Safe, legal, and rare.
We’ve all heard this phrase at one time or another regarding abortion. The debate in popular culture changes, however, when you apply this phrase to female genital cutting, also known as female genital mutilation, female circumcision, or FGM. Incredibly, healthcare professionals have tried to curb the prevalence and danger of this heinous deed by making it “safe, legal, and rare.”
Female genital mutilation is most prevalent in Africa and areas in the Middle East. To describe this as non-graphically as possible: the practice involves removal or other injury to external female genitalia, including the clitoris, labia minora, and labia majora. Other forms include narrowing the passageway to the vagina and ceremonial pricks. While some people argue that there are health benefits to male circumcision, it is irrefutable that health is not improved by FGM. The only result from this practice is pain and long-lasting harm. According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 140 million girls and women who have endured FGM, and the practice is becoming more common in western nations due to the influx of immigrants.
It is obvious that female genital mutilation is a crime against humanity – especially considering that the girls and women affected usually have no say in the matter. Despite the heinous nature of the procedure, in 2010, the American Academy of Pediatrics proposed that an altered form of FGM – the ceremonial pinprick – should be legal and performed by a licensed physician. That’s right. The “safe, legal, and rare” rhetoric of abortion was applied to female genital mutilation.
Opponents, including Georganne Chapin from the advocacy group Intact America, pleaded against the measure, saying "There are countries in the world that allow wife beating, slavery and child abuse, but we don’t allow people to practice those customs in this country. We don’t let people have slavery a little bit because they’re going to do it anyway, or beat their wives a little bit because they’re going to do it anyway."
It is astonishing how closely this debate parallels the abortion debate. Proponents of legalized abortion claim that the results of illegal abortions will be worse than legal and "safe" abortions, and so the moral question is shoved aside. Pro-life advocates feel that the heinous nature of abortion outweighs the potential back-alley tragedies that might occur following illegalization. In both cases, society-wide problems drive the crime. In both cases, the victims are often young. In both cases, the practices come from a male-driven patriarchal society. Abortion and FGM are both used to oppress girls and women, and both are human rights violations.
If it is preposterous for female genital mutilation to be “safe, legal, and rare,” then why is the deliberate killing of a human person in abortion legal?
(Note: The AAP quickly retracted their proposal after the massive outcry against FGM. The academy asserts that they do not condone any form of female genital mutilation.)