Links to Press Coverage
of North Dakota issues:
Mervin Gajewski sues State of North Dakota
Press coverage of Flatt v. Kantak and Meritcare Hospital
Press coverage of Fishbeck v. State
of North Dakota
New York Stowell Lawsuit--Teenager Sues
Making the Cut, Minot Daily News, March
Circumcision Violates Basic Human
Rights, Bismarck Tribune, May 1994
Seminar deems circumcision surgery without merit
Other press coverage:
WFCR radio interview with
infant's cries, man wants ban on
By JAMES WARDEN Associated Press Writer
The Associated Press - Saturday, May 21, 2005
Mervin Gajewski remembers hearing an infant's
wails while he was having blood tests done in a Watford City hospital a
few years ago.
"Somebody better help that baby. He sounds
hurt," the 78-year-old Alexander man says he told a nurse. "You would
be, too, if you were being circumcised," she replied.
When a friend's daughter chose to circumcise her
son last year, Gajewski decided to sue, in an attempt to get North
Dakota courts to ban circumcision. A judge dismissed Gajewski's case
last week, but he said he intends to continue, perhaps with an appeal to
the North Dakota Supreme Court.
"I don't intend to be done with this case one
way or another," he said.
Circumcision involves the removal of sensitive
foreskin from the penis. The procedure is usually done on infants.
Nationally, about 56 percent of male infants are
circumcised, according to a 2003 survey compiled by the federal Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention. The Midwestern region, which
includes North Dakota, had a 78 percent circumcision rate, which is the
highest in the country, said CDC spokesman Bill Crews.
In a March 1999 policy statement, the American
Academy of Pediatrics said there are "potential medical benefits" to
circumcision, including a lessening of the risk of getting urinary tract
infections. However, existing data "are not sufficient to recommend
routine ... circumcision" of newborns, the statement says.
Gajewski says the reasons justifying the
procedure are speculative, using the assumption that "somewhere down the
line, it's going to be good for you."
"Surgery isn't done that way," he said.
Gajewski believes male circumcision is
tantamount to genital mutilation. The Legislature made female genital
mutilation a felony crime in 1995. Gajewski's lawsuit argued that courts
should extend the ban to boys.
Northwest District Judge Gerald Rustad dismissed
the case last week, saying Gajewski had no standing to bring the case.
Gajewski was suing on behalf of North Dakota boys younger than 18, but
he is 78 years old, and does not represent any young boys, the judge
"Although the topic is one which could result in
interesting information and analysis in the proper forum, this court has
not been presented any precedent which would persuade it that (Gajewski)
has standing to bring the action," Rustad wrote in his dismissal order.
North Dakota's state and federal courts have
taken up the issue previously.
Last September, the North Dakota Supreme Court
ruled in favor of a Fargo doctor who had circumcised an infant in March
1997. The boy's mother argued she was not told in detail about the
procedure's benefits and potential risks.
The woman, Anita Flatt of Hawley, Minn., also
had argued that North Dakota's law barring female genital mutilation did
not offer equal protection to males. The Supreme Court said Flatt did
not have standing to make that argument.
In June 1996, a Bismarck woman, Donna Fishbeck,
made similar equal-protection arguments in a federal lawsuit against the
state. Fishbeck's infant son had been circumcised with the consent of
the boy's father, even though she objected to the procedure.
U.S. District Judge Patrick Conmy dismissed the
case, ruling that Fishbeck did not have legal standing to bring the
lawsuit. A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
upheld Conmy's ruling in June 1997.
"Even if we were to declare the North Dakota
statute invalid because it is underinclusive, and even if ... we could
enter some kind of decree that would criminalize male circumcision,
there is no assurance at all that the injury claimed by Fishbeck, either
on her own behalf of on behalf of her son, would be redressed," the
appeals court's decision says.
Circumcision opponents say the foreskin protects
the penis and can enhance sexual pleasure. Gajewski, who is not
circumcised, said those benefits are being taken away without reason.
"It's unnecessary and detrimental to a male," he
said. "You destroy too much potential."
(Minot, North Dakota) ,
March 19, 1999, page B1
by Jill Schramm, Staff Writer
recommendations on circumcision reflect
what local pediatricians already tell patients
pediatricians won't be changing their advice to expectant parents in
light of new recommendations on circumcision from the American Academy
Local doctors said
the information they have been giving out is similar to the new
Academy of Pediatrics announced in a position statement March 1 that the
medical benefits of circumcising newborns aren't significant enough to
recommend it as a routine procedure. However, the group stopped short of
advising against circumcision and suggested for the first time that
newborns get pain relief.
In its last policy
statement on the issue, in 1989, the academy said circumcision has
potential medical benefits as well as risks and should be carefully
explained to parents.
Dr. Roger Allen of
Pediatric Associates in Minot said the practice of circumcising male
newborns gained popularity in the mid-1980's after a study showing
health benefits, such as reduced risk of urinary tract infection.
academy found some medical benefits of circumcision, which it considered
have a 1 in 1000 chance of getting a urinary tract infection in their
first year of life: for circumcised boys the change is 1 in 1,000.
occurs more often among uncircumcised males. But the disease is rare,
striking just 1 in 1000,000 American males a year.
pediatricians agree the health benefits are insignificant, but they note
the risks of doing the surgery also are small. About 1 in 100
circumcisions might result in a minor complication, such as bleeding or
Depending on the
circumcision method, between 1 in 10,000 or 1 in 20,000 might result in
a serious complication. Dr. Thomas Carver of Medical Arts Clinic said.
Three of the four
pediatricians at Medical Arts perform circumcisions, and Allen said any
of the doctors at Pediatric Associates will do them. Some family
practice physicians and obstetricians in Minot also perform them.
pediatricians report anywhere from fewer than half to 90 percent of
infant male patients in their practices are circumcised. They also said
the use of an anesthetic for the infants has been routine in Minot in
the past several years.
Opponents Disagree With Policy Statement
Jody McLaughlin of
Minot, who has been active in campaigning against routine circumcision,
was critical of the American Academy of Pediatrics acceptance of
cultural and religious reasons for circumcision.
acknowledging cultural factors runs counter to a
1996 federal law that
criminalizes surgical alteration of female genitals as a cultural
ritual. She also took issue with physicians performing nonmedical
procedures, even with parental consent.
academy's bioethics committee has taken
the position that medical providers have legal and ethical duties to
their child patients to render competent medical care based on what the
patient needs, not what someone else wants, she said.
Roger Allen compared circumcision to elective plastic surgeries
performed on children with parental consent.
be understanding by the family that this is a cosmetic procedure."
he said of circumcision.
Michael Larson, Editor The Minot Daily News
PO Box 1150
Minot, ND 58702
News Dept.: (701)857-1950 or (800)735-3229 News Fax: (701)857-1961
Bismarck, North Dakota
Letter to the Editor
Circumcision Violates Basic Human Rights
A Reply to Dr Gott's Column
by Duane Voskuil, PhD
Not only is routine infant
circumcision “not necessary for good health,” to quote Dr. Gott
(Bismarck Tribune 11/29/94), it violates basic human rights: The right
to grow up unmaimed with a whole, intact body and the right to
Ethically, all discussion of
potential medical benefits is irrelevant unless there are immediate and
compelling reasons that cancel the non-consenting infant’s rights.
Only healthy penises are routinely circumcised, so what right does
anyone, parent or physician, have to amputate this healthy tissue? What
moral imperative overrides the right to determine one’s own bodily
potential benefits never balance out its well-documented actual harms
and potential risks. Dr. Gott fails to mention one in 500 amputations
have serious complications--including loss of penis and even
death--according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The
psychological consequences of growing up not having one’s whole body
nor full sexual feeling are just beginning to be examined.
Even the so-called benefits Dr.
Gott mentions are wrong or misleading. Perhaps one will have fewer
problems of one kind (like balanitis), but only at the expense of others
(like meatitis, and meatal stenosis). See the AAP flyer: Care of the Uncircumcised Penis.
A slight decrease in urinary tract infections according to some studies
is denied by others, and females have four times as many UTIs as males
in any case. The slight increase in cervical cancer is related to the
number of sex partners, not circumcision. According to some local
physicians, local anesthesia is seldom used. Even with it, the baby
still experiences emotional and genital pain.
Would it be acceptable to
surgically remove female prepuces or someone’s finger if it could be
done painlessly? Non-consensual prepuce amputation is genital
mutilation. It is sexual child abuse. The adult foreskin is 15 square
inches of highly specialized, sensitive tissue which protects the glans
from desensitization. Amputation of any other healthy organ without the
individual’s consent would put the perpetrator in jail.
Infant circumcision in the U.S.
began in earnest 100 years ago to stop masturbation which was blamed for
mental and physical diseases. Clitorises were also excised for the same
reasons. A woman of Scandinavian ancestry told me this was done to her
as a three-year-old at a Wahpeton clinic. Circumcision continues for a
number of cultural reasons: It produces income; it expresses a need to
control; and it makes us reluctant to admit we’ve been mutilated by
those we love and respect, or admit we’ve maimed another we should
have protected. See Say No to
Circumcision: 40 Compelling Reasons Why you Should Respect His
Birthright and Keep Your Son Whole, available in local libraries.
In researching the origins and
ethical considerations of ritual circumcision, I’ve found most
physicians know circumcision is at best cosmetic surgery. Some believe
it is sexual child abuse. Some say the public should be told of the
inadvisability of prepuce amputation. Some say circumcisions continue
from fear of losing future business. From written correspondence and
direct conversations, the following
North Dakotans agree routine circumcisers are not providing a medically
• Rhonda Ketterling, M.D., Chair,
ND Board of Medical Examiners, Medical Director for U.S. Healthcare,
Bismarck, and practicing physician, Rugby.
• Arlene Mack, R.N., Vice President, Medcenter One, Support Services,
speaking for Medcenter One, said their physicians have agreed not to
recommend circumcisions and will explain the risks.
• Shari Orser, M.D., Chair, Department of Ob/Gyn, Medcenter One,
• Robert Wentz, M.D., pediatrician, former ND State Health
Officer, now Deputy Insurance Commissioner.
• Jon Rice, M.D., ND State Health Officer.
• Sister Mary Margaret Mooney, P.B.V.M., R.N., Professor and Chair,
Department of Nursing, University of Mary.
• Gladys Cairns, Director, ND Child Protective Services and Chair of
the Alliance for Sexual Abuse Prevention and Treatment.
• Roger Allen, M.D. neonatologist, Minot.
• Craig Shoemaker, M.D., Director of Neonatal Services and Chair,
Department of Pediatrics, Fargo Clinic MeritCare.
• Ron H. Miller, M.D., pediatrician, Fargo Clinic MeritCare.
• Alan Lindemann, M.D., Ob/Gyn, Fargo.
• Thomas W. Mausbach, M.D., former President, ND Chapter of the
American Academy of Pediatrics.
• Charles Severn, M.D., Chair, Department of Neonatology, St. Alexius
Medical Center, Bismarck.
• Connie Kalanek, M.S.N., R.N.C., Associate Professor, Medcenter One
College of Nursing.
• Robert Roswick, M.D., and Jeffrey Smith, M.D., Family Medical
• Judy Haynes, Ph.D., UND Counseling Center and clinical psychologist,
• Robert Pathroff, M.D., urologist, Bismarck.
• BlueCross BlueShield of North Dakota.
• North Dakota Medicaid.
Only 5% of the world’s people are
circumcised as infants (15% at all ages), and most are ritual
amputations. Roman Catholic Bishop John F. Kinney, Bismarck Diocese, and
Robert Lynne, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America,
Western ND, say their churches have no circumcision ritual. Many Jews
find this ritual no longer appropriate to express God’s love and
advocate symbolic substitutes. Non-Moslem countries cannot believe we
painfully disfigure 60% of our infant sons and deprive our men of this
organ. It’s past time to break the conspiracy of silence on this
Duane Voskuil, Ph.D.
Philosophy and Ethics Instructor
Bismarck State College
Seminar deems circumcision surgery without merit
Bismarck State College Mystician, Dec. 10, 1992
The main message of the circumcision seminar was to
stop letting doctors perform circumcisions on children.
Marilyn Milos, RN, the director of the National
Organization for Circumcision Information Resource Centers, was the
guest speaker for the Circumcision Seminar held at BSC, Dec. 4,
sponsored by Dr. Duane Voskuil.
Voskuil became interested in the affects of
circumcision when studying patriarchal societies and came upon
information regarding various forms of genital mutilations.
He decided to find out the reasons for these
barbaric acts. After some research, he found that circumcision has
nothing to do with medicine, so he decided to create "some social
consciousness in the community" by inviting Milos to BSC and to the U of
According to Milos, circumcisions were first done
[in the United States] to prevent masturbation, which was seen as the
cause of many diseases. Some of which are TB, polio, blindness,
headaches, gout, and the age old myth of hair on the palms of the hands.
By the turn of the 20th century, the microscope had
been invented and these diseases were found to be caused by bacteria, so
new excuses were invented. Hygiene was blamed [the next excuse] for male
and female circumcisions, and [supposedly preventing] penile cancer for
males was another.
In the 50's it was thought that women with
uncircumcised husbands had a high risk of cervical cancer. This was a
statement without fact.
A more recent fallacy s that men are at a greater
risk for AIDS if they are not circumcised. The United States has the
highest AIDS rate and circumcision rate in the world. Circumcisions at
this time are [mainly] done by English speaking countries.
Studies show that 38 percent of women have no idea
if their husbands are circumcised and 34 percent of men share this
concept. Very few Americans have ever seen a normal penis.
A normal penis, as Milos describes it, has a head
that is meant to be an internal organ with a protective covering called
the foreskin. This is what is cut away during circumcision. After this
is cut away the head is exposed to urine, feces, diapers, and underwear.
There is much irritation from friction at first. The head becomes
calloused and causes lack of sensation.
After circumcision, many males complain of loss of
sensitivity, tightness during erection where the scar site is, and that
it alters normal sexual functions.
Milos states that "there is no medical
indication for routine circumcisions of the newborn... It is a
cutting off of normal healthy human tissue. Circumcision is only done by
someone trying to control. This has become a human rights issue for all
Milos is an authority on circumcision and has spoke
at The International Congress on Pre‑ and Perninatal Psychology, and has
been a guest on radio and TV programs including Nightline and Donahue.
Politics of circumcision were discussed, as were
different doctor's opinions.
After the seminar there was a question and answer
time, and then a video on circumcision. The video after the seminar made
women as well as men cross their legs. It showed baby boys undergoing
circumcisions and young girls having clitoridectomies.