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Move in Capitol to block SF’s attempt to ban male circumcision

A Los Angeles lawmaker is pushing legislation that would bar cities and counties from banning male circumcision – a proposal aimed squarely at San Francisco.

A San Francisco initiative seeks a ban on circumcision. If ultimately approved by local voters, it would impose a $1,000 fine and a year in jail, or both, on violators.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s AB 768  would prevent any local legislation attempting to regulate or ban male circumcision. The bill originally dealt with providing incentives for using bio-fuels, and it passed the Assembly in that form and was set to reach a Senate committee.

But it was rewritten to address circumcision on July 7 – a maneuver known in the Capitol as a hijack or a gut-and-amend. It is set to return to the Senate committee in the altered form and face its first major policy test.

The bill is a response to recent proposed bans on circumcision.

A circumcision prohibition currently is on the November ballot in San Francisco. Known as the Male Genital Mutilation or MGM Bill, the petition received 7,700 signatures, more than the needed 7,168 signatures to qualify. The ban would prevent circumcision for males under 18, with potential fines and jail time as punishment, and no exemptions for religious reasons.  

The bill is supported by Matthew Hess, who has sparked controversy from the Anti-Defamation League for his anti-circumcision comics starring the superhero Foreskin-Man.
Anti-Circumcision activists – called intactivists – are a growing national movement. Intactivist group Intact America attempted to ban circumcision in Massachusetts in 2010, but could not get it through that state’s Legislature.   

There was an attempt to pass a similar measure in Santa Monica, but Jena Troutman, the woman who proposed it, opted to drop the bill on June 7.

California does have a law banning female genital mutilation, the widely controversial removal of the clitoris.

Circumcision is widely regarded as lowering the chance of sexually transmitted diseases and the risk of HIV, AIDS and penile cancer.  There are risks for circumcision, but less than 1 percent of the operations have any complications, some experts say. Anti-circumcision activists dispute those claims. They mention the numerous nerve endings in the foreskin, which are lost during circumcision.

Most men in the United States are circumcised. Both Jews and Muslims circumcise their children at birth.  There is no position on the practice from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

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