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'Intactivists' Cut to the Chase About Circumcision Issue

It is a sensitive issue. Pun absolutely intended.

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How intactivists define circumcision: a cruel, traumatic and unnecessary surgery (the American Academy of Pediatrics says the benefits are not sufficient enough to recommend the procedure) that causes enduring sexual and psychological injury to a helpless infant who can't give his consent.

How much of the medical community defines circumcision: a simple, nearly painless operation that removes an obsolete part of the body that can increase a man's susceptibility to infections and sexually transmitted diseases (circumcision reduces the risk of getting HIV by 60 percent, studies show).

How religion defines circumcision: as a covenant with God, as conveyed to Abraham.

It's a lopsided fight, but each side has doctors and lawyers. Each side has data. Each accuses the other of denial. One side is labeled as a bunch of baby-cutting sex criminals. The other is labeled as sex-obsessed, fanatical loonies who are duping the public.

"We don't want to understand this," says Van Lewis, who has protested infant circumcision in Tallahassee since the '70s and helped make Florida one of 16 states that no longer publicly fund circumcision. "We're living in denial as a nation. Of what we've done to ourselves."

"The anti-circs have a lot to answer for," Brian J. Morris, professor of molecular medical sciences at the University of Sydney, writes in an e-mail. "Only deception by their propaganda leads some gullible men into believing that their sexual problems have something to do with their circumcision as an infant. This is just not true. . . . Most are just ignorant do-gooders with a misplaced sence of political correctness, who get sucked into these organizations by believing the rubbish posted on their websites."

The arguments touch on human rights, bodily integrity and public health. Strong emotions are just the tip of the issue.

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The rally departs from the White House about 2 p.m., headed toward Pennsylvania Avenue, on the breezy walk to the Capitol. The 50 people include the only man to ever file a lawsuit over a medically successful circumcision (and win), the woman who saw him on "Good Morning America" and later became his wife and joined the crusade, and a guy from Chicago who mass-produces (in his basement) an apparatus that he says allows men to grow back foreskin. He says he's sold 15,000 of the devices over the past five years. Men want to reclaim what was taken from them, he says, and they will pay $16 to $60 a pop to feel whole.

This is the 16th annual march. Numbers are down this year (dang economy), but everyone still seems to be from a different anti-circumcision group. And they will talk your ear off. Spend some time with intactivists and you will hear how circumcision is responsible for, among other things, the oppression of women, sexual disharmony, deforestation, militarization, the rise and fall of empires and the invasion of foreign lands for oil.

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