Rabbis and Jewish Orgs Sue City Over Circumcision Consent Forms

A spokesman says the Department of Health is trying to "enforce erroneous opinions" by requiring consent.

Three rabbis and several Jewish organizations fired back at city Department of Health circumcision regulations set to take effect later this month with a lawsuit claiming that there isn’t “any definitive proof” that the ritual practices are a health risk, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Last month, the New York City Board of Health passed a regulation requiring consent from parents before an infant can undergo a special circumcision ritual known as “metzitzah b’peh” in which the rabbi performing the procedure uses his mouth to remove blood from the incision wound.

The regulation is set to take effect on Oct. 21, and will require consent forms signed by the parents of the child accepting that the ritual “exposes the infant to risk of transmission of herpes simplex virus infection and other infectious diseases.” The mohelim would be required to retain copies of the forms for at least a year and make the records available upon request from DOH officials. 

The Central Rabbinical Congress of the USA and Canada, Agudath Israel of America, International Bris Association and three rabbis filed suit in Manhattan federal court this week, charging that the new rules will force people to convey information they do not believe. 

“Not only is the Department of Health wrong about metzitzah b’peh, it is trying to enforce erroneous opinions on the people of New York City,” Hank Sheinkopf, a spokesman representing those filing the lawsuit, told the Journal. “By essentially starting a public intimidation campaign that forces private citizens to spread the government’s beliefs, they are shaking the core of our democracy. We believe the courts will stop this overzealous government overreach and keep them out of our speech and religion.”

According to the DOH, between 2004 and 2011, there were 11 confirmed cases of infants contracting herpes simplex virus infection after direct oral suction during a circumcision. Two of the children died, and at least two others suffered brain damage, according to the paper.

Do you agree with the decision to require parental consent? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Jeffrey Shapiro October 14, 2012 at 04:32 PM
The people who are supporting this lawsuit are, in my opinon, making a serious mistake. Trying to justify their right to perpetuate a dangerous practice that can bring lethal harm to infant defies rationality, defies common sense. It is unfortuneate that people can be so dogmatically blind in the face of facts.
S K October 14, 2012 at 11:41 PM
It is unbelievable to note how information is being misrepresented (by means of convenient omissions and fact skewing) in every single news article relating to this controversial subject. This phenomenon is not of surprising nature, as the department of health has also made efforts to obscure the facts, or lack thereof, in reporting their research outcomes and recommendations. Firstly, of the eleven infants referenced in this article, only six had actually received orogenital contact during circumcision. Further, of these six, one baby's mother (with an active case of herpes) admitted to licking her son's pacifier; and yes, cross-contamination between the virus types involved in oral, ocular and genital herpes is scientifically possible. In addition, two of the infants were twin siblings, whose source of contamination may have been the same (not necessarily the practitioner), or otherwise if they had had their diapers changed consecutively without the caregiver washing hands in the interim, the virus may have been transferred from one infected child to the other. Regarding the other three infants, no factual proof has been furnished the the DOH, as to the direct cause of the infection.
S K October 14, 2012 at 11:42 PM
With supportive facts being so unfairly misrepresented, it is clear that the NY Dept. of Health, or the mayor behind it, has some agenda other than altruistically protecting helpless infants. Thus, we must question whether a morbidity/mortality percentage of approximately 4% of infants, which has already been inflated by the inclusion of infants who have not received ritual orogenital contact, and lack of proof of the infection source for the others, warrants the interference of the state with the age-old religious institution of Jewish ritual circumcision.
S K October 14, 2012 at 11:49 PM
Correction to the percentage given in my previous comment, the already statistically hyper-inflated risk increase percentage is 3.4%.


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