2012-05-07

Chris Maurer: Exposing misinformation and lies by omission

Chris Mauerer is a lawyer and child rights activist living in Houston, Texas. He is optimistic that the message of the Intactivist Movement will ultimately prevail, because it is based on not only the moral high ground, but also on rational arguments, a sound medical basis, and a desire to expose misinformation.

Transcript
(slightly modified)

My name is Chris Mauerer. I live in Houston, Texas. I'm a Republican; I'm a conservative. In fact, I consider Ronald Reagan to be the greatest president in my lifetime if not our greatest president ever! Even people who disagreed with his policies I think respected the fact that he made it clear what he wanted to do and endeavored to do it, and he had a certain amount of respect; I think he was singularly responsible for the fall of the Soviet Union, and I think he did a wonderful job reviving the American economy as well as America's pride and stature in the world.

Like a lot of the sophomores, I must have been 19 or 20 at the University of Wisconsin. I just came across an article (or something in a textbook) on circum­cision, and all of a sudden it just dawned on me what had happened that day back when I was 3 or 4 years old: I had gone to the public health department for an immunization, and heard screaming coming on and on and on. Well, I just remember thinking at the time:

“Boy that must be really a big kid in there! It must be somebody 10 years old, maybe.”

because it was just so loud, and it went on and on and on, and it was a large waiting room, and of course the door is shut from where the waiting room adjoins the doctor's offices, and then down the hall there was another closed door. So, the [child] was in the examining room, [whose] door was closed, and then [secluded more by] a little hallway, and then [by] that [second] door [that] was closed, and we were out in the waiting room, and [yet] it was just horrific having to listen to that.

Finally, the door opened and a woman walked out carrying a baby in a white blanket, and there were tears running down the mother's eyes as she briskly walked out of the public health department, and [now] it was my turn to go in for my immunization. Needless to say, I was a little bit reluctant to walk through the door that the baby had just come out of!

I just was convinced that it was never going to happen to any baby boy that I had, and it wasn't.

In 2009, I saw Georgeanne Chapin on MSNBC at I guess it was the AIDS conference in Atlanta. Nancy Snyderman, the medical host from MSNBC was the moderator, and there was a pediatrician, and Georgeanne was debating the pediatrician, and I thought: “Well, that's what I have always thought! That's what I have always said in private conversations!”, and so I started donating a little bit of money to Intact America and to NOCIRC, and talked to Marilyn Milos.

I got a call from a friend of mine, asking me if I would appear on Fox News. I said:

“Well, sure!”—and I'm thinking it must be a week or 2 from now—“When?”

Tonight!

That was very odd, in retrospect. The host sat me down at this desk, and pointed at this bank of monitors and said: “Look right here; we're going to be starting shortly,” and then she walked off with the doctor into another room, in another area, with the door shut. So, I'm sitting there all by myself in this cavernous room, just cooling my heels—sitting there by myself, nervous—and then the monitors all go on[.] I'm looking at myself in one monitor, and there [are] other things that are going on, and I'm not quite sure where to look—

“10, 9, 8, 7…”

and we're on the air as far as I know!

Melinda Spaulding

Circumcision is medically unnecessary, painful, and risky. But, some experts say there is a medical benefit. In tonight's Fox In Focus: Is there really a need for boys to be circumcised? We're joined by:

  • Dr. Steven Canfield, program director of urology at UTHealth medical school, and chief of urology at LBJ General Hospital,

  • and also lawyer and child rights activist Chris Maurer. He's from the group National Organization of Circumcision

Well, we talked in the parking lot for a while. [Dr. Canfield] was actually not really pro-circumcision; he was more or less just circling the wagons and spouting the party line, and he basically made a comment on the air about how circumcision decreases the risk of HIV by 50%:

Melinda Spaulding

Doctor, I'll give you the last word on this.

Steven Canfield

Sure. In addition to penile cancer, there's the prevention of the spread of HIV. In fact, 3 large randomized trials have been done in Africa, which clearly showed when the data was combined that the circumcision in heterosexual men reduced the risk of HIV development by 50%! That's huge!

Out in the parking lot he said those studies in Africa have no applicability to the United States, and [that] those people in Africa, they've got a tremendous epidemic of AIDS, and they're just grasping at straws. Then he went on to say that obstetricians have no business doing circumcisions and that performing circumcisions on infants without anesthesia is barbaric.

He probably didn't want to offend any of his colleagues there at his hospital—of course, [in his defense], he answered the questions he was asked; he wasn't asked those questions on the air, but he certainly didn't volunteer that information, either.

I sent out that video to a lot of clients and associates and family members. I haven't received any negative feedback from anyone; I was little surprised by that, actually. Some of the women in my office [said things like]:

“I had my child when I was 20, and I just didn't know any better; I was young, and I didn't know anything.”

They were apologetic about what they had done. So, I think [culture] is changing.

We teach our kids about peer pressure: “If everyone is jumping in the lake, would you?” Yet, a lot of parents don't apply those principles to themselves, at least when it comes to the issue of circumcision—they do it because everybody else is doing it!

If an 18 year old wants to be circumcised, I don't care! That's his business. But, the circumcision of minors—to me—is just unacceptable.

If there really are these health benefits, then make that presentation to a person when he's 18! If these benefits really exist, you'll have men standing in line to be circumcised; quite frankly, I think the reason they do it to babies is because they know they'd never be able to pursuade an adult to consent.

Circumcision to prevent AIDS?

From what I understand, there's a misrepresentation [being made to men] that [by being circumcised] they're receiving a "surgical vaccine", so these [African] men are consenting, but it's based on intentional misrepresentation by these health care providers that are receiving massive amounts of funding from the United States government as well as from the Gates Foundation and other private organizations [to do as many circumcisions as possible].

I would like to think that people are well intentioned and [that] they mean well—that nobody is intentionally pulling the wool over men's eyes—but I don't really know. I think people sometimes get deluded into believing that what they're doing is right, without really examining it. So, I can't really speak to the motivation of the pro-circers in Africa; I mean, there is a problem with HIV, obviously, but [the solution is] through abstinence or use of condoms or monogomy. I mean, that's the solution to it, not—as the pro-circers “jokingly” talk about: Whacking foreskins—I mean, that's just un­acceptable.

We [intactivists] have the moral high ground. We have the rational arguments. We have the medical basis. So, the pro-circers really have little—if anything—to rely on other than misinformation, and that needs to be exposed. So, to the extent I can help with that, I look forward to doing that.

I usually keep some circumcision literature in my bag with me, and when I see a pregnant woman, I just hand her a brochure, and normally I get one of 2 responses:

  • “Well, I'm having a girl”, in which case I say: “Well, give this to one of your friends whose having a boy.”

  • “Thank you!”

So, any little difference you can make, some baby some day will give you a silent “Thank you.”

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