Democratic 2020 candidate takes stand on circumcision. What are ‘intactivists’?

Presidential hopefuls are setting themselves apart from each other ahead of 2020’s Democratic primary with bold stands on health care, climate change and reparations for slavery.

Now, voters can add circumcision to the list.

Andrew Yang, best known for his signature proposal to give every adult American a $1,000 monthly universal basic income, said on Twitter last week that he opposes circumcision.

Yang made the pronouncement in response to a Twitter user who asked on March 13: “Do you have an opinion on routine infant circumcision?”

“Negative on it,” Yang responded, following up to clarify that he is “against the practice.”

Yang is a 44-year-old New York technology entrepreneur, and the son of immigrant parents from Taiwan who met at the University of California, Berkeley, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. He also founded Venture for America, a program that has supported entrepreneurs across the United States since Yang conceived the idea in 2011, according to the group’s website.

In an interview this week, Yang went even further in explaining his circumcision rationale — saying that he is “highly aligned with the intactivists,” a movement of anti-circumcision activists who prefer newborns’ penises be kept “intact,” the Daily Beast reports.

“History will prove them even more correct,” Yang said of “intactivists,” the Daily Beast reports.

Yang “did not address whether he’s circumcised himself,” according to the publication.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded in 2014 that the benefits of the foreskin removal procedure — including a possibly lower risk of catching sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV — outweigh the risks, which the CDC said are low and include inflammation and minor bleeding, Reuters reported.

Intactivists look at the matter differently.

“We have no right as parents or as physicians or adults to strap them down and chop off a normal part of their body,” Georgeanne Chapin of the anti-circumcision group Intact America said in 2012, according to NPR. “To do that is a human rights violation and an ethical travesty.”

Chapin’s comments came after the American Academy of Pediatrics said it’s best to circumcise newborns, which was a conclusion Chapin said relied on “cherry-picking” evidence, NPR reported.

Yang also questioned the evidence doctors and health agencies in the United States have cited in their support for the procedure on newborns.

“From what I’ve seen, the evidence on it being a positive health choice for the infant is quite shaky,” said Yang, according to the Daily Beast, adding that if he becomes president he would aim to “inform parents that it is entirely up to them whether their infant gets circumcised, and that there are costs and benefits either way.”

Circumcision rates have fallen in the U.S. in recent decades, with a high of 64.9 percent of newborns circumcised in 1981 and a low of 55.4 percent in 2007, the CDC said in 2010. The World Health Organization describes the practice as “almost universal in the Middle East and Central Asia, and in Muslim Asian countries, such as Indonesia, Pakistan and Bangladesh” — but few newborns in Europe are circumcised today, unless they are Jewish or Muslim, according to the organization.

“The more choice we give parents, and the more we diminish the possible preconceptions or misinformation various parents are receiving, then the better off we’ll be as a society,” Yang said, according to the Daily Beast.

Yang isn’t necessarily a fringe candidate: FiveThirtyEight, which tracks political polls, published a “belated” run down of his candidacy on Tuesday, acknowledging that he “now looks likely to qualify for the Democratic primary debates this summer.”

The Chronicle reports that Yang is polling at about 1 percent (roughly the same as New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand), and about 66,000 people have donated more than $350,000 to his underdog campaign so far in March.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader