CITYWIDE — In response to the rising backlash against a proposed initiative that would have made circumcision for minors a criminal act, the main proponent of the measure announced her intention to withdraw the measure Monday.
Jena Troutman, administrator of www.wholebabyrevolution.com and certified lactation educator, said that it was never her intention to get into the “religious aspect” of the circumcision debate. Jewish groups feel the initiative is an attack on their religion, which calls for infants to be circumcised.
“You’ve got to do what’s right for the city that you’re in and I think that I could do something much better that’s more representative of what we want locally to inform parents that the procedure is not recommended by the National Academy of Pediatrics,” Troutman said.
Troutman submitted the original petition, entitled the Santa Monica MGM Bill Ballot Initiative, on May 19. She would have had 180 days after publishing information about the bill to collect over 6,000 signatures.
Had she done that, the measure — which would have made circumcising a child under the age of 18 a misdemeanor offense punishable by a $1,000 fine or a year in jail — would have gone on the November 2012 ballot.
However, the hue and cry raised within the religious community, and what she felt was a misrepresentation of her goals by news media, caused Troutman to seek another way of furthering her real agenda.
“It’s about educating parents that they have options,” Troutman said. “That’s the goal.”
The initiative that Troutman submitted to the Santa Monica City Clerk’s Office in May was written by a San Diego-based group called MGMbill.org, headed by Matthew Hess.
It’s the same group that wrote the measure to ban circumcision that will be on the ballot in San Francisco this November.
Hess is also the author of a comic book called “Foreskin Man,” which depicts a blonde superhero taking on a character called “Monster Mohel.”
A mohel is a Jewish religious figure that performs the bris ceremony in which eight-day-old infants are circumcised.
Hess, of MGMbill.org, could not be reached for comment.
Troutman found the organization and requested the initiative so that she could submit it in Santa Monica because it was the only group she could find that was trying to fight circumcision on a legislative level.
“I wanted to take a step that could immediately impact our doctors here in Santa Monica to not perform unnecessary circumcision,” she said.
Since the proposed ban in San Francisco is forcing the conversation about circumcision nationwide, she felt that her measure would be “redundant.”
Instead, she intends to focus on informing parents that they have other choices than circumcision when their babies are born.
“I’m not a politician, just a mom who cares,” Troutman said.
Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels, of Beth Shir Shalom in Santa Monica, called the decision “wonderful news.”
“I’m stunned, but pleasantly so, because it sought to make circumcision criminal in Santa Monica, which was pretty horrible,” Comess-Daniels said.
The bris ceremony is a fulfillment of a covenant with God in the Jewish faith. Some Muslim sects also perform circumcision for religious reasons.
The initiative, as worded, was a breach of separation between church and state, and a violation of rights, Comess-Daniels said, and he praised Troutman for making the decision to end it.
“It’s not an easy thing to take a public stance and retract it,” Comess-Daniels said. “I give her credit for that, and I hope it’s the last we see of this.”
Mayor Richard Bloom, who announced the news on his Facebook page shortly after Troutman called him to tell him of her decision, said that when the initiative is formally off the table, it will be time to fight the San Francisco version.
“From my perspective, this is definitely a positive thing for Santa Monica, but it’s still pending in San Francisco. Now that it won’t be moving forward here, those that are strongly opposed to this will need to turn our attention to San Francisco to defeat it there,” Bloom said.