Academy clarifies position denouncing all forms of female genital cutting
- Copyright © 2010, The American Academy of Pediatrics
Reaffirming its strong opposition to female genital cutting (FGC), the AAP Board of Directors retired a recent policy statement on FGC and replaced it with another statement clearly denouncing the practice.
The original version, Ritual Genital Cutting of Female Minors, from the AAP Committee on Bioethics, was published in May Pediatrics and featured in AAP News (http://aapnews.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/31/5/31). Updated from a 1998 version, the statement detailed the health risks of FGC, provided historical perspective and urged members to counsel families not to have such procedures performed.
However, confusion ensued when a few sentences were mistakenly interpreted as endorsing a milder version of FGC for some immigrant girls who could be returned to their home countries for more severe forms of the practice.
The controversy ignited wide discussion via telephone calls, letters and blog posts from all over the map.
On May 27, after hearing from members and others, the AAP Board of Directors and leaders responded by retiring the statement and replacing it with the following:
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reaffirms its strong opposition to female genital cutting (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.
The AAP is steadfast in its goal of protecting all young girls from the harms of FGC.
AAP President Judith S. Palfrey, M.D., FAAP, emphasized that the Academy’s goal is to protect the health and well-being of all children.
“The May 2010 statement aired some important controversies in the field about how to end these practices worldwide,” said Dr. Palfrey. “Unfortunately, the discussion about the controversial ‘ritual nick’ led to confusion and misinterpretation of our policy.”
She said the Academy published the clarification to reaffirm that the Academy is “opposed to all forms of female genital cutting including the ritual nick,” whether it is in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world.
The practice of FGC is widespread, with 4 to 5 million girls being subjected each year to dangerous procedures, according to Dr. Palfrey. She said the discussion has increased worldwide awareness about this issue.