Deeper Into Circumcision: An Invitation to Awareness

Third International Symposium on Circumcision

University of Maryland, May 22-25, 1994


"We love you and we are here to protect you"

After the years of shame, acting as an accomplice, I am proud to be here today as an R.N. conscientious objector to infant circumcision. I'm proud to be here today as a patient advocate for the babies. I'm proud to be here as a Jew, as a woman and feminist, and as a human rights activist. And most of all, I'm proud to be here as a human being with the courage to hear the screams of the babies and to follow my conscience.

In our society, circumcision generally takes place in hospitals behind closed doors. That's why I've come today, to let parents know: Your babies are screaming behind closed doors. These are the instruments used to cut away part of your baby's sexuality: Circumstraint board, probe, Gomco clamp and blade.

I have a message for parents: Circumcision isn't medically necessary, and in fact it is harmful. No, it isn't "cleaner" to cut off your baby's foreskin. Think about it. You wouldn't cut off your baby's ears or nose or rip out his fingernails to make him cleaner. You wouldn't cut off part of your baby girl's sexuality. Your babies, boys and girls, are beautiful, and their whole bodies are sacred.

I have a message for other nurses across the country who shudder as they assist with circumcision: You don't have to do it anymore. You can join us as conscientious objectors.

I have a message for the babies: We love you and we are here to protect you.

I have a message for our African sisters who are working against genital mutilation in their own countries; bless you. We support you and join you in a world-wide movement against all forms of genital mutilation.

I would like to close with a brief prayer of healing for the babies, especially for the ones who are being circumcised this very moment as we speak. Let us pray for the countless men, our brothers, who have been grievously harmed by this procedure. Let us pray for the parents who have given consent. Let us pray for the nurses who have assisted all these years. And, finally, I would like to say a brief prayer of healing for the circumcisers, mostly physicians, almost all circumcised men themselves, who continue to carry on this brutal tradition of infant genital mutilation. May we all find healing and forgiveness.

Betty Katz Sperlich, RN

[Betty Katz Sperlich is one of the 24 heroic Conscientious Objector to Circumcision nurses at St. Vincent's Hospital, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and co-founder of Nurses for the Rights of the Child. Her statement to the press is on Videotapes of the Third International Symposium on Circumcision. She also appears in Barry Ellsworth's video documentary masterpiece, The Nurses of St. Vincent: Saying "No" to Circumcision.]

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