Intactivists Are To The Anti-Circumcision Movement What The Westboro Baptists Are To Christianity

This morning when I was checking my Twitter feed I saw that Lenore from Free Range Kids had posted a video having to do with anti-circumcision activists, or “intactivists” as they like to call themselves. The video gives a summary of the experience of one mother whose child died, due to a heart condition he was born with, the day after he was circumcised. The mother, Jill from the blog The Real Life of a Red Head, describes how after posting about her son’s death in her blog she was attacked online. People left horrible, nasty comments about how it’s her fault her baby died and that she should be charged with manslaughter. She says they stole pictures of her baby from her blog and are treating him as a martyr for their cause. They even went so far as to call the coroner to demand a review for his cause of death and were planning some kind of protest.

After watching the video, I went to this woman’s blog. I haven’t been able to find the nasty comments, but I’ve found multiple posts from her addressing this issue. I’ve also found gut wrenching posts about her pain and grief. When I had only seen the computer generated video, I was disgusted. Now that I’ve read a little bit of what this woman has to say, I’m outraged.

I made my opinion on circumcision pretty clear, I think, in the title of my first post on the topic: Just Say No To Mutilating Your Baby’s Penis. I am generally supportive of the anti-circumcision movement in this country. But what these “intactivists” have done to this mother and her family is abhorrent. They have coopted HER DEAD CHILD to their cause without even asking her permission, and they have attacked her for a choice which, in the end, didn’t really matter at all. In my mind, they are on par with the scum-claiming-to-be-human of the Westboro Baptist Church.

And I know that not all those who identify themselves as intactivists agree with those who’ve made this woman’s life hell. I saw more than one kind, sympathetic comment on her blog from people who were against circumcision. Unfortunately, every group or movement has extremist idiots who give the whole lot a bad name to the public, and from now on in my mind that name is going to be “intactivist”. The sane people who oppose circumcision aren’t intactivists, they’re just activists. Anti-circumcision activists.


22 thoughts on “Intactivists Are To The Anti-Circumcision Movement What The Westboro Baptists Are To Christianity

  1. I’m an intactivist. I feel for this family. I saw only one intactivist commenter that should have been kinder but wasn’t being mean. Intactivists are also under fire and we noted comments made by “false flag” intactivist(s) to paint us has unfeeling attackers. Does it seem logical, intactivists who work their own grief and help other’s with theirs, would be so unfeeling to this grief stricken family? No intactivist said anything like charging the parents with manslaughter. No protest. Too bad you bought into someone else’s counter work.

    What is true was the push for coroner review. There’s a page on facebook with the letter of request and the head coroners letters of interest. The family is not involved.
    Elsewise, here’s what I cobbled for brevity from other’s posts:
    “The coroner indicated that if the death certificate simply listed cardiac arrest, that would be sufficient cause for his office to initiate an investigation into the case.”

    “To obtain justice for Joshua, the affect of his circumcision needs to be publicly acknowledged so that the doctor can be held accountable for her cavalier decision to go ahead with the surgery in spite of Joshua’s fragile health.”
    (refer to Redheads “Crash and Burn” post two days before his circumcision.)

    From drmomma at
    ” Physicians should have been the ones to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) protocol which clearly states there is no medical indication for circumcision surgery, and that it is never to be performed upon a baby who is not in the utmost healthy and stable condition.”

    Important reading on the connection between the heart and circumcision by foremost penis researcher and expert, Dr John Taylor who some name his discovery Ridged Band after.
    (note his obituary states:
    “John spent 27 years at the Health Sciences Centre as a forensic pathologist, teacher and researcher and was an Associate Professor of Pathology at the University of Manitoba. His heart research, which included a special interest in the development of the human heart from embryo to adult, was published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.”

    Read the heart circumcision connection:
    Newsletter: October 2009
    Title: “SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and circumcision: What is the link?”

    I hope this provides better knowledge to draw your conclusions. In the meantime, how about pro-foreskin activists?

  2. So, what I got from that is “If anyone claiming to be against circumcision said any horrible things they were obviously not actually intactivists, they were people who want us to look like huge assholes. But we did ask the coroner to review things, for completely legitimate reasons.” And then you threw in a couple of unnecessary quotes and links to reiterate the point that contacting the coroner wasn’t insensitive and overstepping the authority of the dead child’s parents.

    I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to believe the mother of the child in question in regard to how she’s been treated since the death of her baby.

    There is one thing I like about your comment though. Pro-foreskin activists does sound better than Anti-circumcision activists.

  3. Since Jill delected all the comments and their names (if any), we have no idea who made the heartless ones. It could be that in the heat of the moment (remember, Jill’s own blog was headed “I nearly killed my baby” the night before he died), some real Intactivist/s lost it and let Jill have it, but the VAST majority of real Intactivists were heartbroken at Joshua’s death and Jill’s anguish.

    “a choice which, in the end, didn’t really matter at all” Huh? We can never say for sure that the circumcision hastened, let alone caused, Joshua’s death, but with the cut arteriole, haemorrahge, pressure to stop bleeding and 7-hour delayed diagnosis and treatment of all that, his last day was a less happy one.

    Intactivists unanimously condemn the doctors who let this happen, not Jill. Someone briefly proposed a vigil outside the HOSPITAL at some unknown future date, not a Phelps-style picket of the funeral, but someone else read it as that and Dame Rumour did the rest.

    “Intactivism” has been the term of choice since 1995, and it’ll weather this storm.

  4. Oh, and the reason “Intactivism” is preferable to either “anti-circumision activism” or “pro-foreskin activism” is, as well as brevity, that we defend genital integrity for all minors, male, female or intersex.

  5. No, actually, I don’t remember that “Jill’s own blog was headed “I nearly killed my baby” the night before he died”. I don’t read Jill’s blog. I had never heard of it before seeing the video Lenore linked to, and apparently she has taken that post down. All I have to go on are the video and whatever posts of hers remain on her blog talking about the incident. Based on what I know, the above post stands. And even if she had left up a post detailing the medical information you describe, the above post would still stand because attacking her over her choice to have him circumcised right after he’s died is a horrible thing to do. And yes, Jill’s choice did not matter in the end. If there was negligence in this situation it wasn’t Jill choosing circumcision, it was the doctors deciding to go through with it despite the child’s fragile state.

  6. Hugh7 and impassionedplatypi, you may be interested in Jan. 4/5 discussion between intactivists and Jill at peaceful parenting on facebook.

  7. Thank you Frank. I would check it out, but I don’t have an account on Facebook and I have no intention of getting one in order to continue arguing about this.

  8. “Based on what I know, the above post stands.” i.e. don’t confuse me with facts, my mind is made up. You’re the one who’s comparing us to “Reverend” Fred Phelps, based on second-hand sources.

    “If there was negligence in this situation it wasn’t Jill choosing circumcision, it was the doctors deciding to go through with it despite the child’s fragile state.” That is what the great majority of Intactivists have been saying to Jill. But of course if she hadn’t wanted it (or if it hadn’t been offered), the issue never would have arisen.

  9. Yes, my mind is made up. My mind is made up that attacking a grieving mother, telling her or insinuating that she is responsible for her child’s death and stealing her words and pictures for your own cause are horrible, evil things to do. My mind is made up that any “intactivist” who may have or would do things like that are extremists not unlike the followers of “Reverend” Phelps. And my mind was pretty much always made up that the wordplay “intactivist” just seems kind of silly, therefore I’m completely willing to apply it to those who act in an extremist way.

    And to be honest, I don’t know what you’re arguing with me about. My point was that people who do the sort of thing described by Jill are insensitive pieces of scum, and you seem to agree that doing such things is wrong. If your issue is just that I’m using “intactivist” to mean “extremist who is against circumcision” then you’re just going to have to get over it. As I said in the post, I know that not everyone who identifies themselves that way are actually huge assholes, but every group has extremists and for the sake of ease I’m going to refer to them separately, in this case, as intactivists. Just like for the sake of “brevity”, and I suspect because many think it’s “clever” wordplay, you (the collective “you”) use “intactivist” instead of a term that will be readily understood to those who know nothing about the movement.

  10. Dear Odd Duck:

    There seem to be several matters which you are overlooking.

    1. Circumcision is a hazardous operation even on healthy boys. Non-circumcision produces the highest state of health and well-being.

    2. Baby Joshua was diagnosed with hyperplastic left heart syndrome by ultrasound while still in the womb. Until fairly recently infants born with this condition invariably died. Improvements in the treatment for this condition now means that there is a chance for life.

    3. Joshua lived for two months. He had had two operations to improve the function of his malformed heart. He remained in intensive care and was still in critical condition. His parents insisted on a circumcision, even though such an operation is completely contraindicated.

    4. a. Circumcision is a painful operation that causes a huge increase in heart rate.

    b. Circumcision causes a decrease in the oxygenation of the blood.

    c. Hemorrhage is a well-known risk of circumcision because of the heavy vascularization of the prepuce. Joshua did in fact hemorrhage and the bleeding was not stopped for hours. Infants have very little blood in their bodies and cannot stand much bleeding. Bleeding causes exsanguination. Exsanguination means there is less blood to carry oxygen to the heart muscle.

    5. Under these circumstances, Joshua’s death by heart failure the next morning, should not have been a surprise.

    This child lived for two months and had had two operations to improve heart function. It was not until the ill-advised circumcision that he took a turn for the worse and died.

    There is plenty of blame to go around, first to the parents for wanting to mutilate their fragile child and secondly to the foolish doctor who agreed to do so and who snatched this very sick child out of NICU to do an operation which was completely contraindicated.

    Intactivists did not cause Joshua’s death. If anything, intactivism probably would have prevented his death, if the foolish parents had only listened and the equally benighted doctor had followed well-established guidelines for when a circumcision is permissible.

    Having said that, some mothers who said harsh things to Jill also bear some criticism for insensitivity, however no one wants to see a child die, so those mothers obviously were distressed by Baby Joshua’s unnecessary death.

  11. No George, I am not overlooking any of that. I am, and was at the time I wrote this post, completely aware of all of your points, or at least the possibility of some of them in regard to Joshua’s specific situation. However, I am of the opinion, as I’ve stated before, that if his death was a direct result of the circumcision then the blame is with the doctor who agreed to perform it. I would love for parents to educate themselves on this sort of thing before having children, but not all of them do. The doctor, however, is required to know that performing a circumcision on a child with fragile health is inadvisable. And even if the parents share some of the blame for requesting the surgery in the first place, they do not deserve to be attacked in the way Jill described being attacked. Being distressed by someone else’s baby dying does not make it ok to attack them.

    And by the way, I never said intactivists caused Joshua’s death, and I agree that if his death was a direct result of the circumcision then it could have been avoided. What I take issue with, and have taken issue with since I heard about this whole thing, is people being huge assholes to a grieving family.

  12. The analysis here is simple enough: a child with HLV is a wholly unsuitable candidate for circumcision, since there are documented cases of even normal children having heart attacks during circumcision.

    The parents cannot be blamed for making a cultural choice they may have been led to believe was best. Circumcision has been marketed, aggressively, by American physicians, for over 130 years. It’s the “would you like fries with that?” of childbirth. That momentum is hard for a stressed parent to resist.

    Instead, our international physicians’ organization will be filing a formal and heavily documented complaint, signed by physicians and bioethicists, with the licensing agency for the physician, alleging unethical medicine, with a copy to Joint Commission, the accrediting agency for hospitals. Let the authorities sort it out.

    The mother should sue for wrongful death, and donate any funds to a suitable charity benefitting cardiac-challenged children -as a memorial to Joshua.

    Cyber attacks on the mother were indeed, in bad taste, though I would be interested to hear her actual justification for asking for c… to begin with. What health benefit did she expect was worth the risk? But it would be churlish to inquire.
    Atty John

  13. ^^ I would love for parents to educate themselves on this sort of thing before having children, but not all of them do. ^^

    The mother DID get an education before this happened. Intactivists tried in earnest to help her see not only the folly of subjecting this high-risk patient to surgery, but also the certain losses and frequent unintended outcomes of infant foreskin amputation even under the best circumstances.

    The mother has hardly striven for peace and sanctuary throughout this ordeal. Within hours of the death she Tweeted to Ellen Degenerous to appeal for her dream shot at being on TV.

    I have sympathy for a grieving family, but they don’t get to sling barbs and expect nothing back, and they don’t get to hide this circumcision-caused death. What compassionate person would fail to shine the light of truth on this to save future victims?

  14. I think we essentially are in agreement. I also object to the way in which Jill was treated, although my reports are on it are second hand.

  15. “I would be interested to hear her actual justification for asking for c… to begin with. What health benefit did she expect was worth the risk? But it would be churlish to inquire.” – Atty John

    “Because he was already going to be so different from his peers and his family. He was going to have a scar on his chest and life long medical problems. The least we could do was allow him to look like his father and brother.”

    “I had no idea the risk- yes there were attempts to contact me, but I was not online/on my blog that day to read the comments.” – Jill Haskins on Facebook:

    I query both her and your use of “steal” with reference to pictures copied across the Internet. That can be done using “copy link location” and “paste” without the picture leaving its original location – the copy lasts only as long as the original. (It raises paradoxes about the whole notion of “intellectual property”.)

    And to base one’s opinion on an “interview” translated into an animated cartoon with synthetic voices, of unknown provenance, puts one at risk of being misled.

  16. Shuggy, I didn’t base my opinion solely on the animated “interview”. After I saw the interview I went to Jill’s blog and searched around for posts by her about the whole thing and looked at some of the comments on those posts. If I were on Facebook, I would have gone to look through whatever conversations were going on there as well. To be honest, even if the entire thing were a load of crap that Jill made up for whatever reason, the basic underlying point of “people shouldn’t be huge dicks to each other, and it is especially horrible to be a huge dick to someone who has just lost a child” would still be valid.

  17. I was just circumcised at 26. The operation went fine. Sex feels better now. Women actually WANT to perform felatio now, it feels better, and it tends to be more spontaneous. Yes, the recovery is a ton of grief, but it was worth it, and I think, personally speaking, I had a bit (not much) of a size increase. Several people have at least commented as much (but that could be an appearance thing).

  18. Mike, if sex feels better for you now that is probably because the membrane on the head of your penis hasn’t had time to toughen up yet. The head of the penis does not have skin, it has a membrane sort of like the inside of your lip or cheek. The foreskin protects the head of the penis and prevents that membrane from drying and thickening. So, taking the foreskin away might mean better sensation initially because the raw tissue is exposed to more stimuli during sex, but as that membrane thickens I would imagine the sensations will decrease.

  19. ……… There is a movement of Jews who are questioning circumcision, and working to end this abuse of children. The movement ranges from the Orthodox to the secular, and includes mothers, fathers, scholars, historians, medical professionals, activists, and intellectuals.

    Jewish Groups for Genital Integrity

    Circumcision: A Jewish Feminist Perspective by Miriam Pollack

    Jewish Intactivist Miriam Pollack has some great commentary on Foreskin Man in this recent interview.

    Jews Speak Out in Favor of Banning Circumcision on Minors

    * Brit Shalom Celebrants by Mark D. Reiss, M.D.

    * Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective by Ron Goldman, Ph.D.

    * The Current Judaic Movement to End Circumcision: Part 1 …………

  20. I fail to see what this has to do with Westboro Baptist Church.
    As far as I know, darn near every Baptist consider the subject of circumcision forbidden to talk about.
    BTW, I’m against it myself, unless someone chooses to get it done to their self.

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