Not just any penises, mind you, but an effort by the nanny staters of San Francisco to ban male circumcision.
These activists call circumcision "male genital mutilation." They point out that it is extremely painful, although I can't personally speak to that because it has been over 64 years since I was snipped. They also believe that circumcision is a breach of human rights and violates something called "body integrity."
The activists are collecting signature for a ballot measure on a law of highly dubious constitutionality that would make it "unlawful to circumcise, excise, cut, or mutilate the whole or any part of the foreskin, testicles, or penis" of anyone 17 or younger in San Francisco. Under the proposal, a person who violates the proposed ban could be jailed for not more than one year or fined not more than $1,000. Exemptions for religious reasons would not be allowed.
The sharper pencils among you will ask what's the difference between male circumcision and female genital mutilation as practiced in Northwest Africa, the Near East and Southeast Asia, although not in San Francisco or elsewhere in the so-called civilized world.
The best answer that I can offer is that Jews and Muslims circumcise males shortly after birth as a rite of passage, while the prevailing medical view is that the health advantages of circumcision outweigh the risks. From available evidence, it has no substantial effect on sexual infection and has extremely low complication rate.
The comparison of male circumcision to female circumcision is inapt because the latter includes whole or partial removal of the clitoris and sometimes the vagina is sewn shut. The underlying cultural need is less religious than to control women and their sexuality.
My own bottom line is simple: In what instances does a city, or for that matter a state or the feds, have the right to tell us what we can and cannot do?
A good example are laws requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets for the stated reason that traumatic head injuries from motorcycle crashes put an outsized and unnecessary burden on the health-care system, as well as the unstated reason that some people are too stupid or vain to wear helmets.
Another good example are smoking laws because it is well established that second-hand smoke, whether in a restaurant or wherever, is toxic. You wanna blow out your lungs and destroy your heart? Fine, but do it in private.
Circumcision would seem to be different. It puts no burden on the health-care system and you can't die from it, but by my lights San Francisco or anyplace else, for that matter, doesn't have the right to tell parents that they can't get little Abe or Johnny sliced.
As it is, my son is not circumcised, a decision that his mother and I made, were not forced to make and would have deeply resented being told what we had to do or not do.