Circumcision Opponent Abandons Santa Monica Ballot Initiative

The proponent of a proposition aimed at banning circumcision in Santa Monica has abandoned her effort to put the question to voters in the beachfront city before beginning to collect any signatures.

Jena Troutman, a lactation consultant and self-described “children’s rights advocate,” said on June 6 that she has decided not to move forward with the petition because of what she called the media’s misrepresentation of her efforts as an attack on religious freedom.

“It shouldn’t have been about religion in the first place,” Troutman said in an interview. “Ninety-five percent of people aren’t doing it for religious reasons, and with everyone from The New York Times to Glenn Beck focusing on the religious issue, it’s closing Americans down to the conversation.”

Troutman was featured prominently in an article in The New York Times on May 5 about attempts to ban circumcision in two California cities. A mother of two, Troutman runs the Web site, which she describes as an educational resource for parents considering circumcision.

Troutman first submitted the proposed ballot initiative aimed at prohibiting “Genital Cutting of Male Minors” to the Santa Monica City Clerk on May 19, just days after a ballot measure proposing an identical law qualified for the November 2011 ballot in San Francisco.

In San Francisco, proponents collected more than 12,000 signatures in the 180-day period allotted to them. Troutman would have had to publish the text of the proposed ballot initiative in the Santa Monica Daily Press before collecting signatures.

Troutman said she does not intend to place the ad, nor will she collect signatures to support it.

Troutman said she was specifically distancing herself from the legal language used in both cities’ ballot measures and composed by the group, a San Diego-based organization led by Matthew Hess.

Hess recently gained notoriety when media outlets began reporting about a comic book he created called “Foreskin Man,” which was criticized by the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish groups as anti-Semitic.

“While I do support the human right to bodily integrity and genital autonomy that the group is working toward, I’m not part of that organization,” Troutman said.

“It’s not a bill that I’m comfortable backing anymore,” Troutman added.

Troutman said she had left a voicemail message for Hess informing him of her decision. Hess could not be reached for comment but tipped his hat to Troutman on his twitter feed (@MGMBill) on June 6. “Thanks for everything, Jena,”  he tweeted. “We’ll make you proud in San Francisco.”

Troutman did say that she was concerned about the effect her withdrawal might have on the movement to stop circumcision as a whole.

“I just don’t want to do anything that’s going to hurt the effort in San Francisco, because it’s a conversation that needs to happen. ”

Lloyd Schofield, the main backer of the San Francisco ballot measure, said on June 6 that he had not been aware of Troutman’s decision to withdraw but said he understood why she might pull out.

“It’s a lot of pressure, and she’s got a family,” Schofield said. “It’s unfortunate, because I think that Jena is a deeply motivated person.”

According to Denise Anderson-Warren, an administrative analyst who has been with the Santa Monica City Clerk’s office for 17 years, although some proponents of ballot measures fail to collect the required number of signatures, Anderson-Warren said Troutman is the first one she knew of to withdraw a measure before even collecting a single signature.

Reacting to Troutman’s decision June 6, Rabbi Mark Diamond, executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, said, “I’m delighted. It was a very dangerous and ill-informed initiative, one that was a clear violation of parental rights and religious freedom.”

To fight the proposed ballot measure, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles had assembled a coalition that included the Board of Rabbis, ADL, American Jewish Committee and religious leaders from all walks of Jewish life. The coalition’s first meeting took place June 6.

“It was a moment when all political and religious differences were put aside,” Catherine Schneider, Federation’s senior vice president for community engagement, said.

Schneider said that Federation was ready to speak out against any other bans. “If we see this in another city in Greater Los Angeles, we will take it very seriously,” Schneider said.