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Who Parents the Parents? San Fransisco Set to Ban Infant Circumcision

Posted on April 27 2011 12:00 pm
Walter Hudson is a political commentator and co-founder of Minnesota's North Star Tea Party Patriots, a statewide educational organization. He runs a blog entitled Fightin Words. He also contributes to True North, a hub of Minnesotan conservative commentary. Follow his work via Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
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The practice of infant circumcision, which carries particular religious significance for Jews, may be outlawed later this year in San Fransisco. A ballot initiative is underway which would ask voters whether to prohibit the practice in November.

The proposed new law would make it a misdemeanor to circumcise a person before they are 18-years-old.

“We don’t come at this from a religious angle,” Lloyd Schofield told the San Francisco Examiner. “We feel this is a very harmful thing. Parents are guardians. They are not owners of children. It’s a felony to tattoo a child.”

The effort is being taken seriously in light of last year’s ban of toys in McDonald’s Happy Meals. That move was enacted by the San Fransisco Board of Supervisors and provoked even leftist commentator Jon Stewart to call the city a “nanny state.”

How about it? Should parents be able to circumcise their children? May San Fransisco rightfully restrict the practice? Is Schofield correct when he says parents are only guardians, and “not owners of children?”

Whether parents should circumcise their children, or get them tattooed, or do any of a million other things is dependent upon the answer to another question. In general, whose business is it to make these kinds of decisions? Who tells you, as an adult, whether you can get circumcised, or tattooed, or have your ears pierced? You get to make those decisions, because you own yourself. No one gave you your life and your body. Therefore, no one has a claim over what you do with it.

We all agree, I hope, that children are a special case. They cannot be allowed to fully direct their own lives, because they lack the requisite competence. That is to say, they lack the experience and cognitive ability required to act in their rational self-interest.

Since children cannot direct themselves, who does it fall upon to direct their lives for them while they obtain the knowledge and skill necessary to act in their own interest? The answer to that, long accepted throughout millennia of human experience, is parents.

While no one gives us our life, there are two people who had something to do with the process. Parents do not own their children in the way Schofield suggests his opponents might claim. They do, however, possess the high right to direct their children’s lives until adulthood. If they do not, who else does? If the act of procreation does not endow one with the right to raise their child, what claim upon that right does anyone else have? After all, who has a greater interest in the upbringing of a child than their parents? To whom is a child a greater value than Mom and Dad?

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. Child abuse is a very real phenomenon. Honor killings, injurious beatings, and horrific mutilation are atrocities which a just society must not tolerate. However, we ought not bend the rule to fit those exceptions. In recognition of the inherent right of a parent to parent, the standard for intervention in domestic affairs ought to be extraordinarily high.

We’ve come to the point in our incredibly shrinking world where people suddenly feel entitled to impose their personal preferences and lifestyle upon others. Routine parental decisions like what a child should eat, what they should learn, how they should play, and what kind of medical care they should receive have become subject to public debate. This is utter nonsense which extends from the larger sense, instructed by the Left, that individuals are not truly endowed with unalienable rights.

A certain amount of subjective judgment is required to draw the line between legitimate parental authority and truly criminal abuse. Drawing that line is the purview of states and local municipalities. Thus Schofield’s effort is at least made in the correct venue. It is now up to San Franciscans to decide whether parents generally have the best interest of their children at heart, or whether a body politic should micromanage individual lives.

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