Prop Zero
The Starting Point for Commentary and Coverage of California Politics

On Circumcision: Mend It, Don't End It

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The following is not a joke: a group of activists in San Francisco has qualified a ballot initiative to outlaw the circumcision of infants in that city -- and is working on a similar ban in Santa Monica.

    They say that infants are being coerced into participating in a procedure that carries health risks and is akin to female genital mutilation in Africa. The San Francisco initiative would make circumcision a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine.

    Reaction: Setting aside your views on circumcision, this ban is dumb politics and policy.

    A ban on anything, much less circumcision, is a sure-fire loser. Ban something and it's sure to attract nasty opposition. Especially in California.

    Jewish groups, for example, are already preparing to challenge the measure as a violation of constitutional protections on religious freedom. Plus, a ban comes with built-in new costs for government - a bad idea in budget items as lean as these. Who would enforce the ban? An expensive new health care bureaucracy?

    No, if you want to reduce circumcision, there's a better way: Tax it.

    Californians, particularly in coastal cities like San Francisco and Santa Monica, are desperate for new revenues to support government. A circumcision tax would make a stable source of revenues (at least for as long as Californians keep having boys. And a tax isn't an attack on anyone's cultural or religious practice.

    If you don't want to pay the tax, have your child circumcised in a city where it's still legal. 

    A tax also is a better bet for changing behavior. Californians love to do things that are against the law (there's a reason why the marijuana business grew up here). But we hate paying taxes.

    See our complete coverage of the proposed Santa Monica ban here.