloney April 19, 2016 at 9:32 am

    I am glad you are discussing this on your radio program, but you are avoiding many very important parts of this discussion. Not one of the reasons you mention are valid for cutting healthy flesh off of a child who cannot consent, resist or escape. It violates all four tenets of medical ethics. It violates the Hippocratic Oath. It violates proxy consent by parents- parents CANNOT opt to remove healthy flesh. It violates the 4th and the 14th amendments to the United States Constitution, security of person and equal protection under the law. It is a crime to cut the genitals of a girl under the age of 18, yet boys and intersex children are not given this right. This is a human rights violation of enormous proportions. It’s way past time we woke up to this violence being perpetuated on our most helpless citizens.

  • Rem April 19, 2016 at 8:49 am

    Joy Diaz, now ask why is it that Medicaid is dropping the coverage for routine infant circumcision, as it is considered purely cosmetic, if there truly are all these alleged benefits to it. Also ask, why is it that most of the world does not routinely circumcise. Also look at the epidemiological data, say, from Europe, that doesn’t routinely circumcise and has a standard of living comparable to US, and compare their rates of STIs (that circumcision is supposed to prevent) with those of US. I’ll be interested in reading your article after you do.

    • Kevin Flinn December 3, 2017 at 10:20 pm

      Perfect answer, I love it, you are right.

  • Kris April 18, 2016 at 10:40 pm

    What newborn is going to get aids or HPV or any other sexually transmitted disease? Also, if these maladies were at all prevented by circumcision, AIDS would’ve been virtually unheard of in this country.
    The Japanese and Finiish don’t cut up their male children and they don’t seem any more ( and are possibly LESS ) Disease ridden than Americans.
    I can agree with the very biased Pediatrician on one thing ; this IS indeed about money.
    Doctors make big bucks selling parents junk science as a reason to do plastic surgery on their infants genitals.

    Gross.

  • Stephen April 18, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    Circumcision is certainly a fresh topic, but how is it even possible to talk about the subject without interviewing men? (If I’m not mistaken, the only man interviewed was the pediatrician who spoke in favor of the practice.) I understand that parents (both, not just the mothers) are the ones faced with making this choice, but since men are the ones primarily living with that choice, their thoughts must completely outweigh any tangential interest a mother (or non-specific activist) would have in the practice.

    • Kris April 18, 2016 at 10:42 pm

      Also- most cut men don’t know what they’re missing. It’s up to mothers to defend their baby boys, most of us still have our foreskins- the same structure is called a clitoral hood in women.
      Exactly identical. Serves the same purpose. No one cuts ours off. Not in this country… Yet.

    • Anonymous April 19, 2016 at 12:28 pm

      I agree, Stephen.

    • Melissa April 20, 2016 at 7:02 am

      By that logic, more women should be interviewed for articles regarding abortion, and women’s thoughts must completely outweigh any other tangential interests. And you may support that, but that’s certainly a minority view in our great state.

    • Heather Clegg April 20, 2016 at 2:06 pm

      Plenty of men are weighing in on this topic in other forums but it is usually the mother of a baby boy doing research on childbirth and circumcision and they are usually the ones who want to protect their babies (although my husband wanted to protect our son). You’re right about one thing though- the only opinion that matters is the MAN who own the penis in question. Leave him whole and let him decide when he’s a man if he wants to keep his foreskin or cut it off.