For several hours on the morning of January 25, 2024, the New Hampshire legislative Committee on House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs heard public testimony on two proposed circumcision-related bills. House Bill1683 would remove financial incentives for hospitals to submit Medicaid reimbursements for routine, cosmetic infant circumcision.  House Bill1706 – similar to the Circumcision Transparency Act proposed in New York State – would establish concrete guidelines for strengthening the informed consent process with regard to parental decision-making.

Man sitting in front of microphone

GALDEF co-founder Mathew Goodwin testifies in front of the New Hampshire House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee on January 25, 2024.

Intaction founder Anthony Losquadro skillfully worked with Republican Representative Emily Phillips (Rockingham District 7) to introduce the two bills. Phillips expressed regret about having her own son circumcised due to inadequate informed consent.

Among provisions of HB1706: no health care provider shall solicit a parent for circumcision of their child or cite non-medical reasons for circumcision (e.g., “looking like Daddy”); requires dual consent when there are two parents; makes it impermissible to cite a diagnosis of phimosis (since a non-retractile foreskin is a normal developmental condition in almost all newborns and children); and requires that parents be given the choice to opt in to allow their son’s severed foreskin to be donated to hospitals – rather than current default of making them opt out –  which often sell the child’s purloined foreskin tissue to biotechnology companies without disclosing this to parents (see The Foreskin Industry). When Losquadro testified to the existence of a commercial market for severed neonatal foreskins, several legislators expressed strong interest in knowing more. The bill also requires hospitals to provide parents with accurate guidance for care of the intact foreskin.

Under HB1706 consent forms must state in bold 12 point type that newborn circumcision is a medically unnecessary cosmetic procedure. Forms must advise that the foreskin constitutes up to 50% of the penile shaft skin, which in the adult, comprises about 15 square inches of sexually sensitive tissue that protects the head of the penis, and warns that the child may want an intact penis and may resent the parents’ circumcision decision.

GALDEF’s Tim Hammond submitted written testimony to the Committee in advance of the hearing, which detailed findings from his three published surveys about long-term harm from newborn circumcision. Additional written testimonies were provided by Doctors Opposing Circumcision and Attorneys for the Rights of the Child.

Over two dozen attendees offered compelling testimony in support of the bills. GALDEF co-founder Mathew Goodwin (pictured) shared with the Committee some of the alarming findings from his soon-to-be-published survey of newborn circumcision consent forms that he obtained from over 40 hospitals in Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire and other New England states.

Testimonies in support of the informed consent bill included a father who regretted having his son circumcised, as well as several circumcision sufferers. Rep. Santonastaso (Republican-District 18) expressed support for the need to warn parents that their son may resent this permanent genital alteration. He shared how his relationship with his own mother suffers in part from her decision to have him circumcised and how he personally resents his own circumcision. In his testimony he cited  “emerging evidence of long-term physical, sexual, emotional and psychological harm” and referred to “circumcision sufferers,” a term coined by Tim Hammond that was used in Hammond’s written testimony. Santonastaso added “All circumcisions where a person doesn’t desire it is a botched circumcision” and referenced some men committing suicide because of their circumcision, which he referred to as a “brutal assault” experienced by the baby.

Moving testimonies also came from Georganne Chapin (Intact America) and attorney David Llewellyn. Llewellyn stated that newborn circumcision is unique in that it’s the only medically unnecessary surgery that permanently removes a normal body part from a normal child and which is actively solicited by hospitals without parents first requesting it.

Other topics raised during the hearings included the high rate of circumcision complications requiring revision surgeries by pediatric urologists, as well as the dangers of premature forced foreskin retraction (PFFR), which often leads to later circumcisions.

In opposing the bills, one retired OBGYN agreed that circumcision is elective and painful but opined that the government should not interfere with medical practice. Countering this argument, Rep. Cushman reminded the physician that regulation of the practice of medicine and licensure to practice was created by the legislature, which has every right to create rules that practitioners agree to abide by under that license. Precedent also exists regarding government imposed human rights protections for subjects involved in medical research, with an increased requirement for protections when children are involved. Another legislator added that governments can compel medical professionals to convey certain information to parents, citing as an example Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Woman seated in front of microphone provides testimony

Professor of Sociology Lauren Sardi provides testimony in support of New Hampshire HB1683 and HB1706 on January 25, 2024.

Many who opposed the consent bill failed to grasp the distinction between informed consent and proxy consent. This was clarified by Lauren Sardi, Professor of Sociology and Director of Women’s & Gender Studies at Quinnipiac University (pictured), who stated that “informed consent” applies only to those capable of giving consent to surgery, whether that surgery is necessary or elective. Both she and Losquadro reminded legislators that what parents actually provide in newborn circumcision is only “proxy consent,” which is not ethically valid and perhaps legally questionable with regard to permanent and irreversible elective (i.e., unnecessary) surgery on a minor child.

Rep. Layon asked if it wouldn’t be more prudent to move to a paradigm of offering “circumcision on request” rather than the current method of soliciting every parent of a male newborn for circumcision, under the presumption that parents want this. As many intactivists know, if a doctor offers something, patients generally believe that it must be a good thing. Some legislators and those testifying expressed openness to this approach.

One legislator asked very broadly if a witness believed in “parental rights.”  It was quickly pointed out that parental choice and their presumed “rights” are not absolute, especially with regard to surgical interventions that are medically unnecessary and potentially harmful.

GALDEF Advisory Council member Mathew Goodwin reported that he believed the Committee seemed to support both bills. If HB1683 passes, New Hampshire would join 17 other U.S. states that prohibit Medicaid programs from reimbursement for non-therapeutic newborn circumcision. If HB1706 passes it could become a model consent law for the rest of the nation. The bills will likely be referred to subcommittee for modification before being brought to the full house for final approval. No date has yet been set for follow-up hearings. A video of the complete hearings is here.

Hammond believes that GALDEF’s background work and collaboration with groups like Intaction is a necessary part of building a strong genital autonomy movement. Your generous donation today will help GALDEF to continue this valuable aspect of its advocacy work.

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