Jaha Dukureh, American campaigner against FGMUS government statistics show that more than half a million girls and women are at risk of female genital mutilation or its consequences in the United States. This figure has tripled over the last 25 years as a result of increased migration from countries where FGM is common.
The practice has been banned in the US for girls under 18 since 1996, when Congress passed the Federal Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act.
“It’s the 21st century and I think no one should be forced to be go through something like this,” Jaha Dukureh, a FGM-survivor from Gambia who has been campaigning on the issue, told The Guardian. “No child should be forced to undergo this.”
However, it became apparent that some families were circumventing the ban by returning to their countries of origin (commonly known as “vacation cutting”). So in 2013, another law, the Transport for Female Genital Mutilation Act, made it a crime to knowingly transport a girl out of the United States for FGM.
The report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 513,000 women and girls were at risk in 2012, the last year for which figures are available.
However, it is important to stress that no figures are available for how many actually underwent FGM. Most of the increase since the first estimate in 1990 has come from second-generation women and girls born in the US. In Europe, the risk of FGM for second-generation is relatively slight because immigrants tend to assimilate to the surrounding culture.
However, the huge increase may signal a need for appropriate healthcare – physical, emotional, psychosocial – for women at risk.
The Atlantic recently published a feature about the early days of artificial reproductive technology. The headline was: “The First Artificial Insemination Was an Ethical Nightmare: The 19th-century procedure involved lies, a secrecy pledge, and sperm from a surprise donor”.
It turns out that the first pregnancy with artificial insemination (at least in the US) was in 1855 in New York but it ended in a miscarriage. The first successful pregnancy with the same method took place in Philadelphia in 1884.
The patient was a married woman whose husband was infertile because of venereal disease. Without seeking the consent of either husband or wife, the doctor anaesthetised her and inseminated her with the sperm of one of his medical students. The women never discovered the truth and the students were sworn to secrecy.
However, when her baby was a 25-year-old businessman one of the students published his recollections of the event (after contacting the child). As far as he was concerned, artificial insemination was a eugenic boon, “a race-uplifting procedure”, which would produce children of “wonderful mental endowments” instead of “half-witted, evil-inclined, disease-disposed offspring”.
The author of the article in The Atlantic was amused by the old-fashioned lies, secrecy and donor anonymity. But has any of that changed? Most children born from contemporary reproductive technologies are “genetic orphans”. Most parents shop for donors who will confer “wonderful mental endowments” upon their offspring. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
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