AAP sputters, then retracts policy on female genital cutting

Pediatricians recommend, then retract, "clitoral nick."

Posted May 27, 2010

The American Academy of Pediatrics has evidently found that compromise, when it comes to genital cutting, can be unwise.

Two weeks ago, I did an interview as guest host of NPR's Talk of the Nation: Science Friday about what seemed to me to be a dicey compromise regarding a barbaric practice known as female circumcision, or female genital cutting. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics was suggesting that a less damaging "clitoral nick" might be a reasonable alternative to the more dangerous and disfiguring genital cutting practiced by a variety of cultures around the world.

"There is reason to believe," the AAP said in its statement, "that offering such a compromise may build trust etween hospitals and immigrant communities, save some girls from undergoing disfiguring and life-threatening procedures in their native countries, and play a role in the eventual eradication of FGC [female genital cutting]."

The idea was that pediatricians who were asked to perform a genital cut would, as an alternative, propose a "clitoral nick," a very small cut, that might satisfy the cultural imperative without harming the child.

Does that sound right to you? I tried to restrain my views and give my guest, one of the authors of the statement, a chance to speak, but it was difficult.

Apparently the pediatricians were having their own problems restraining their views. I just received an email saying that the AAP "reaffirms it's 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 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."

Seems like the right decision to me. There are times when we should resist any sort of compromise. I think this is one of them.