(JTA) — A mohel who performs the controversial circumcision rite metzitzah b’peh would no longer have to obtain a signed consent in New York under a tentative agreement.
A coalition of rabbinic leaders and the city reportedly reached agreement on the rite, it was reported late Tuesday. The New York City Board of Health must approve the deal.
Health department regulations require the parents of a child to provide prior written consent for the practice, but the regulation has not been enforced.
Metzitzah b’peh, in which the mohel sucks blood from the wound following circumcision, is a common traditional practice among many haredi Orthodox mohels. When performed directly with the mouth as opposed to through a sterile pipette, it has been directly linked to the transmission of the herpes virus.
Under the agreement, if an infant is found to have herpes associated with the ritual, the mohel will be tested for that strain of the virus, and if discovered to carry it will be banned for life from performing the ritual.
“While the de Blasio administration continues to believe that MBP carries with it health risks, given the sacred nature of this ritual to the community, the administration is pursuing a policy centered around education of health risks by the health care community and respect for traditional practices by the religious community,” the Mayor’s Office said in a statement.
In August, a federal appeals court called for a review of the New York City law related to metzitzah b’peh, saying that under the federal guarantee of free exercise of religion, the law is subject to “strict scrutiny.”
The law was enacted in 2012 after at least 11 boys contracted herpes from metzitzah b’peh between 2004 and 2011. Two died and two suffered brain damage.
There were four cases of herpes allegedly contracted during metzitzah b’peh in 2014 and 17 since 2000, according to the health department.