In 2009 a detailed issues paper of the Tasmania Law Reform Institute canvassed the criminalisation of the practice on human rights grounds. This was a response to calls for clarification of the law to determine if those performing the procedure could be charged with committing assault or abuse, and whether parental consent is a mitigating factor.
Tasmania's then Children's Commissioner Paul Mason said: 'Everyone is entitled to bodily integrity, to protection of their own body from injury by another without their consent.'
But doctors advocating the procedure as a preventative health measure can also mount a human rights argument along the lines of every child having the right to access the best available health outcomes. It would be self-defeating if the 'protection' afforded by one right prevented the 'access' offered by another.
The obvious problem is that infants are not capable of giving consent, and experts argue that the procedure becomes problematic once they're old enough to decide.
Necessarily it falls to parents to make an informed and responsible decision, and there's nothing wrong with that. It is subsequently important that they have the means to exercise the option they've chosen. Regrettably this is not always the case, and their decision can be reversed by their economic circumstances. Middle and higher income families could easily afford the cost of up to $800 but low income families cannot.
Advocates are calling for an end to the ban on the procedure in public hospitals and a substantial increase in the Medicare benefit for the operation.
It is empowering for parents to have the ability to contribute to the quality of life of their children though responsible decision making, but alienating if inequitable funding models make decisions for them.