This is a guest post by Elizabeth Reis, professor of women’s and gender studies at the University of Oregon. Professor Reis is the author of Bodies in Doubt: An American History of Intersex (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009). This year (2012-2103) she is a visiting scholar in the History of Science Department at Harvard University.
The American Academy of Pediatricians recently released a statement saying that the health benefits of circumcision outweighed the risks. This pronouncement contradicts the Academy’s earlier ruling, just thirteen years ago in 1999, which stated unequivocally that the health benefits of the procedure were slim. The 1999 statement reversed a previous one made in 1989 that said there were good medical reasons for it; but a few years earlier, in 1971, the Academy had officially concluded that it was not a medical necessity. Clearly, circumcision is one of those surgeries about which opinion shifts back and forth over the years.
A couple of weeks ago The New York Times ran an article that asked its readers, “are midwives becoming trendy, like juice cleanses and Tom’s shoes?” Turns out, yes. At least for “the famous and the fashionable.” Although the article highlights an increased social acceptance of midwifery, the idea of midwives as being the marker of… Read more →
So far, 2012 has seen state legislators proposing an unprecedented number of bills aimed at regulating women’s access to various reproductive health services, including mammograms, annual pap smears to detect cervical cancer, contraceptives, and abortion, as well as women’s ability to pay for these services through private and public insurance providers. The underlying assumption in all of this health legislation is that women are unable to make informed, responsible decisions about their bodies unless they are mandated to do so by the state. A parallel implication is that even the physicians treating these women are incapable of making medically appropriate decisions without state interference. Medical professionals finally began fighting back on this political trespassing on their terrain just this week.
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