N.Y. warning on controversial circumcision rite is upheld

(JTA) — A Manhattan federal judge upheld a New York City health board regulation requiring parents to sign a consent form allowing a controversial circumcision rite.

U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald on Jan. 11 lifted the stay of implementing the required warning to parents of the dangers of metzitzah b’peh, in which the circumciser uses his mouth to draw blood from the baby’s penis.

"There is ample medical evidence that direct oral suction places infants at a serious risk of herpes infection, as well as evidence that parents are sometimes unaware in advance of a circumcision that MBP will occur, and the regulation plainly addresses these legitimate societal concerns," Buchwald wrote, according to Reuters.

The Central Rabbinical Congress of the United States and Canada, Agudath Israel of America, the International Bris Association and several individual mohels, or ritual circumcisers, filed a lawsuit in October against the city, contending that the regulation, which conditions the ritual on parental consent, is unconstitutional and violates religious freedom by targeting a Jewish practice.

Under the rule, parents must sign a consent form that says the New York City Board of Health advises that "direct oral suction should not be performed" because of the risk of contracting herpes.

At least 11 boys contracted herpes from the practice between 2004 and 2011, according to city health officials. Two of them died from the disease and two others suffered brain damage, the officials said.

In September, the board of health voted 9-0 to require mohels to obtain the signed consent forms. Several months earlier, the city had struck an agreement with city hospitals to distribute pamphlets about the dangers of the ritual to the mothers of newborns.

Using oral suction to take blood from the area of the circumcision wound is common in some of New York’s haredi Orthodox Jewish communities.
 

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