June 1, 2010 — The American Academy of Pediatrics has rescinded a controversial policy statement that condemned the practice of female genital mutilation but suggested physicians might consider a clitoral "pricking" procedure to "satisfy cultural requirements" and prevent families from sending girls overseas for more severe forms of FGM, CNN reports.
AAP President Judith Palfrey said, "We retracted the policy because it is important that the world health community understand the AAP is totally opposed to all forms of female genital cutting, both here in the U.S. and anywhere else in the world." AAP also clarified that pricking or nicking a girl's genitals is illegal under a 1996 federal law prohibiting FGM.
A bill (HR 5137) by Reps. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) would amend the current federal law to criminalize sending a girl overseas for FGM. According to an analysis of 2000 Census data by the African Women's Health Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital, an estimated 228,000 U.S. women and girls have experienced or are at risk for FGM.
Lakshmi Anantnarayan -- a spokesperson for Equality Now, which works to end FGM -- said, "We welcome the AAP's decision to withdraw its 2010 policy statement," adding, "This is a crucial step forward in the movement to raise awareness about" FGM (Chen, CNN, 5/27).
L.A. Times Editorial Praises Policy Retraction
As the "result of years of work by local and international activists," thousands of villages in Gambia, Mauritania, Senegal and Somalia have announced that they will end FGM in their communities, a Los Angeles Times editorial states. AAP "blundered" by wading into "this delicate international effort," the editorial says, adding that the organization should be "commend[ed]" for retracting its recent policy statement on FGM. In doing so, AAP "heed[ed] the pleas of activists in the field and women who have survived the horrific procedure" of FGM, the editorial says. It concludes, "Pediatricians have an important role to play as well, but it is to explain to parents why cutting is forbidden here -- detailing the health problems it creates for girls and emphasizing the legal consequences parents face by having it done to their daughters" (Los Angeles Times, 5/29).