“End Female Genital Mutilation” was a presentation on what Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is, where it happens, its lasting physical and psychological effects on women and girls, and the current landscape of FGM laws in the U.S. This discussion featured Dr. Deborah Ottenheimer and was moderated by Critical Thinking Unit Fellows Lauren Styczynski and Paul Taske at the University of Cincinnati.
Dr. Ottenheimer operates her own medical practice in Lower Manhattan which focuses on providing specialized care to women and girls. Dr. Ottenheimer’s practice also specializes in physical and psychological care for women and girls who have been the victims of Female Genital Mutilation. When not treating patients, Dr. Ottenheimer also engages in activism to spread awareness of the impact of FGM around the world and in the United States and provides volunteer services to patients in Haiti and assists those seeking asylum. Dr. Ottenheimer received her M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and completed her residency at St. Luke’s/Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan. Throughout Dr. Ottenheimer’s career she has been highly interested in providing care to young women and girls. This interest is clearly reflected in the work she has done throughout her career, in her private practice, and in pro bono work she provides across the world.
Dr. Ottenheimer began her presentation by discussing the myths and misconceptions surrounding FGM. Then she discussed the various types of FGM and their prevalence in the United States and in other parts of the world. Dr. Ottenheimer then proceeded to illustrate the impact of FGM. She took the audience on a step-by-step journey through the life of a hypothetical FGM survivor and described the immediate implications on a girl’s physical health, the long-term impact on physical health, the risk of complications from FGM, and the lasting psychological damage that often results from FGM. Dr. Ottenheimer then shifted gears slightly to discuss how individuals can be more aware of FGM and how to exhibit sensitivity around the topic should someone ever confide in them about FGM.
Toward the end of the presentation, Dr. Ottenheimer asked the audience if they had heard of the recent FGM case being prosecuted in Michigan. After brief murmurs from the audience Dr. Ottenheimer laid out the factual background of the case, the charges against the perpetrators of the federal statute, and the then-recent decision by the judge to dismiss the case because the law itself, according to the judge, was unconstitutional. The audience asked Dr. Ottenheimer why the judge would overturn a statute banning FGM across the country. At this point, Dr. Ottenheimer asked CTU Fellow Paul Taske, a third-year law student at the University of Cincinnati, to provide some clarification about the legal reasoning in the case. After a brief discussion of the legal issues Dr. Ottenheimer closed with a brief description of her work treating FGM victims and provided additional resources for those interested. Dr. Ottenheimer then opened the floor to questions.