Circumcision rates are falling at least slightly in all areas of the U.S., but right now they're especially dipping in 13 states out West, including California, Oregon, Colorado and Hawaii. Across the 50 states, a bit over half of all newborn boys get circumcised these days, quite a drop from the nearly 70 percent who were circumcised back in 1979. But most of that downward change can be attributed to the 37 percent drop in the West over the last few years.
According to a new report, the rates in the Northeast were pretty much the same as they've always been. In the Midwest, the rates dropped a bit, though back in the late '90s the rate was over 80 percent. In the early 2000s, the Midwest hit a low of 68 percent. In the South, rates increased slightly.
Medicaid also dropped coverage of the procedure in 18 states.
So what is it about the West that's got so many baby boys intact? It's not really a lefty liberal do-gooder thing, since the decline has also happened in tough guy red states like Wyoming and Montana. Perhaps, authors of the study speculate, the place of circumcision is shifting from hospitals to religious centers for ritual foreskin removal. This study only accounts for circumcisions taking place in hospitals. (It's unclear whether medical clinics count as hospitals, but a recent report on NPR found that, for cost reasons, some doctors are sending patients to clinics instead of more expensive hospitals for the routine procedure.) Medicaid also dropped coverage of the procedure in 18 states, including some of those out West.
It's possible activists who tried to outlaw the tradition a couple of years ago in San Francisco and Santa Monica changed a few minds. Though their initiative failed, some of the arguments may have convinced—or created pressure on—parents to pass up the quick surgery. Or did the American Academy of Pediatrics convince parents who were on the fence about circumcision to stand down when it issued its statement of ambivalence on the subject?
These reasons could have changed the numbers somewhat. But probably what accounts the most for the drop is the growing size of non-Anglo populations in the western states. The surgery isn't standard procedure in Latino and Asian cultures, while it is in Jewish and Muslim ones, and Latinos and Asians make up the fastest-growing kid populations in most of the western states. The routines after giving birth are simply shifting.
So call me mainstream! My son is the only of my children born in the West (also the only one born with a penis), and we opted against circumcision since we had no religious, cultural or medical reasons to get it done. What about you? Do your circumcision habits match those of your region?