Female Genital Cutting: The American Academy of Pediatrics Changes Its Mind

Suzanne Murray

scissors fgc circumcision
Flickr photo by James Bowe
The American Academy of Pediatrics has revised its policy statement on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGC) -- again.

In the statement released earlier this month, the AAP suggested US law be changed to permit "ritual nicks" so that pediatricians could reach out to families for whom FGC is a significant ceremonial ritual. This possible compromise would avoid greater harm, according to the AAP. That greater harm, of course, would be alteration to the genitalia of a minor female (which is illegal in the US).

The AAP pointed out that respecting the significance of FGC in some cultures was akin to respecting the cultural, religious, and ethnic traditions many parents have for choosing to circumcise newborn males. 

Today, the AAP backtracked and released a new statement on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting:

"The AAP reaffirms its strong opposition to FGC and counsels its members not to perform such procedures. As typically practiced, FGC can be life-threatening. Little girls who escape death are still vulnerable to sterility, infection, and psychological trauma.  

"The AAP is steadfast in its goal of protecting all young girls from the harms of FGC. 

"The AAP does not endorse the practice of offering a 'clitoral nick.' This minimal pinprick is forbidden under federal law and the AAP does not recommend it to its members." 

“Our intention is not to endorse any form of female genital cutting or mutilation," says AAP President Judith S. Palfrey, MD, FAAP. "We retracted the policy because it is important that the world health community understands the AAP is totally opposed to all forms of female genital cutting, both here in the US and anywhere else in the world. The AAP’s goal is to protect the health and well-being of all children."

Do you think a "ritual nick" should be allowed by families who have a tradition of FGC? Or do you think the AAP was right to reverse its policy statement on FGC? How do you see it being the same as or different than circumcision?

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