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November 12, 2013
On Circumcision, Scalia Surprises
Longest-serving justice and
interlocutors agree on most issues at YU
conversation between former classmates.
A hero to many in the Orthodox community
on matters relating to the separation of
church and state, Supreme Court Justice
Antonin Scalia’s comments on
circumcision at a Yeshiva University
forum last Wednesday night may have come
as an unpleasant surprise to those who
think the justice’s opinions flow from
his own religious beliefs.
How would he have ruled, he was asked by
attorney Nathan Lewin, had a 2011
attempt to criminalize circumcision in
San Francisco succeeded and eventually
made its way to the high court?
“If the practice is something that
society does not want, and it’s not
intended to discriminate against Jews in
particular, I think the law is perfectly
valid,” he said to a crowd somewhat
mystified by how incongruous the remark
seemed in the context of Scalia’s other
Lewin, who has argued almost 30 cases
before the Supreme Court, many on the
subject of religious liberties, sat
across from Scalia on the stage of YU’s
Strauss Center for Torah and Western
Thought to discuss their interpretations
of the Establishment Clause of the First
Amendment; that clause states: “Congress
shall make no law respecting an
establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Rabbi Dr. Meir Y. Soloveichik, the
director of the Strauss Center and the
spiritual leader of Congregation
Shearith Israel in Manhattan, moderated.
Rabbi Soloveichik began by asking each
of the participants what he considered
the original meaning of the
Establishment Clause. The conservative
Scalia reaffirmed his well-known
position that the early definition of
the Establishment Clause was vastly
different than how it is often
understood today. When first written, it
meant that Congress would neither
establish a religion itself, nor try to
disestablish religions that were already
established, said Scalia, the
longest-serving justice on the court.
“It surely does not mean that God has to
be driven out of the public forum,” the
Lewin agreed, remarking that the modern
understanding of the Establishment
Clause has been detrimental to the
Jewish community, as states cannot fund
even secular subjects taught at day
schools. He noted that when he has
argued similar cases, his opponents
usually include Jewish organizations
such as the American Jewish Congress,
the Anti-Defamation League and the
American Jewish Committee.
“The Jewish community has taken this
position over history, that we have to
cleanse government or schools of any
mention or association with religion,”
he said. According to Lewin, Jews were
initially concerned that the inclusion
of religion in public institutions would
result in proselytization. However, he
said, “Time has proved that the theory
of proselytization is no longer what we
should be concerned with. What we should
be concerned with today is
Scalia and Lewin touched upon several
- Goldman v.
Weinberger: Shortly before Scalia was appointed to the
court in 1986, Lewin argued unsuccessfully that a Jewish
Air Force officer be allowed to wear a yarmulke while in
- County of
Allegheny v. ACLU: A 1989 case argued successfully by
Lewin, in which the Supreme Court, including Scalia,
ruled that Chabad Lubavitch had a right to keep a
Menorah on public property.
- Board of
Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v.
Grumet: A 1994 case in which Lewin argued for the
creation of a school district based on the borders of a
Satmar community to allow handicapped Satmar students to
attend a secular school without students from radically
different cultures. The court held that the creation of
such a district was unconstitutional, with Scalia
writing a scathing dissent.
Scalia and Lewin did not agree on the
legality of a ban on circumcision,
however. For most of the evening, the
former Harvard Law classmates traded
playful barbs. At one point, Lewin said,
“I don’t mean to question whether
Justice Scalia is sometimes
inconsiderate, but that’s who he is.” At
another, Lewin was talking about a case
he had argued before the Supreme Court
when Scalia broke in and said, “And you
lost again, didn’t you?”
Shuli Karkowski, a graduate of Harvard
Law in attendance, said she was
impressed by Scalia’s honesty,
especially considering that not all of
his opinions were popular with the
“Even when I don’t agree with Justice
Scalia, I think he takes both a
consistent and principled approach,” she
said. “I’m surprised that he said how he
would rule in the bris case. Most
justices are disinclined to speak on any
matter that could possibly come before
In fact, Scalia acknowledged that, at
times, he can be more forthright than
someone in his position ought to be. In
the interest of putting his guest at
ease, Soloveichik told the justice to
feel free to say whatever he wanted.
“If you want to share a secret, just
share it with a thousand Jews and you’ll
be all set.”
Norway to introduce new regulations on circumcision
(JTA) — Norway will promote new
legislation to “regulate ritual
circumcision,” the country’s health
Bent Hoie said the new legislation on
non-medical circumcision of boys under
18 will be introduced before April 20,
according to a report by the Norwegian
“We will review submissions on the
matter before we can decide what should
be the government’s position. We aim to
present a bill before Easter,” Hoie told
Aftenposten last week. He did not say
whether the regulations would introduce
His announcement follows renewed calls
by Norway Children’s Ombudswoman Anne
Lindboe to ban non-medical circumcision
of minors without their consent, which
she says violates their rights.
“This is not due to any lack of
understanding of minorities or religious
traditions, but because the procedure is
irreversible, painful and risky,”
Lindboe told Aftenposten.
The Center Party, which won 5.5 percent
of the vote in Norway general elections
earlier this year, is in favor of
banning non-medical circumcision of
underage boys. The country’s largest
party, Labor, has not yet formulated an
official stance but several of its
lawmakers support a ban.
Ervin Kohn, president of the Jewish
community in Oslo, told JTA that he
considers the issue “an existential
matter” for the Jewish community of
about 700 members.
Each year, approximately 2,000 Muslims
and seven Jewish newborns undergo
non-medical circumcision in Norway,
according to Aftenposten.
In France, meanwhile, President Francois
Hollande strongly affirmed his support
for the protection of Jewish rights to
circumcision in an Oct. 30 letter to the
Consistoire, which oversees religious
services for the Jewish community.
“There is no question whether this
practice in Judaism, and other
religions, is performed in accordance
with existing laws in France,” he wrote.
European council passes anti-ritual circumcision
(JTA) — A resolution that calls male
ritual circumcision a “violation of the
physical integrity of children” was
passed overwhelmingly by the
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of
The council, a pan-European
intergovernmental organization, debated
and passed the resolution on Tuesday
based on a report by the Committee on
Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable
Development led by German rapporteur
The resolution passed by a vote of 78 in
favor and 13 against, with 15
abstentions. The resolution calls on
states to “clearly define the medical,
sanitary and other conditions to be
ensured for practices such as the
non-medically justified circumcision of
It also calls on member states to
“initiate a public debate, including
intercultural and interreligious
dialogue, aimed at reaching a large
consensus on the rights of children to
protection against violations of their
physical integrity according to human
rights standards” and to “adopt specific
legal provisions to ensure that certain
operations and practices will not be
carried out before a child is old enough
to be consulted.”
Practices covered by the resolution
include female genital mutilation, the
circumcision of young boys for religious
reasons, early childhood medical
interventions in the case of intersexual
children, corporal punishment, and the
submission to or coercion of children
into piercings, tattoos or plastic
Large majorities rejected five
amendments that sought to remove or
alter references to the circumcision of
boys. An amendment that removed a
reference to the “religious rights of
parents and families” was supported by a
large majority of members.
“Although the adoption of this report is
non-binding and does not represent any
direct threat to milah, we are troubled
at the readiness of the Parliamentary
Assembly to dismiss the points made
during the debate about religious
freedom,” the Milah UK organization told
The ritual circumcision of boys younger
than 18 has come under attack
increasingly in Scandinavia and
German-speaking European countries both
by left-wing secularists and
right-wingers who fear the influence of
immigration from Muslim countries.
Nordic children’s ombudsmen take historic step to
protect children’s rights
Yesterday, during a meeting in Oslo,
Nordic ombudsmen for children, Nordic
paediatricians, and paediatric surgeons
agreed a resolution urging their
national governments to work for a ban
on non-therapeutic circumcision of
The children's ombudsmen from the five
Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway,
Finland, Denmark, and Iceland), along
with the Chair of the Danish Children's
Council and the Children's spokesperson
for Greenland passed a resolution to:
"Let boys decide for themselves whether
they want to be circumcised."
The ombudsmen concluded that:
"Circumcision without a medical
indication on a person unable to provide
informed consent conflicts with basic
principles of medical ethics." They
found the procedure "to be in conflict
with the UN Convention of the Rights of
the Child, articles 12, and 24 (3) which
say that children should have the right
to express their own views and must be
protected from traditional rituals that
may be harmful to their health."
Dr Antony Lempert, a GP and spokesperson
for the UK Secular Medical Forum (SMF),
applauded this historic resolution and
urged the UK and devolved Governments to
work towards protecting all UK children
at risk of forced genital cutting.
He said: "This important statement by
the Nordic child protection experts is
grounded in common sense. Children's
basic rights to bodily integrity and to
form their own beliefs should not be
overridden because of their parents'
religious or cultural practices."
Dr Lempert argued that, "with an
increasing awareness of serious
irreversible harm caused to boys and
girls from forced genital cutting it is
time for the genitals of all children to
be protected from people with knives and
strong religious or cultural beliefs.
There can be no justification for
healthy children to be forcibly cut. All
children deserve society's protection
from serious harm."
There is no medical reason to circumcise
little boys; the procedure is painful,
irreversible and can cause
complications, according to Sweden's
children's ombudsman and representatives
for several healthcare organizations.
"To circumcise a child without medical
reasons and without the child's consent,
runs contrary... to the child's human
rights and the fundamental principles of
medical ethics," they write in a debate
article in the Dagens Nyheter daily on
The ombudsman Fredrik Malmberg, together
with representatives from the Swedish
Society of Medicine (SLS), the Swedish
Society of Health Professionals (Vårdförbundet),
the Swedish Paediatric Society (BLF) and
the Swedish Association of Pediatric
Surgeons (SLF), argues that Swedish law
requires that the child's will be taken
into account wherever possible.
Circumcision is a procedure which is
typically carried out at a very young
age and it is this issue of consent
which is paramount, they argue.
"We consider circumcision of boys
without the child's consent to be in
contravention of article 12 of UN
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
which gives children the right to have
an opinion in matters which concern
They furthermore argue for a change in
Swedish legislation in order to meet the
human rights of the child and medical
The issue has become topical in Sweden
in recent weeks following the submission
of a motion to parliament from the
Sweden Democrats calling for an outright
ban on the procedure.
Furthermore on Monday September 30th
children's ombudsmen from across
Scandinavia will meet together with
prominent medical professionals in Oslo
to discuss the issue.
The Ombudsman for Children in Sweden is
a government agency which represents the
interests and rights on the basis of the
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
A German court has forbidden a woman
from having her six-year old son
circumcised because of a risk of
psychological damage. The decision comes
a year after a similar ruling sparked an
Then a court in Cologne said religious
circumcision of male infants was
tantamount to grievous bodily harm, a
criminal act subject to prosecution -
prompting furore around the world. In
response to the July 2012 ruling, German
lawmakers passed a law clearly stating
that under strict conditions,
circumcision was legal.
But now a court in Hamm in North
Rhine-Westphalia has said a woman could
not get doctors to perform the religious
rite on her six-year-old child because
she had not taken into account the
psychological damage it could cause him,
newspaper the Westdeutsche Allgemeine
The unnamed woman from Dortmund, who is
German-born but of Kenyan descent,
wanted to have her son circumcised
before visiting Kenya, where it is
normal practice for boys when they are
very young babies.
More than 80 percent of the Kenyan adult
male population is circumcised. The
woman had worried her son would not be
accepted as a real man by his relatives
there unless he had the operation.
The court said the 31-year-old mother
was not fit to make the decision about
the operation because neither child nor
mother were aware of the risks involved
in the procedure - including
psychological harm, the newspaper
"In this case there are substantial
grounds to suggest that the circumcision
sought by the child's mother would
damage the psychological well-being of
the six-year-old," wrote the higher
regional court in Hamm in a ruling from
the end of August that was published on
Potential harm could result from the
mother's intention not to be present at
the operation, said the court and the
fact that the child had already been
Such "damage" was not necessary and
should not be allowed, particularly as
both mother and child lived in Germany
and only travelled to Kenya very rarely,
the court said.
The decision upholds an earlier ruling
by the family court in Dortmund
suggesting the local youth welfare
office should have the final say on the
Last December, German lawmakers passed a
law stating circumcision was legal as
long as the child's health was not put
at risk, and that the practitioner
carried out the rite in accordance with
Motion to ban non-medical circumcision introduced in
(JTA) — A motion to ban the non-medical
circumcision of males younger than 18
was presented to the Swedish parliament.
Two lawmakers from the rightist Sweden
Democrats party, noting that female
genital mutilation is illegal in Sweden,
submitted the motion to the Riksdag on
Tuesday. A vote on the motion has not
Bjorn Soder and Per Ramhorn wrote in the
measure that “boys should have the same
right to avoid both complications of
reduced sensitivity in the genitals,
painful erections, increased risk of
kidney damage and psychological distress
by permanent removal, and the tremendous
violation of privacy that circumcision
The motion proposes to scrap legislation
from 2001 that says circumcision of
newborns is permissible if it is
performed by a “licensed professional.”
Jewish ritual circumcisers, or mohelim,
in Sweden receive their licenses from
the country’s health board, but a nurse
or doctor must still be present when
they perform the procedure.
The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats
party was established in 1988 but only
made it into parliament following
unprecedented gains in the 2010
elections, when it garnered 5.7 percent
of the votes, or 20 seats out of 349 in
Sweden’s parliament. The opposition
party is the sixth largest faction in
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of
the European Conference of Rabbis, said
the proposal “betrays a dangerous
ignorance of what is involved in the
practice of milah as compared with the
abhorrent practice of Female Genital
Mutilation.” The motion’s authors “seem
to have overlooked the fact that if
circumcision were to be banned, that
would itself represent the most serious
violation of human rights in recent
memory,” he added in a statement.
Ritual circumcision of underage boys
increasingly has come under attack in
Scandinavia, both by left-wing
secularists as well as right-wingers who
fear the influence of immigration from
The opposition follows a ruling last
year by a German court in Cologne that
ritual circumcision amounted to a
criminal act. The ruling was overturned
but triggered temporary bans in Austria
Sweden has about 20,000 Jews and 500,000
Muslims, according to a U.S. State
Department report from 2011.
(JTA) — A left-wing Danish political
party is seeking to outlaw ritual
circumcision in Denmark.
The Social Liberal Party, a small
coalition partner of Denmark’s ruling
Social Democrats party, adopted the
anti-circumcision stance this week
following an internal vote by delegates
during a party congress in Nyborg, 75
miles west of Copenhagen, according to
the news site etik.dk.
A large majority of hundreds of
delegates from the party — Denmark’s
sixth largest with 17 out of 179 seats
in parliament — passed the motion to
oppose all non-medical circumcision of
underage boys, the website reported.
The ban was necessary “because we do not
protect those who cannot protect
themselves, namely children,” said
Christian Holm Donatzky, a local
politician for the party from Helsingor,
a city located 25 miles north of
The left-leaning Social Liberal Party is
one of several anti-circumcision parties
in Scandinavia, where the custom has
come under attack from left-wing
secularists as well as right-wingers who
fear the influence of immigration from
Last year, Norway’s Centre Party also
announced it opposed circumcision as did
Finland’s third-largest party, True
Finns. The announcements last year
followed a ruling by a German court in
Cologne that ritual circumcision
amounted to a criminal act. The ruling
was overturned but triggered temporary
bans in Austria and Switzerland.
Lene Rachel Andersen, a well-known
Danish Jewish author and journalist,
wrote an Op-Ed following the vote August
15, warning that a ban would mean the
demise of Danish Jewry. “Within two to
three years, religious Jews will move
away move from Denmark.” This, she wrote
in her Op-Ed for the website religion.dk,
will mean “the heart of religious life
In 2003, Denmark’s Children’s Ombudsman,
a government body, classified
circumcision as a children’s rights
violation — a position shared by its
counterpart organizations in Finland and
The World Jewish Congress estimates that
there are about 6,400 Jews living in
Young boys from the Xhosa tribe attend a traditional initiation school
in Libode (Photo: AFP)
May 22, 2013
33 men 'die in South African circumcision ceremonies'
As many as 33 young men are now thought
to have died over two weeks in one
province of South Africa as they took
part in traditional initiation
ceremonies that included circumcision
and extreme survival tests.
By Aislinn Laing, Johannsburg
Police have confirmed that they have
opened murder investigations into all
but one of the deaths in northern
Mpumalanga province, which President
Jacob Zuma described as a "massive and
unnecessary loss of young life".
Tens of thousands of young South
Africans take part in traditional
initiation ceremonies each year where
circumcision is normally performed by
Although fatalities during the winter
ceremony season are not uncommon, the
high toll has prompted calls for a
public inquiry into the policing of the
traditional schools and their care of
Just over half of South African men
undergo circumcision, which has been
promoted by government as key in the
fight against HIV/Aids.
Around half of those do so aged 10 to 15
as part of traditional initiation
ceremonies, which generally last around
three weeks and former president Nelson
Mandela described in his autobiography
as "a kind of spiritual preparation for
the trials of manhood."
What exactly goes on during the
ceremonies is shrouded in mystery, but
initiates are often painted with red
clay and spend long periods of living in
the bush, often with little or no
clothes. Some are given herbal
concoctions to drink.
In the past, deaths during initiation
have been caused by botched
circumcisions, infection and loss of
blood, or by dehydration and
The highest previous death toll from
initiations in Mpumalanga province was
reported to be eight.
Lt Col Leonard Hlathi, a police
spokesman, said autopsies were still
being conducted on the Mpumalanga
fatalities but added that the one
initiate for whom an inquest had been
opened had complained of stomach pains
Despite suggestions that the initiates
might have died at rogue schools set up
by unlicensed operators seeking to make
money, he said that they all occurred at
officially-recognised sites where
doctors were normally present.
He confirmed that police had never
previously investigated initiates'
deaths, but added: "We are talking about
lives here that we have lost in a space
of two weeks. It's too many."
Dr Wilson Makgalancheche, head of the
country's National House of Traditional
Leaders, said some schools failed to
conduct health checks on initiates when
they arrived, and some brought along
younger siblings who were not ready to
He said there was no question of
initiations being banned. "It's a
cultural practice embedded in people's
lives and they feel that without these
practices, they might cease to exist,"
he said. "The important thing is for
them to be better policed and updated to
fit with modern life."
Mr Zuma, a Zulu traditionalist who has
spoken openly about his own circumcision
for health reasons, called for "swift
justice" for those responsible for the
"It cannot be acceptable that every time
young men reach this crucial time in
their development, their lives are
culled in the most painful of ways, in
the care of circumcision schools," he
N.Y. newborn contracts herpes from circumcision rite
(JTA) -- The parents of a Jewish newborn
who reportedly contracted neonatal
herpes following a controversial
circumcision rite did not sign the
required consent form.
According to the New York City
Department of Health and Mental Hygiene,
the newborn is the second in three
months to contract the virus due to
metzitzah b'peh, in which the
circumciser uses his mouth to draw blood
from the baby's penis.
The baby's parents did not sign the form
advising that "direct oral suction
should not be performed" because of the
risk of contracting herpes, a recently
required New York City health board
regulation, and they have refused to
identify the mohel, or ritual
circumciser, who apparently is carrying
the virus, The Forward reported.
At least 11 boys contracted herpes from
the practice between 2004 and 2011,
according to New York City health
officials. Two died from the disease and
two others suffered brain damage, the
Last 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 ritual's
dangers 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
A Manhattan federal judge refused to
block a New York City regulation
requiring people who perform
circumcisions and use their mouths to
draw away blood from the wound on a
baby's genitals to first obtain written
consent from the parents.
U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald
on Thursday refused to issue a
preliminary injunction against the
change to the city's health code, which
some members of the city's Orthodox
Jewish communities called an unwarranted
government intrusion on religious
In September, the New York City Board of
Health voted to require mohels, who
perform circumcisions, to obtain advance
consent that tells parents about the
risk of a potentially fatal herpes
infection linked to the ritual of
metzitzah b'peh, or MBP, involving
direct oral suction of the penis.
Enforcement of the regulation was put on
hold until Buchwald could rule on the
request by the Central Rabbinical
Congress of the USA and Canada, the
International Bris Association and some
rabbis for a preliminary injunction.
In court papers filed in October, they
said the regulation improperly singled
out an exclusively religious ritual, and
violated the free speech and free
exercise protections within the First
Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
But in a 93-page decision, Buchwald
refused to halt enforcement of the
regulation, and said the plaintiffs'
claims were likely to be found without
"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
"As enacted, the regulation does no more
than ensure that parents can make an
informed decision" whether to consent,
Shay Dvoretzky, a partner at Jones Day
representing the plaintiffs, was not
immediately available for comment.
The city welcomed the decision.
"Informing parents about the grave risks
associated with this procedure is
critical to safeguarding infants'
health," Michelle Goldberg-Cahn, a
senior lawyer for the city, said in a
New York City said it plans to begin
enforcing the consent requirement even
if litigation continues.
City health officials on Thursday said
at least 11 infant boys have in the last
several years contracted a potentially
fatal form of herpes following
circumcision with direct oral suction,
and that two of the boys died.
Opponents of the regulation have said
the health department had not proven a
higher incidence of neonatal herpes
among boys who had received direct oral
The case is Central Rabbinical Congress
of the USA and Canada et al v. New York
City Department of Health & Mental
Hygiene et al, U.S. District Court,
Southern District of New York, No.
German lawmakers propose barring circumcision before
BERLIN (JTA) -- Some 50 lawmakers in
Germany have signed on to a proposal
that would bar ritual circumcision for
boys under the age of 14.
The lawmakers -- from the left-wing
Social Democratic, Left and Greens
parties -- are hoping to preempt a bill
that would allow Jewish and Muslim
parents to choose ritual circumcision
for an infant son under strict
regulations including medical training
for the circumciser and the use of
anesthesia. The bill allowing ritual
circumcision, which is awaiting
parliamentary approval, was submitted
Under the new proposal, the non-medical
circumcision of infants would be
prohibited and the procedure would have
to be carried out by a trained urologist
or pediatric surgeon, according to
German news reports. The legislators
reportedly insist that the child himself
should be able to decide whether or not
to allow "such a serious interference
with his bodily integrity."
The proposal was submitted to the
parliament by three lawmakers. The new
attempt is expected to meet vigorous
opposition in the Bundestag.
The current campaign against ritual
circumcision in Germany, which is led by
a cadre of activists and boosted by some
politicians on the left, picked up steam
last May after a Cologne District Court
ruled that the circumcision of a minor
was criminal assault. The ruling came to
light in the general public in June. In
response, Jewish and Muslim leaders
demanded a legal response that would
protect their religious freedom.
Though the bill submitted in October
introduces new restrictions on a ritual
practiced without interruption for
centuries in Germany, Jewish and Muslim
groups have praised it as a way to
protect their religious freedom against
increasing onslaughts by opponents of
circumcision. The new measure would
undermine that security.
EDINBURG, Texas (CN) - A doctor botched
a circumcision of a 4-year-old boy so
badly that the boy pleaded to "just cut
it off and (he) can be a girl," the
parents claim in court.
Rafael and Vanessa Deleon sued Dr.
Jennifer J. Garza, of McAllen, in
Hidalgo County Court. They claim they
learned from specialists that Garza
over-cauterized the penis to try to stop
the bleeding, damaging their son's
urethra and requiring reconstructive
surgery to close the holes.
But after the 90-minute surgery, the
Deleons claim Garza told them, "'the
circumcision was successful.' She also
told them that 'there was a little
bleeding, but that she and her staff
were able to stop it,'" according to the
Then a nurse appeared and told Garza
that the boy "still had a lot of
bleeding and that the bleeding did not
appear to be stopping," the complaint
states. Garza told that that "their son
'needed to go back into surgery in order
to find out what was happening and to
stop the bleeding,'" the Deleons say.
They were then given a consent form, but
"the consent papers were for a different
patient," according to the complaint.
It continues: "After taking the
plaintiff into the operating room for a
second time, the defendant came out and
told Ethan's parents that she had
managed to stop the bleeding using
cauterization around the penis area
where she thought the bleeding was
coming from. The defendant then had the
plaintiff remain overnight at the
hospital. During the course of that
night, hospital staff had to change the
plaintiff's gauze around his penis
multiple times. Plaintiff's parents also
noticed that the plaintiff oozed blood
every time he urinated."
The next day, after seeing lab results,
Garza told them that "'Ethan's penis was
going to look beat up for the next
couple of weeks, but that as the weeks
go by it would look normal again,'"
according to the complaint.
But that didn't happen, the family says:
"The days following the surgery, the
plaintiff's parents had to change the
plaintiff's gauze repeatedly because he
kept bleeding so much. During this time,
the plaintiff's parents were shocked
when they saw the plaintiff urinate from
more than one hole in his penis. It
appeared that Ethan had two streams of
urine. After seeing this, the
plaintiff's family decided to visit
Doctor Segundo Lizardo, Ethan's
pediatrician, the same doctor who
referred them to Dr. Garza."
The only defendant in the complaint is
Dr. Garza and her office.
The family consulted a third doctor,
Catarina Posada, who "could not explain
to the family why the plaintiff was
urinating from two holes in his penis,
but she however prescribed the plaintiff
some medication," according to the
It continues: "In the coming days, the
plaintiff screams and cries every time
he has to urinate. The plaintiff is also
in tremendous pain. The plaintiff
refuses to drink anything because he
does not want to urinate. The plaintiff
also becomes very upset with his
parents. He begins to blame them for his
pain and predicament. The plaintiff goes
so far as to say that he is a girl now
because he has to urinate sitting down.
The plaintiff also asks his parents 'to
just cut it off, and he can be a girl.'
The plaintiff's parents also have to
change the plaintiff's sheets nightly
because the sheets become stained with
A week after the circumcision, the
Deleons took their son, still bleeding
and in pain, to the emergency room at
Rio Grande Regional Hospital where Dr.
Christopher Bristow told them "that the
plaintiff's penis looked over
That led to a visit with a pediatric
urologist, and more lab tests.
Dr. Lizardo then prescribed him morphine
so he could sleep, the family says.
"On or about April 3, 2011, at 2:30
a.m., the plaintiff went to urinate and
his parents noticed that a stream of
blood was running down his leg. The
plaintiff's parents call 911. The
ambulance takes the plaintiff to the
Knapp Medical Center Emergency room.
There Dr. Jorge Martinez sees the
plaintiff and gets Dr. Lizardo to show
up to the emergency room. According to
the plaintiff's parents, when they
questioned Dr. Lizardo on why this was
happening to their son, Dr. Lizardo told
them something had to have gone wrong
during the circumcision surgery for this
to be happening to Ethan," the complaint
Five days later, a pediatric urologist
told them "that Ethan's urethra is
damaged. He tells the plaintiff's family
that the circumcision surgery created
fistulas - holes in Ethan's penis. He
tells them that the plaintiff will need
reconstructive surgery to repair the
fistulas," the complaint states.
"On or about September 23, 2011, the
plaintiff underwent reconstructive
surgery to close the fistulas (holes) on
his penis. The doctor tells the
plaintiff's family that he closed the
holes; however sadly, he indicated that
the plaintiff may need more surgeries in
the future," the complaint says.
(Parentheses in complaint.)
The family seeks punitive damages for
medical negligence, deceptive trade,
breach of warranty and
They are represented by Pamela S.
Alexander and Efrain Molina Jr. of
Several Jewish groups filed a lawsuit on
Thursday seeking to prevent New York
City from enforcing a rule on
circumcisions, arguing that the
regulation would violate religious
The city Board of Health passed a
regulation in September that required
written parental consent before a ritual
circumcision could be done. In the
procedure, common among ultra-Orthodox
Jews, the person performing the
circumcision uses his mouth to remove
blood from the incision.
The oral contact, known in Hebrew as
metzitzah b’peh, is considered dangerous
by public health officials, because of
the possibility of spreading diseases,
specifically herpes. Failure to comply
with the regulation could result in
warnings and fines.
From 2000 to 2011, 11 babies contracted
herpes, most likely as a result of the
practice, and two of them died,
according to the city’s health
department. This spring, the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention also
declared that the procedure created a
risk for transmission of herpes and
other pathogens, and was “not safe.”
In the lawsuit, filed in Federal
District Court in Manhattan, several
rabbis and Jewish organizations —
including Agudath Israel of America and
the International Bris Association —
argue that the practice has been used
safely for thousands of years among Jews
and that the regulations are
“Not only is the Department of Health
wrong about metzitzah b’peh, it is
trying to enforce its erroneous opinions
on the people of New York City,” said
Hank Sheinkopf, a spokesman for the
groups suing the city. “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
Dr. Thomas A. Farley, commissioner of
the city health department, issued a
statement on Thursday citing the danger
posed by the procedures and arguing that
the measures were necessary for public
“The city’s highest obligation is to
protect its children,” he said in the
statement. “The health department’s
written consent requirement is lawful,
appropriate and necessary.”
(JTA) – Finland's third largest party,
True Finns, has demanded a ban on the
ritual circumcision of minors.
In a debate held Sept. 26 at the Finnish
parliament in Helsinki, Vesa-Matti
Saarakkala, a lawmaker for True Finns,
reiterated his calls in March to outlaw
the practice in Finland.
Saarakkala, 28, said he would submit a
bill proposing to criminalize ritual
circumcision in boys younger than 15
years of age, according to the online
edition of Yleisradio, Finland's
national public broadcasting company.
"The Finnish constitution guarantees
everyone the right to personal
integrity," Saarakkala is quoted as
saying. Saarakkala, a critic of what he
called perceived integration problems
among immigrants, also pointed out that
female circumcision "is already
considered assault" in Finland. The fact
that circumcision in males is legal in
Finland, he said, constitutes legal
With 39 seats out of 200 in the lower
house, the socialist-conservative True
Finns is Finland's largest opposition
Jouko Jaaskelainen, a lawmaker for the
Christian Democrats, said in parliament
that circumcision was a minor procedure
and that research showed it was helpful
in preventing diseases.
On Sept. 30, an international conference
of critics of ritual circumcision opened
Gideon Bolotowsky of the Central Council
of Jewish Communities in Finland told
JTA that he did not foresee a ban on
circumcision in Finland in the near
"Those trying to ban circumcision are
hard-pressed to present scientific
evidence that circumcision is harmful,"
Bolotowsky added that the critics of
circumcision in children "have had the
rug pulled from under their feet"
because of the publication in August of
a new research by the American Academy
of Pediatrics suggesting that the
procedure may protect heterosexual men
against HIV and that the health benefits
outweighed the risks connected to the
Health Officials Mandate Parental Consent for
By Seth Berkman
The New York City board of health has
voted unanimously to require parents to
sign a consent form before allowing a
mohel to perform metztizah b’peh, direct
oral-genital suction during
The vote was 9-0 to require parental
consent for direct oral suction, a
practice employed only by ultra-Orthodox
mohels that can lead to transmission of
a strain of herpes to which infants are
especially vulnerable. Though
transmission rates are believed to be
low, if infected, babies can suffer
brain damage or even death.
“We’re not banning the procedure, we’re
not regulating how circumcisions are
performed,” Jay K. Varma, deputy
commissioner for disease control for the
health department said after the
meeting. “We’re simply requiring that
people understand there is a risk, and
if people want their baby to be
circumcised, they have to understand
that this procedure might potentially
transmit an infection that is both
serious as well as life threatening.”
There are no mandatory penalties imposed
if the waivers are not signed. But the
health commission may impose penalties
at its own discretion. Varma said the
department would respond to public
complaints and investigate the claims,
and that repercussions could range from
a phone call or a formal warning letter,
to fines of up to $2,000 for each
Despite the unanimous approval, during
the meeting board members, who are
appointed by the mayor, voiced their
concerns about the forms and the
potential of limiting religious freedom.
Board member Sandro Galea referred to
the waivers as a “tricky issue,” and
Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said
the department had worked hard to
protect infants and respect religious
traditions at the same time. He also
took note of calls from the Orthodox
Jewish community to delay the vote, but
said that would be inappropriate and
essentially doing nothing on the matter.
Farley did say that he hoped to continue
dialogue with critics past today.
Three protestors gathered outside of the
hearing at the Department of Health
building in Long Island City to denounce
the decision. Rabbi William Handler,
leader of Traditional Bris Milah, a
self-proclaimed group formed to “protect
Jewish ritual circumcision,” provided
orange flyers that accused Mayor
Bloomberg and Farley of instigating
“The puppets all danced to the tune of
the puppet master,” said Handler,
referring to the health board and the
mayor. “What this is, is the first step
in completely taking away traditional
bris milah from the Jewish people in New
Pediatrics group says circumcision's benefits outweigh risks amid
U.S. decline in procedure
By Ryan Jaslow
(CBS News) The health benefits from male
circumcision outweigh the risks, says
the American Academy of Pediatrics in
its latest guidelines on the
controversial procedure published
In its first policy statement on the
subject since 1999, which was later
reaffirmed in 2005, the academy stops
short of recommending routine
circumcision for males, but adds that
based on the current evidence, insurers
should cover its costs.
The group's previous stance said the
procedure can prevent bladder infections
and sexually transmitted diseases like
HIV/AIDS, but also carried potential
downsides like reduced sensation and
"In 1999, there was some data suggesting
that there were some small medical
benefits to circumcision but, at the
time, there was not a compelling medical
reason to recommend circumcision. So the
previous policy didn't argue for or
against circumcision," Dr. Douglas S.
Diekema, a member of the circumcision
task force behind the new statement,
AAP News. "However, now there is
much stronger evidence about protective
medical benefits associated with
circumcision, so the tone of this policy
statement has changed."
For the new policy statement,
researchers formed a task force in 2007
to review evidence from 1,000 studies
that took place between 1995 and 2010.
They found that the procedure had
preventive benefits, including a major
risk reduction for male urinary tract
infections - especially during the first
year of life - and a lower risk of
cancer, and heterosexual acquisition of
HIV and other sexually transmitted
diseases. Specifically, risk for herpes
was 28 to 34 percent lower for
circumcised men and risk for HPV was
reduced by 30 to 40 percent.
The new policy is published in the Aug.
27 issue of the academy's journal,
The task force members also said the
procedure is safe when performed by
trained professionals in a sterile
environment, and complications are rare
and much lower for newborns - less than
1 percent - compared with adult males
who get the procedure.
However the group said the health
benefits are not great enough to
recommend routine circumcision.
"Ultimately, this is a decision that
parents will have to make," Dr. Susan
Blank, chair of the task force that
authored the policy statement and
corresponding technical report, said in
a written statement. "Parents are
entitled to medically accurate and
non-biased information about
circumcision, and they should weigh this
medical information in the context of
their own religious, ethical and
Based on current rates, it appears an
increasing number of parents are opting
to skip the procedure. A recent analysis
from the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention found the U.S. circumcision
rate fell from about 63 percent of
newborn boys in 1999 to 55 percent in
2010. In the 1980s, the U.S.
circumcision rate was about 79 percent
of newborn boys.
A study in last week's
Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent
Medicine found the 20-year decline
may have already contributed to about $2
billion in additional medical costs, for
care related to treating urinary tract
infections and sexually transmitted
diseases throughout a male's lifetime.
The researchers say if the trend
continues to where only 10 percent of
U.S. males are circumcised - rates
similar to Europe - the country could
face about $4.4 billion in health care
costs - an added $407 per man.
That's in part because 18 states have
already abolished Medicaid coverage for
male circumcision. In the new policy
statement, the American Academy of
Pediatrics says the procedure's benefits
warrant third-party payment by insurers
should parents opt for the procedure for
"It's a good idea to have this
conversation during pregnancy, and to
learn whether your insurance will cover
the procedure, so you have time to make
the decision," said Dr. Blank.
Psychologist Ronald Goldman, director of
an anti-circumcision group, the
Circumcision Resource Center, told the
Associated Press that studies show
circumcision causes loss of sexual
satisfaction -- a claim the academy said
is not supported by the research it
reviewed -- and can be psychologically
harming. Goldman says medical studies
showing benefits are flawed and that the
academy's new position is "out of step"
with international opinion on male
Controversy over circumcision has ramped
up in recent years, highlighted in the
U.S. last year when a male circumcision
ban almost made the
November ballot in San Francisco. A
judge eventually ruled such a decision
should be a state matter, rather than
decided by a city election.
In Cologne, Germany, a court ruled this
July that circumcision went against the
right of the child to bodily integrity,"
and should be decided by the child
himself once he gets older. The German
government is currently working with the
German Medical Association to clarify
the ruling to ensure religious freedoms.
Denmark to probe whether circumcision violates health code
(JTA) – Denmark has commissioned an
investigation into whether non-medical
circumcision procedures violate its
“We will examine the public health
recommendations followed in this area,”
Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt
told the Copenhagen-based Politiken
daily on Saturday.
Politiken reported that the Danish
government has commissioned a study on
this question. Last month the paper
published an expose that said the
National Board of Health did not monitor
the conditions under which circumcision
Non-medical circumcision of minors has
been the subject of a heated debate in
Denmark over the past few months.
Several politicians reportedly have
called for a ban on the practice,
prompting angry reactions from Jews and
Venstre, Denmark’s largest party, will
decide whether to seek a ban on such
circumcisions based on the results of
the study, a party spokesperson told JTA.
The chief rabbi of Denmark, Bent Lexner,
told Politiken that he did not think the
launching of the investigation reflected
distrust on the government’s part. He
said the government was welcome to carry
out its investigation.
Lexner added that a doctor is always
present during a circumcision, which
under the Jewish rite is carried out by
a mohel, or ritual circumciser.
"Our register goes back 250 years and we
can document every single circumcision,"
the rabbi told Politiken. "A journal is
also kept in connection with the
circumcision itself. The doctor who is
present keeps a record of what happens."
Denmark, a country of 5.5 million, has a
Muslim minority of 210,000 and some
Finn Schwarz, the president of the
Jewish Congregation in Copenhagen, told
JTA that the current debate about
circumcision is connected to popular
discontent with the level of integration
of Muslim immigrants.
Rabbi Charged with Illegal Circumcision in Germany
Criminal assault charges have been filed
against the rabbi of the Jewish
community in oberfränkischen Hof, Rabbi
David Goldberg, for circumcision for
religious reasons. Chief prosecutor
Gerhard Schmitt confirmed that the
complaint was filed by a doctor from
Hessen, which is under the jurisdiction
of the Cologne Regional Court, which
decided a while ago that non-medical
circumcision was a criminal offense.
According to the "Judische Allgemeine,"
Rabbi Goldberg, who is also a mohel, or
religious circumciser, was informed by
journalists about the lawsuit.
Cologne Rabbi Yaron Engelmayer of the
Orthodox Rabbinical Conference declared:
It was the first time that a rabbi has
been charged with a criminal violation
in the Federal Republic of Germany
because he performed a religious ritual.
Maram Stern, vice president of the World
Jewish Congress, said there was an
urgent need to create legal certainty
about this matter. "We hope that the
prosecutor will show sensitivity
regarding this issue and will not
initiate an investigation against the
A trail-blazing legal ban on the
circumcision of most baby boys is a step
closer in Tasmania.
The Tasmanian Law Reform Institute today
recommended the state impose a general
prohibition on the circumcision of
"incapable minors," except for
well-established religious or ethnic
In a benchmark 101-page
report, the institute also calls for
legislation to clarify the legality of
circumcisions done at the request of
adults and "capable minors".
The institute's director, Kate Warner,
said it was unclear whether
non-therapeutic infant male circumcision
was actually lawful. “In the interests
of certainty, the institute recommends
that the law be clarified,” Professor
Circumcision is a permanent genital
modification involving at least a
partial excision of the male foreskin,
according to the institute.
The report said there was rarely, if
ever, a medical reason for the
circumcision of a newborn boy.
Yet more than 19,000 Medicare claims
were lodged nationally in 2010 for
circumcisions on boys under six months
of age. The statistics suggest about 13
per cent of newborn Australian boys are
"Non-therapeutic circumcision is
performed for a variety of reasons,
including socio-cultural, religious,
aesthetic and prophylactic reasons," it
Costs of the procedure included
significant pain, and a potential
reduction in sexual pleasure.
"Trauma from circumcision in childhood
can also have a long lasting and
significant effect on a person's mental
health," the report said.
Benefits could include its cultural
significance, particularly in Muslim and
Jewish communities, and some reduced
exposure to infectious disease.
But the report said the world's leading
health policy organisations cautioned
against attributing too much
significance to circumcision's
prophylactic effect for those who live
in the developed world.
"No authoritative health policy maker in
any jurisdiction with a frequency of
relevant health conditions as low as
that in Australia recommends
circumcision as an individual or public
The report said the community was split
over the merits of circumcising baby
boys, but the institute concluded that
for reasons of rational reform it should
only be legal in the case of "widely and
"The law ought to condemn the waning
tradition of circumcising incapable boys
for secular non-ethnicity related social
A spokesman for the Attorney-General,
Brian Wightman, said the state
government was considering its response
to the report.
(JTA) – A Swiss hospital which briefly
banned circumcision announced that it
would now allow the procedure.
An announcement by University Children’s
Hospital Zurich said on Friday that a
three-week moratorium, now ended, was
needed to assess the practice’s legal
The hospital’s board “decided future
circumcisions would be examined on a
case by case basis, subject to
consideration for children’s welfare.”
If deemed permissible, both parents
would have to give their written consent
to the procedure.
The president of the Swiss Federation of
Jewish Communities, Dr. Herbert Winter,
told JTA he was “satisfied” with the
lifting of a ban on circumcision. “It is
positive that the hospital has also
realized that circumcision does not
conflict with Swiss law or jurisprudence
-- as the Jewish community has often
maintained.” Winter also said that the
Jewish values are in line with the
hospital’s care for children’s welfare.
According to Winter, University
Children’s Hospital Zurich is the only
institution in the country that had
announced a ban on the ritual.
Jewish circumcisions are usually
performed by mohalim, or ritual
circumcisors, and “only very
exceptionally do they occur in
hospitals,” he added.
The hospital’s initial ban followed a
ruling in June by a court in Cologne,
Germany, which said that circumcision
was tantamount to grievous bodily harm.
The governor of Vorarlberg province in
Austria also has ordered state-run
hospitals to stop circumcisions except
for health reasons “until the legal
situation is clarified.”
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of
the Conference of European Rabbis, said
he wished to congratulate the Swiss
Jewish community on the lifting of the
“We are facing two parallel campaigns:
To ban circumcision and to ban shechitah,”
he told JTA, referring to the procedure
for kosher slaughtering of animals.
“Both sometimes display certain
anti-Semitic overtones. Keeping
shechitah permissible is crucially
important. However, circumcision is
existential; without it there can be no
Bipartisan group expresses ‘deep concern’ over German circumcision
WASHINGTON (JTA) – A bipartisan group of
20 Congressmen sent a
letter to the German government
expressing “deep concern” over a recent
German court decision to effectively ban
circumcision on young boys.
Howard Berman (D-Calif.), Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.)
and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.),
authored the letter, which was addressed
to Peter Ammon, the German ambassador to
the United States.
The District Court of Cologne court
recently ruled that the right of a child
to be protected from bodily harm took
precedence over the interests of the
parents or religious freedom.
Accordingly, the court said, the
circumcision of a minor for non-medical
reasons could be considered a criminal
The letter by the congressmen called the
June 26 court decision “an affront to
The Union of Orthodox Jewish
Congregations, which represents about
1,000 congregations, praised the letter.
Circumcision, it wrote in a press
release, is “a fundamental ritual and
sacred rite of passage for both the
Jewish and Muslim communities.
Throughout history, the prohibition of
Brit Milah has been tantamount to
rejection of the Jewish community’s
The letter to the ambassador also
“applauded the strong opposition voiced
by Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign
Minister Guido Westerwelle” and called
on them to pass legislation that would
safeguard religious freedom.
“Europe has experienced a troubling
uptick in measures that violate
religious freedom by undermining core
religious tenets, such as the Dutch
initiative to ban ritual slaughter and
this new effort in Germany to outlaw
ritual circumcision,” Waxman said in a
press release. “We must ensure that
Germany follows through on its
commitment to resolve this controversy.”
Berman added in the release, “A not so
veiled assault on tenets central to
religious expression is underway in
Europe's courts and legislatures. We
must let it be known to our friends in a
clear and unequivocal voice that such
measures are harmful assaults on
religious freedom and should not
Norwegian official: Jews, Muslims should replace circumcision with
THE HAGUE (JTA) -- Norway’s ombudsman
for children's rights has proposed that
Jews and Muslim replace male
circumcision with a symbolic,
Dr. Anne Lindboe told the newspaper Vart
Land last month that circumcision in
boys was a violation of a person’s right
to decide over his own body.
“Muslim and Jewish children are entitled
to the same protection as all other
children,“ she said, adding that the
practice caused unnecessary pain and was
Lindboe, a pediatrician, was appointed
ombudsman in June. Her predecessor,
Reidar Hjermann, proposed setting 15 as
the minimum age for circumcision.
According to Jewish religious law,
Jewish babies must be circumcised when
they are eight days old.
The children’s ombudsman is an
independent governmental institution
entrusted with safeguarding the rights
Ervin Kohn, president of the Jewish
Community of Oslo, said that Norwegian
Jews “will not be able to live in a
society where circumcision is
forbidden.” He noted that the mandate of
Norway’s children’s ombudsman did not
extend to devising Jewish rituals.
Norway has a Jewish community of about
In June, a spokesperson for Norway’s
Centre Party, which has 11 out of 169
seats in parliament, proposed a ban on
Boys in traditional attire attend a ceremony a day
before their circumcision ritual at Eyup Sultan square in Istanbul
August 1, 2012
Austria OKs circumcisions after multifaith appeal
By Michael Shields
Doctors in Austria’s westernmost
province have been cleared to resume
circumcisions after the Justice Ministry
reassured them that they can perform the
religious practice without risking
criminal charges, officials said.
Spooked by a regional court ruling in
neighbouring Germany that the practice
supported by Muslims and Jews amounted
to physical abuse, the governor of
Austria’s Vorarlberg province last week
advised doctors to suspend it,
triggering a heated debate.
Another state governor came out in
favour of a national ban.
Austria’s Catholic, Protestant, Jewish
and Muslim leaders united in defence of
circumcision on Friday, condemning calls
to limit the practice as an attack on
religion and demanding that the
government clarify its legality.
A letter from Justice Minister Beatrix
Karl giving the legal all clear has now
helped assuage concerns, a spokesman for
Vorarlberg Governor Markus Wallner said.
“We only wanted to get legal certainty
for doctors so they can be clear whether
they face legal consequences if they
perform circumcisions for religious
reasons,” he said.
Doctors still have to decide for
themselves whether to perform such
voluntary operations, which are not
covered by the public health system, he
A spokesman for Karl said the minister
had simply put in writing to Vorarlberg
state officials what she and her legal
experts have said in public for days.
Austria is home to about half a million
Muslims, most of whom are migrant
workers from Turkey, Bosnia and
Herzegovina, and about 9,000 Jews, down
from about 200,000 before the annexation
of Austria by Nazi Germany in 1938.
An Austrian province has told state-run
hospitals to stop performing
circumcisions on boys, wading into a
religiously-charged debate ignited after
a regional court in neighboring Germany
banned the procedure as physical abuse.
The governor of Vorarlberg province said
he had taken the decision to stop
circumcisions until such time as Austria
could formulate a uniform approach to a
practice that is supported both by
Muslims and Jews.
"This is a subject that has to be
regulated country-wide," a spokesman for
Governor Markus Wallner said, confirming
media reports that he had advised
hospitals in the western province to
suspend circumcisions carried out for
Austrian broadcaster ORF said such
operations were rare in Vorarlberg.
Germany's lower house of parliament last
week passed a resolution protecting the
religious circumcision of infant boys
after a Cologne court ban outraged
Muslims and Jews, sparking an emotional
debate that has spilled into neighboring
Two hospitals in Switzerland have
suspended the practice of non-medical
circumcision within their walls. The
move comes just weeks after a German
court in Cologne ruled that parents
cannot order circumcisions on their
children because it constitutes bodily
Swiss Local News reported Thursday that
the Zurich University Children’s
Hospital has temporarily halted the
practice of non-medical circumcision
until its legality can be determined.
“We are in the process of evaluating the
legal and ethical stance in
Switzerland,” Marco Stuecheli, spokesman
for the hospital, told AFP last week.
Following suit, St. Gallen’s teaching
hospital in northern Switzerland said
over the weekend that they are
considering a moratorium on
circumcision, with a senior hospital
official pledging a final decision by
summer’s end, reported Beobachter
It is unlikely that the hospitals’
decisions will have strong repercussions
on the practice in Swiss Jewish or
Muslim communities, because
circumcisions are often practiced
outside of medical facilities, a fact
that accounts for the Zurich Children’s
Hospital low average of only one or two
circumcisions per month. Instead, Jewish
parents circumcise in religious
ceremonies staged in synagogues, with
the procedure carried out by community
specialists called “mohels” in Jewish
tradition. In Switzerland, the
prerogative to practice circumcision
belongs to each individual hospital,
according to the Swiss Society for
In Germany, the controversial ban may be
overturned, following outrage from
Jewish and Muslim organizations which
prompted vehement responses from German
lawmakers, notably German Chancellor
Angela Merkel who said the ban risks
making Germany a “laughing stock.”
Germany’s lower house of parliament also
passed a ruling by an overwhelming
majority, according to Reuters, to
protect circumcision in defiance of the
Cologne district court’s decision.
Religious circumcisions are bodily
harm and thus a crime, a German court
ruled this week, in what was dubbed a
Non-medical circumcision is a "serious
and irreversible interference in the
integrity of the human body,” the
Cologne district court ruled.
This criminalises religious
circumcisions performed by Jews and
Muslims, the Financial Times Deutschland
newspaper said on Tuesday. It says
circumcision should be considered a
crime of bodily harm.
Thousands of very young boys are
circumcised in Germany each year, mainly
for religious reasons.
In the United States most boys are
circumcised shortly after birth -
regardless of their religion, though the
practice has declined in recent years
and anti-circumcision protest groups
have sprung up.
German doctors performing circumcisions
that are not medically necessary have
until now operated in a grey legal area.
Until now they could claim that they
were unaware that performing a
circumcision is a crime.
Even if a physician was later found
guilty by a court, there was a legal
loophole and he could claim that the law
was improper and avoid punishment. That
is no longer the case, the Financial
Times Deutschland said.
"The ruling is enormously important
above all for doctors because it's the
first time that they have a legal
certainty," Holm Putzke of the
University of Passau told the paper. He
has been calling for prohibition for
“The court has, in contrast to many
politicians, not allowed itself to be
scared by the fear of being criticised
as anti-Semitic or opposed to religion,”
"This decision could not only affect
future legal rulings but in the best
case it could lead to a change of
consciousness among the affected
religions when it comes to respecting
the basic rights of children."
Jewish and Muslim groups have fought for
years against a criminalisation of
circumcision. They did not have any
immediate comment on Monday's ruling,
saying they needed to review it first,
the paper said.
The court ruling is likely to be highly
controversial – experts expect the
matter will end up being decided by the
Federal Constitutional Court.
The Cologne decision came after a Muslim
doctor performed a circumcision on a
four-year-old boy. Two days later the
mother brought the child to the
emergency room because he was bleeding.
The prosecutor's office learned of the
situation and filed charges against the
doctor. The doctor was found not guilty
in the first instance, but the
“In my view, this is a custom that we
cannot accept in a modern, civilized
society. Our aim is to prioritize the
rights of small children. Fortunately,
it has become forbidden to circumcise
girls, now it’s time for boys to get the
same legal protection,” Klinge told
Although the Centre Party is itself a
junior partner in Norway’s Red-Green
coalition government, the politician
also criticized the government’s
decision to consult experts on the
possibility of introducing circumcision
into the public healthcare system, a
move she fears would legitimize the
She stressed that she was not opposed to
circumcision in cases where it was
deemed a medical necessity.
“But circumcision based on ritual and
religion is actually about holding down
a newborn baby boy and cutting off part
of a healthy sexual organ, with all the
consequences that this might have for an
individual’s future health and sex
life,” said Klinge.
With this in mind, performing a
circumcision on religious grounds ought
to be made a criminal offence, she
Jan Helge Solbakk, a professor of
medical ethics at Oslo University,
agreed with Klinge’s criticism of the
“It represents an irreversible operation
on a boy who is not in a position to
protect himself, and as such is in
breach of basic human rights,” he told
11 New York infants infected with herpes through ritual in Jewish
The practice of "oral-genital suction"
performed during some Orthodox Jewish
circumcision ceremonies could leave the
infant with a potentially fatal herpes
virus infection, health officials warn.
New York City and federal health
authorities issued a public advisory
Thursday cautioning against the sucking
practice because it has been linked to
11 infants becoming infected with the
herpes simplex virus type 1 since 2000.
Ten of the infected newborns were
hospitalized, two developed brain damage
and two died, the health officials said.
A newborn can become infected when the
adult performing the circumcision places
his mouth on the circumcision wound to
siphon blood away from the cut. The
ritual is only embraced by a handful of
sects within the Orthodox Jewish
community, according to New York City
Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley.
"There is no safe way to perform oral
suction on any open wound in a newborn,"
Farley said in a news release. "Parents
considering ritual Jewish circumcision
need to know that circumcision should
only be performed under sterile
conditions, like any other procedures
that create open cuts, whether by
mohelim [the circumciser] or medical
A report on the infections also appears
in the June 8 issue of the U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention's
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Almost 80 percent of adults carry the
herpes simplex virus type 1, which is
usually spread orally through common
activities and is different from the
sexually transmitted type 2 version of
the virus. The common cold sore is a
typical sign of infection with the
herpes simplex virus type 1, but most
people don't know they are infected
because they have no history of
symptoms, officials said.
In six of the 11 circumcision cases,
health care providers confirmed that the
suction ritual had taken place, although
there was evidence of a connection in
the other five cases. The ritual more
than tripled the risk of infection among
newborns getting circumcised, the CDC
A two-week old boy died at a Brooklyn
hospital in September after contracting
herpes through a religious circumcision
ritual that ignited controversy in 2005
after another infant died, the Daily
News has learned.
The unidentified infant died Sept. 28,
2011, at Maimonides Hospital, according
to a spokeswoman for the city Medical
Examiner, who confirmed the death after
a News inquiry.
The cause of death was listed as
“disseminated herpes simplex virus Type
1, complicating ritual circumcision with
City officials declined to comment
It’s unclear who performed the
In 2004, city health officials revealed
that a baby boy died after a
circumcision carried out by a Rockland
County rabbi who specializes in the
centuries-old, ultra-Orthodox ritual
known as metzizah b’ peh.
Under the practice, the rabbi or mohel
removes blood from the wound with his
mouth — a practice city health officials
have criticized, saying it carried
“inherent risks” for babies.
In 2004, three infants circumcised by
Rabbi Yitzchok Fischer were determined
to have contracted herpes, city
Among them were twins circumcised in
October 2004 after Fischer performed the
religious ceremony known as a bris.
Circumcision assault case brings fine – conviction but no punishment
Legal status of non-medical
circumcisions remains murky.
Helsinki District Court imposed a fine
on a man convicted of assault and
battery on Friday for performing
circumcisions on two Muslim boys. The
parents of the boys were convicted of
incitement to assault and battery, but
no punishment was meted out.
The man who performed the circumcisions
said that he had done so thousands of
times in Turkey and Iran. However, he
lacked the licences required for
performing such procedures in Finland.
One of the boys suffered a painful
Finland does not have legislation on
religiously mandated circumcisions.
In 2008 the Finnish Supreme Court ruled
that religiously mandated circumcisions
are not illegal if they are performed
according to proper medical procedure.
In its Friday ruling, Helsinki District
Court stated that it would be a
misinterpretation of the Supreme Court’s
earlier decision to see it as
authorising non-medical circumcisions.
After the Supreme Court’s ruling,
Finland has signed the Convention on
Human rights and Biomedicine of the
Council of Europe.
Under the convention, procedures
affecting a person’s health must be
performed according to applicable
professional obligations and
requirements. Surgical procedures can be
performed on someone incapable of giving
informed consent only if there are
The court ruled that circumcision is a
procedure that the person who undergoes
it should give consent to. Another
prerequisite would be that the person
performing the procedure should be a
medical or health care professional with
a licence in Finland or elsewhere in the
The court sentenced the man who
performed the circumcisions to 60
income-linked “day fines”, which in his
case amounted to EUR 360. He and the
parents were also ordered to pay EUR
3,000 in compensation to one of the two
boys, and EUR 500 to the other.
Jerry Brown signs bill prohibiting circumcision bans
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill
prohibiting cities and counties from
banning male circumcision, his office
Assembly Bill 768 by Assemblyman Mike
Gatto, D-Los Angeles, was inspired by a
San Francisco ballot measure designed to
prohibit child circumcision there. A
judge in July ordered the circumcision
ban off the November ballot, but Gatto's
bill proceeded through the Legislature,
where it passed with unanimous votes.
Gatto argued that such bans were an
affront to the exercise of "personal,
medical and religious freedom."
San Francisco's first-of-its-kind
initiative drew national attention for
targeting circumcision, removal of the
male foreskin, a practice that has
biblical roots and that many believe was
commanded by God in a covenant with
Abraham. Opponents of circumcision liken
it to "genital mutilation" - the forced
removal of a healthy body part from an
U.S. circumcision rates have been
declining for several years. Today,
about half of all boys born in hospitals
are circumcised, according to the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and
It’s official: Circumcision ban off November ballot in San Francisco
By Dan Schreiber
San Francisco’s circumcision ban is
officially off the November ballot,
after a judge ruled Thursday that state
law expressly preempts local
jurisdictions from regulating health
A San Francisco Superior Court judge
upheld a tentative ruling from Wednesday
that sided with the Jewish Community
Relations Council and other individuals
suing The City and San Francisco
resident Lloyd Schofield, who gathered
more than 12,000 signatures to get the
ban on the ballot.
If passed by voters, circumcision on
males under 18 in San Francisco would
have been a misdemeanor punishable by a
$1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.
Schofield calls male circumcision is a
brutal practice, just as deplorable as
widely condemned female circumcision
The procedure is held in spiritual
importance by members of the Jewish and
Islamic faiths, which came into public
debate when campaign material for the
ban included arguably anti-Semitic
comics depicting Jewish circumcision
practitioners as villains.
Abby Porth, associate director at the
Jewish Community Relations Council, said
she welcomes Thursday’s decision by
Loretta M. Giorgi. She said her
organization’s opposition was about
combating negative attention on male
circumcision and not so much over fear
the ban might be approved by voters.
“Even if it made the ballot, we don’t
believe it would have passed,” Porth
His family wants answers from
hospital officials and doctors
By Paul DeBenedetto
A Queens toddler died on the operating
table this week after a routine
circumcision -- a tragedy his family
thinks was the result of the wrong
Hospital officials say it "could take
weeks" to get results of an autopsy for
the 2-year-old boy, Jamaal Coleson Jr.
A spokesman from the medical examiner's
office told NBC New York that an initial
autopsy was inconclusive and that the
baby's remains are "pending further
testing," which could take weeks. But
Coleson's family wants answers sooner.
"I want to know what happened," the
boy's uncle, Jabbar Coleson, 23, told
the New York Post from his hometown of
Atlanta. "He was so sweet and energetic
and so happy, a very happy child. I am
very upset and I am glad I am a couple
of hundred miles away. I have time to
calm down and say my prayers."
Coleson Jr. died on Tuesday, just 10
hours after what the boy's uncle called
a routine procedure at Beth Israel
Hospital in Manhattan.
Jabbar Coleson told the paper that his
nephew was supposed to receive a local
analgesic but instead received a
general. The child "woke up and laughed
and called for his mother and then went
critical." He was declared dead later
that night at 8:35 p.m.
In a statement, the hospital said it
reported the case as an "unexpected
death" to the state Department of
Health, and will conduct an internal
"This is a devastating event for his
family as well as for the staff at Beth
Israel who tried to save his life," the
SAN FRANCISCO— A group opposed to male
circumcision said on Tuesday they have
collected more than enough signatures to
qualify a proposal to ban the practice
in San Francisco as a ballot measure for
But legal experts said that even if it
were approved by a majority of the
city's voters, such a measure would
almost certainly face a legal challenge
as an unconstitutional infringement on
freedom of religion.
Circumcision is a ritual obligation for
infant Jewish boys, and is also a common
rite among Muslims, who account for the
largest share of circumcised men
The leading proponent of a ban, Lloyd
Schofield, 59, acknowledged circumcision
is widely socially accepted but he said
it should still be outlawed.
"It's excruciatingly painful and
permanently damaging surgery that's
forced on men when they're at their
weakest and most vulnerable," he told
Reuters. His group submitted about
12,000 signatures supporting his
proposed ban, said Rachel Gosiengfiao,
campaign services manager for the city's
Department of Elections. The agency has
30 days to verify the petitions. He
needs 7,200 valid signatures to qualify.
Measure would make circumcision a
The measure, which would only apply in
San Francisco, would make it a
misdemeanor crime to circumcise a boy
before he is 18 years of age, regardless
of the parents' religious beliefs. The
maximum penalty would be a year in jail
and a $1,000 fine.
Schofield, who would not discuss his
current occupation but previously worked
for hotels in the San Francisco Bay
area, has found allies for his cause in
the anti-circumcision groups Intact
America and the National Organization of
Circumcision Information Resource
Centers, according to his group's
However, some experts said it was
doubtful such a measure would withstand
legal scrutiny if challenged.
"The practice of Judaism requires a boy
to be circumcised. I suspect the
California courts would ultimately
require the city to demonstrate the
practice is harmful," said Jennifer
Rothman, a professor at Loyola Law
School in Los Angeles.
"I don't think there's sufficient
medical evidence that it is, which would
place the law's constitutionality in
But Josh Davis, professor and associate
dean for faculty scholarship at the
University of San Francisco School of
Law, said the U.S. Supreme Court has
previously indicated in rulings that
"religions don't get a free pass."
"So if circumcision is the harm that's
being targeted — because circumcision is
perceived as causing harm, and not
because it is a religious practice — it
might well be a constitutionally valid
law," he said.
Schofield's proposal would make
exceptions for boys who need a
circumcision for health reasons.
Nevertheless, Davis and Rothman both
said voters would be likely to reject
the measure at the polls.
"I think that people are very likely to
react to it as interfering with
religious practices," Davis said.
More details emerge about Portland mom who is accused of trying to
circumcise her baby at home
By Aimee Green, The Oregonian
The 29-year-old mom told a Portland
police detective that she’d been
inspired to circumcise her baby after
reading the Old Testament.
The only problem was, her son was
already three months old. And she was
aware that pediatricians at OHSU
Doernbecher Children's Hospital wouldn’t
circumcise him because he was too old,
she told police.
According to papers filed in Multnomah
County Circuit Court this week and
obtained by The Oregonian, the
prosecution publicly outlined its case
for the first time:
Keemonta Peterson told police she
watched some YouTube videos about
circumcisions. Then around midnight on
the morning of Oct. 24 - using a box
cutter as a scalpel and a pair of pliers
as a tourniquet - she began the
procedure. She had no experience.
When the bleeding wouldn’t stop, she
tried to stitch her baby up. Her
13-year-old son watched on in distress.
After two hours of uncontrolled
bleeding, Peterson decided she needed
help and called 9-1-1 to her home near
East Burnside Street and 127th Avenue.
Medics rushed the infant to OHSU, where
he was initially listed in critical
Deputy district attorney John Casalino
offered these details in a memorandum
opposing Peterson’s attempt to get out
of Multnomah County jail this week.
Peterson had been locked up since her
arrest March 8.
The unemployed mother of four was being
held in lieu of $550,000 bail, under
accusations of first- and second-degree
assault and first-degree criminal
mistreatment. To be convicted of
first-degree assault, a judge must find
that Peterson caused “serious physical
injury to a child under six years of
According to the prosecutor’s motion, a
doctor described the baby’s condition
upon arrival as life threatening, and
the pain as immense.
Today, the boy appears to have
recovered, with no apparent permanent
At a hearing Tuesday, the prosecutor
tried to persuade a judge not to make it
easier for Peterson to get out of jail
pending trial. But Peterson’s attorney,
Scott Raivio, argued her bail should be
reduced. His arguments were supported by
a Close Street Supervision deputy, who
noted Peterson has strong family support
and had been attending mental-health
counseling three times a week before she
was booked in jail.
Judge David Rees lowered Peterson’s bail
to $5,000. She posted $500 — the
required 10 percent — and was released
Wednesday to the supervision of the
deputy. She must check in regularly,
among other conditions.
She has been allowed to see her four
children, who are staying with family
members, during supervised visits.
According to the prosecution, Peterson
said she has concerns about her mental
health. She told the Oregon Department
of Human Services that in the past she
has been overcome with paranoia, and she
and her children would stay inside. A
month after the botched circumcision,
she said she suffered “auditory
hallucinations” and manic episodes that
prevented her from sleeping for days.
She told authorities that she follows
the “Hebrew” religion, but doesn’t
attend services at any particular
An OHSU spokeswoman said it's true that
pediatricians at OHSU won't perform
circumcisions on boys older than four
weeks because of the increased pain,
need for general anesthesia and greater
risk of bleeding. But urologists at the
hospital will perform the procedure on
boys older than four weeks. Peterson's
trial is tentatively scheduled for June.
A Swedish court has sentenced a man
to prison for performing illegal
circumcisions, the first-ever conviction
under the country's laws on the
circumcision of boys.
A 50-year-old Egyptian citizen was
sentenced by Södertorn District Court on
Monday to two months in prison for
illegally removing the foreskin from
The man was on trial for having
circumcised nine boys without a licence
to do so issued by the National Board of
Health and Welfare.
The case marked the first time that
Sweden's law on circumcising boys had
been tested in court since coming into
force nine years ago.
He was also convicted for assault for
having circumcised a boy from Tierp in
eastern Sweden without sufficient
anaesthesia and two counts of causing
bodily harm involving two brothers from
the Stockholm suburb of Botkyrka who
suffered tissue damage, pain and loss of
circulation from a bandage that was used
as a tourniquet.
During the trial, a film was shown to
support allegations that the boy from
Tierp wasn't sufficiently anesthetized
during the procedure.
In addition to serving time in prison,
the man must also pay 14,600 kronor
($2,140) in compensation to a boy from
Tierp, as well as 4,600 kronor to the
two other boys, the local Arbetarbladet
newspaper reported on Tuesday. According
to the Swedish law, which came into
force in 2001, only people with a
special licence issued by the health
board can perform circumcisions for
non-medical reasons and only on children
younger than two months old.
Doctors can also carry out the
procedure, including on older children.
The 50-year-old previously had a licence
to perform circumcisions, but the health
board revoked it because of doubts about
The health board doesn't think Sweden's
law works, estimating that only
one-third of the roughly 3,000 boys
circumcised for religious reasons in
Sweden each year have the procedure
performed by people with authorisation.
(CNN) -- In the California city
that banned Happy Meal toys, outlawed
sitting on sidewalks during daylight
hours and fined residents for not
sorting garbage into recycling, compost
and trash, Lloyd Schofield wants to add
a new law to the books in San Francisco:
A ban on all male circumcisions.
Those who violate the ban could be
jailed (not more than one year) or fined
(not more than $1,000), under his
proposal. Circumcisions even for
religious reasons would not be allowed.
At this point, Schofield's proposal is
an idea that would have to clear several
hurdles to be considered.
Schofield and like-minded advocates who
call themselves "intactivists" seek to
make it "unlawful to circumcise, excise,
cut, or mutilate the whole or any part
of the foreskin, testicles, or penis" of
anyone 17 or younger in San Francisco.
The circumcision debate has passionate
advocates on each side.
Your thoughts on circumcision
In some families, it's a cultural or
religious tradition, or parents want
sons to look like their fathers. Other
parents decry it as mutilation. Medical
evidence has shown mixed risks and
benefits. Apart from the San Francisco
proposal, circumcisions are under
While widespread in the United States,
circumcision rates could be falling,
according to recent surveys. About 65
percent of American male infants born in
hospitals were circumcised in 1999,
according to latest data available from
the Centers for Disease Control and
While nationally the circumcision rate
has remained steady, the most dramatic
decline occurred in the West, where it
fell from 64 percent in 1974 to 37
percent in 1999. Earlier this year,
there were unconfirmed estimates that
the circumcision rate had fallen to
fewer than half for boys born in U.S.
hospitals, The New York Times reported
last summer, citing a federal report at
the International AIDS Conference.
The American Academy of Pediatrics task
force on circumcision has been reviewing
recent research before it issues an
official new position on the issue,
probably next year, one panel member
"In the past, we've said newborn
circumcision has benefits and risks,"
said Dr. Douglas Diekema, a professor of
pediatrics at the University of
Washington. "Given the fact that neither
the risks nor benefits are particularly
compelling, this is a decision to be
made by parents." The American Academy
of Pediatrics currently holds that there
is evidence of circumcision's potential
benefits, but not enough to recommend
routine newborn circumcisions.
Both anti- and pro-circumcision forces
have pushed their positions based on
medical and quasi-health claims. Fifty
years ago, people advocated
circumcisions because of the false
notion that it reduced masturbation,
"There have always been people opposed
to it," he said. "One of the differences
between today and 50 years ago is two
primary things: Advocacy groups are
better organized. They are much more
vocal and the internet has allowed that
expression in that way."
In San Francisco, Schofield's proposal
is not a lone effort. He is part of the
Bay Area intactivist group, which calls
the procedure "male genital mutilation"
and likens it to cutting female
Schofield's proposal has a long way to
go, requiring 7,168 signatures by April
next year to appear on the November 2011
ballot. Throughout the country, there
have been similar measures, including a
failed effort in Massachusetts earlier
"It's up to the choice of the individual
-- not the parents, society or
religion," Schofield said. "This is a
choice for body integrity. Just as
females are protected from having a drop
of blood drawn from their genitals, baby
boys deserve the same protection."
Intactivists also say:
-- Circumcisions are not medically
necessary and violate the child's body.
-- It requires a medical procedure,
which carries risk of complications and
-- Foreskins are part of the natural
body to help protect the penis.
-- Circumcision can reduce the risk of
penile cancer, a rare disease.
-- It is part of traditional, religious
practices in Jewish and Muslim faiths.
-- Men who are circumcised are less
likely to get sexually transmitted
infections such as genital herpes and
human papillomavirus, according to a
study of adult African men published
2009 in the New England Journal of
Public health efforts have sought to
increase circumcision rates in Africa to
reduce STIs such as HIV/AIDS. It's
unclear how circumcision lowers
infection rates, but researchers
speculate that the foreskin could foster
a more favorable environment for
It's also possible to develop swelling
and tenderness if the foreskin is not
properly cared for.
"There are numbers of patients who had
no clue what had to be done, because
they didn't handle their foreskin
correctly and they ended up getting
adhesion," said Dr. Michael Brady, a
professor of pediatrics at the
Nationwide Children's Hospital in
Columbus, Ohio. "That can happen; it's
not a myth."
But Brady added, "That by itself, is not
reason to circumcise an infant."
Dr. Emily Blake, an
obstetrician-gynecologist and mohel in
New York, said a ban would limit the
rights of doctors and patients, cause an
undue burden on families with newborns
and stand in the way of religious
"It is part of our commitment to God. We
believe we do it in a very humane,
loving, supportive way," said Blake, who
performs religious and non-religious
circumcisions for boys, as well as
naming ceremonies for girls. "There are
certainly many places in the world where
a ban on circumcision is one of the
prongs of an anti-Semitic movement --
anti-Jewish and also anti-Muslim."
A circumcision ceremony might involve
just a few people, or a few hundred,
along with food, readings and prayers.
Babies are comforted with sugar, topical
anesthetic and pain relievers, and many
sleep through the circumcision, Blake
Removing the foreskin from a male is not
an equivalent to removing the clitoris
from a female, Blake said, in terms of
pain or long-term effects.
"I think it's harder on the parents. We
make this into a very scary, terrifying
thing. Most babies do incredibly well,'"
Blake said. "I've done a great job if
the parents cry more than the baby
Most parents come to the doctor's office
having already decided whether to
circumcise, Diekema said. Only a small
percentage of parents are undecided.
Amy Jo Jones of Milwaukee, Wisconsin,
made the decision to have her two sons
circumcised and it "wasn't about
After reading into the topic, Jones,
writer and blogger who contributes to
The Stir said: "The deciding factor for
us was I wanted my son to be like his
father. I didn't want him grow up and
feel his body was different. It's not
about how it looks or doesn't look. I
knew there were some medical advantages,
although it's not considered medically
necessary. The deciding factor was for
him feeling comfortable with body and
like that of his dad."
Jesse Sterling of Albany, California,
decided to not to have his 10-month-old
Despite his Jewish background, he said
the surgery would have "put my baby
through a painful situation because of
some beliefs. At this point, people do
it because it's a habit." Sterling, who
was not circumcised, said he was teased
as a kid in school for how it looked.
"Ever since then, I was like, 'Whatever.
I don't care.' Don't try to sway me,
other than informing me more
thoroughly," he said.
Florida Woman Sues Hospital After Son Circumcised Against Her Wishes
A Florida mother is suing South Miami
Hospital after doctors allegedly
performed a circumcision on her infant
son without her permission, according to
a press release from the woman’s lawyer.
Vera Delgado gave birth to her son Mario
in August and told hospital staff
members several times that she did not
want him circumcised, as it was a family
tradition. Eight days later, Delgado
found that even though her son was still
in intensive care, doctors had performed
the unauthorized surgery.
Delgado is now suing the hospital for
"They went and they did an unnecessary,
unwanted surgical procedure on this
child without the parents’ permission,"
said Spencer Aronfeld, Delgado’s lawyer.
A statement issued from the hospital
apologized for the incident.
“The baby’s circumcision was an
unfortunate mistake caused by a misread
consent form. As soon as the error was
discovered, the doctor and nurses let
the family know what had occurred. We
also immediately implemented new
processes to ensure this mistake will
not occur again. The procedure itself
was performed following appropriate
surgical guidelines and the baby didn’t
have any complications. Nevertheless,
we’re all deeply sorry that this
Despite a worldwide campaign for
circumcision to slow the spread of AIDS,
the rate of circumcision among American
baby boys appears to be declining.
A little-noted presentation by a federal
health researcher last month at the
International AIDS Conference in Vienna
suggested that the rate had fallen
precipitously — to fewer than half of
all boys born in conventional hospitals
from 2006 to 2009, from about two-thirds
through the 1980s and ’90s.
Last week, officials at the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention cautioned
that the figures in the presentation
were not definitive. But they are
already stirring a sharp debate on the
The numbers were presented to the AIDS
conference by a C.D.C. researcher,
Charbel E. El Bcheraoui. The
presentation was not covered by any
mainstream news outlets, but a report by
the news service Elsevier Global Medical
News, along with a photograph of a slide
from the presentation, quickly made the
rounds of the blogosphere.
The slide portrays a precipitous drop in
circumcision, to just 32.5 percent in
2009 from 56 percent in 2006. The
numbers are based on calculations by SDI
Health, a company in Plymouth Meeting,
Pa., that analyzes health care data;
they do not include procedures outside
hospitals (like most Jewish ritual
circumcisions) or not reimbursed by
Andrew Kress, the chief executive of SDI
Health, cautioned that the data had not
yet been published and was still being
analyzed, but he confirmed that the
trend had been toward fewer
circumcisions each year.
He added that measuring the circumcision
rate was not the purpose of the study,
which was designed to measure the rate
of complications from the procedure.
Opponents of circumcision hailed the
trend as a victory of common sense over
what they call culturally accepted
genital mutilation. For federal health
officials, who have been debating
whether to recommend circumcision to
stem the spread of AIDS, the news
suggests an uphill battle that could be
more difficult than expected.
C.D.C. officials last week declined
requests for interviews about the study,
but a spokeswoman, Elizabeth-Ann
Chandler, answered questions by e-mail.
She reiterated that the agency used the
SDI figures to calculate the rate of
complications, not of circumcisions.
“C.D.C. was not involved in the
collection of the data that was cited,
nor has C.D.C. undertaken any review of
this particular data for the purpose of
calculating rates,” she wrote. “As such,
we cannot comment on the accuracy of
this particular estimate of infant male
But she did not dispute the waning
popularity of circumcision. “What we can
tell you is that male infant
circumcision rates have declined
somewhat in this decade,” she wrote.
The study found a very low rate of
complications associated with newborn
circumcisions; most were considered mild
and no babies died.
Organizations opposed to circumcision
said parents may be responding to the
message their groups have been spreading
through their Web sites and a video
distributed to childbirth educators.
“Word has gotten out that it’s not
necessary, it’s harmful and it’s
painful,” said Georganne Chapin,
executive director of Intact America, a
nonprofit organization based in
Greater awareness about female
circumcision may have influenced parents
as well, she said, asking, “How can you
think it’s O.K. to cut little boys, when
you are horrified by the idea of cutting
Both the C.D.C. and the American Academy
of Pediatrics have been reviewing the
scientific evidence on circumcision with
an eye to issuing new policy
recommendations, but so far neither body
has done so, although the federal agency
was to have issued its new
recommendations by the end of last year.
Officials from the pediatrics academy
said its new policy would be issued by
early 2011; a task force that studied
the topic has completed its report,
which is being reviewed by several other
committees, said Dr. Michael Brady,
chairman of pediatrics at Nationwide
Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio,
who served on the task force. The
academy is likely to adopt a more
encouraging stance than its current
neutral position and to state that the
procedure has health benefits beyond
H.I.V. prevention, Dr. Brady said.
The World Health Organization in 2007
endorsed male circumcision as “an
important intervention to reduce the
risk of heterosexually acquired H.I.V.”
“No one is going to tell a parent, ‘You
have to circumcise your child.’ That
would be foolish,” Dr. Brady said. “The
key thing physicians should be doing is
providing information on both risks and
benefits and allow the parent to make
the best decision.”
Several state Medicaid programs stopped
covering circumcision after the academy
issued its current policy in 1999, and
Dr. Brady said that may be one reason
fewer parents opt for the procedure.
Other possible reasons include a growing
Hispanic population that has
traditionally been disinclined to
circumcision, as well the
anti-circumcision movement and a broader
trend among parents to spurn medical
interventions like vaccination.
Some 80 percent of American men are
circumcised, one of the highest rates in
the developed world. Yet even advocates
of circumcision acknowledge that an
aggressive circumcision drive in the
United States would be unlikely to have
a drastic impact on H.I.V. rates here,
since the procedure does not seem to
protect those at greatest risk, men who
have sex with men.
And while studies in Africa found that
circumcision reduced the risk of a man’s
becoming infected by an H.I.V.-positive
female partner, it is not clear that a
circumcised man with H.I.V. would be
less likely to infect a woman.
The Royal Dutch Medical Association on
Thursday suggested a possible ban on
elective circumcisions for young boys,
saying they were medically unnecessary
and violated children's rights.
The 161-year-old organization, which
represents more than 46,000 doctors and
students, called the procedure "a
violation of the integrity of the body."
The group, known by its Dutch initials
KNMG, proposed a dialogue between
doctors and religious groups on the
Most non-therapeutic circumcisions in
the Netherlands are performed on
religious grounds. In the capital of
Amsterdam, parents seeking circumcisions
for elective reasons are often referred
to a small clinic in a heavily Muslim
"KNMG sees good reasons for a legal ban
on non-therapeutic circumcisions, but
fears that this will lead to the
operation going underground," it said in
In a column on the KNMG's website,
chairman Arie Nieuwenhuijzen Kruseman
said some 80 per cent of the group's
members agreed circumcision should be
According to a 2007 World Health
Organization report, some 30 per cent of
men worldwide are circumcised.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has
reversed its decision last month
regarding the practice of female
circumcision by immigrants from some
African, Middle Eastern and Asian
cultures. The academy had suggested in a
policy statement that doctors be given
permission to perform a ceremonial
pinprick or nick on girls if it would
keep their families from sending them
overseas for the full circumcision.
Although the nick on a girl’s clitoris
is illegal in the United States, the
academy’s bioethics panel had noted it
is practiced in some countries. The
policy statement ignited a storm of
criticism from opponents of female
genital cutting. Dr. Judith S. Palfrey,
president of the academy, said: “We’re
saying don’t do it. Do everything that
you can to support that family in this
tough time, but don’t be pulled into the
Circumcision on kitchen floor gets dad a year in jail
BY KEITH FRASER, THE PROVINCE
A Lower Mainland man who botched the
circumcision of his four-year-old son
has been sentenced to a year in jail.
Noting the unprecedented nature of the
case, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Marion
Allan also ordered that the 34-year-old
father of two, who cannot be identified
because of a publication ban, serve two
years of probation.
The judge said most Canadians would be
shocked at the details of the accused's
actions and found that a jail term was
needed for denunciation and general
The dad, who had previously botched an
attempted circumcision on himself, had
given his son honey wine before placing
him on garbage bags on the kitchen
floor. Wielding a razor blade, he tried
to cut away the foreskin on the little
But the cuts started to bleed and he
applied an ash-like powder called Wonder
Dust -- normally used to treat wounds
for racehorses and not considered fit
for use on humans. The boy, who woke
crying in the night following the
procedure, was several days later taken
to hospital for treatment and the
circumcision was completed.
The dad claimed he did the procedure for
religious reasons. Allan said she wasn't
passing judgment on the procedure of
circumcision itself but hoped to send a
message that it's a criminal offence for
parents to attempt the operation on
"The accused is distressingly detached
from reality . . . He shows no remorse
for his actions and believes he was
The judge added that the accused
attempted to minimize his actions and
showed a wanton and reckless disregard
for the safety of his son.
In October last year, the judge found
him guilty of criminal negligence
causing bodily harm in connection with
the April 2007 incident. Crown counsel
Daniel Porte sought a sentence of 12 to
24 months in jail followed by three
years of probation.
The accused was represented at trial by
Doug Christie, but just prior to
submissions on sentencing on Wednesday,
the lawyer said he'd been dismissed.
When the hearing resumed Thursday, he
said his client had rehired him.
Christie portrayed his client as an
honest but misguided man whose life was
turned upside down by the court case.
The conditions of probation include that
he take counselling and that he provide
support for his wife and children. He
also received a 10-year ban on the
possession of weapons.
prepare 1-day-old Kevin Irmer for a circumcision at
Massachusetts General Hospital for Children.
Dr. Wang gives patients anesthesia for the procedure.
February 21, 2010
Plan to ban circumcision a longshot
Advocates eager for State House hearing
By Jessica Fargen
A national group that views the circumcision of newborns as “genital
mutilation” is taking its fight to Massachusetts and will press the
Legislature to ban the age-old procedure at a hearing next month.
Matthew Hess, president of a group called the Bill to End Male Genital
Mutilation, said the March 2 hearing at the State House is “the most
important event to happen” for his budding organization.
“We are one step closer to making this a law and there’s a lot more
attention being paid to it now,” said Hess, a Californian who was
circumcised as an infant and underwent a foreskin restoration in his 20s
in an attempt, he said, to increase sexual sensation.
Before Massachusetts, Hess’ group tried to get bills submitted in 14
other states, to no avail.
Sen. Michael W. Morrissey (D-Quincy) filed the bill on behalf of Charles
A. Antonelli of Quincy under the right of free petition guaranteed in
the state constitution, according to the senator’s office. Morrissey has
no comment on the bill and is planning no action on it, said Kate
Grogan, a legislative aide.
Not a ‘harmless snip’
Antonelli and his allies say circumcision is painful and unnecessary,
violates a baby’s human rights and decreases sexual sensation in mature
“For some reason society feels fit to make surgical amputations to
somebody’s body without their consent,” said Antonelli, 43. “It’s really
a personal choice. Most people think this is a harmless snip of useless
tissue. It’s by far not.”
Antonelli, who is the Massachusetts chapter leader for Hess’ group, says
he became involved in the anti-circumcision movement because he was
physically damaged by circumcision.
The Massachusetts bill would amend the state’s Prohibition of Genital
Mutilation Act to include a ban on circumcision for males under 18,
unless medically necessary.
In Massachusetts, between 60 and 65 percent of male infants are
circumcised, according to health statistics and doctors.
Nationally, newborn circumcisions have declined from 60 percent in 1998
to 55 percent in 2005, according to the U.S. Healthcare Cost and
There is no religious exemption, which would dismay Muslim and Jewish
families who circumcise infant males for religious reasons.
“It’s a terrible idea,” said Rabbi Ronne Friedman of Temple Israel in
Boston, who feels banning circumcision would trample on religious
traditions. He doubted the bill would pass.
“The only way something like this could go anywhere would be in a
country very different than our own,” he said.
‘Unwise to ban it’
The medical community is largely neutral on circumcision, although
recent studies of African men showing circumcision reduces transmission
of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, have reignited debate.
No scientific data exists to recommend routine neonatal circumcision,
according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected this summer
to issue recommendations on whether circumcision should be considered as
a strategy against STDs in the United States for gay and straight men
and male infants.
Nationally, some states have made it more difficult for poor families to
pay for the procedure. Sixteen states no longer cover the procedure
under Medicaid. Minnesota, in 2005, was the last state to stop covering
circumcision for Medicaid patients.
Many doctors believe the decision should be left up to parents.
“It would be unwise to ban it, but I can understand the spirit behind
it,” said Dr. Bob Barbieri, chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and
Gynecology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Karen and Barry Irmer of Danvers, who had their infant son, Kevin,
circumcised on Thursday at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children,
made the decision based on custom. All the men in their families are
circumcised, Karen Irmer said.
“It’s the norm, I guess,” she said before Dr. Marvin Wang explained the
procedure and its risks.
There is a 1 percent risk of complications, mostly mild bleeding, said
Wang, director of newborn nurseries at MassGeneral Hospital for
Children. Benefits include a reduced risk of urinary tract infections
and penile cancer.
He said that, lacking any significant proven medical benefit, the choice
is in parent’s hands. “They should make the decision,” he said.
Exclusive by Stephen Moyes (firstname.lastname@example.org)
DOCTORS performing ritual circumcisions on children face financial ruin,
disciplinary action and even jail.
A test-case being brought by a 20-year-old man circumcised as a baby
could, if successful, open the floodgates to claimants.
The unnamed man is to sue a GP still practising in Greater London for
physical and psychological damage.
He will argue that circumcision on a child without a medical requirement
His father took him to be circumcised shortly after birth in accordance
with his own religious beliefs.
Now the father is mortified at the mental and physical state of his
adult son, and is supporting the case.
The father has documents that prove which GP carried out the
Performing surgery on a person without adequate consent constitutes
battery in law, which can be prosecuted in the civil courts.
But given the lack of consent the surgery also constitutes an assault
which can be prosecuted under criminal law - meaning a guilty verdict
could lead to a prison term.
The test-case is being supported by a legal firm, leading urologist,
child protection agency and circumcision awareness body The National
Organisation of Restoring Men (Norm).
Norm spokesman David Smith said: "Surgery is defined as 'manual or
instrumental treatment of injuries or disorders of the body'. If no
injury or disorder is present, then it can't be surgery.
"Circumcision is a mutilation, which is defined as 'to injure, to make
imperfect by the removal of a part'. It is shocking that the NHS is
responsible for mutilating children.
"We support a man's right to choose a ritual circumcision for himself,
but not for anyone else.
"Adult circumcision is a straight-foward operation which can be
undertaken in under 30minutes under local anaesthetic. There is no
excuse for forcing it on children.
"There is growing belief by many people that the only way to make
doctors put their scalpels down is to take legal action. This is not
about money, it's about protecting the next generation."
Some doctors privately charge up to s350 for 'forced circumcision' of a
baby brought to them by their parents.
Legal action can only be brought when the child reaches 18. There is
then a three-year legal window in which they can take action against the
Circumcision is a surgical procedure that can be performed on men and
women and is done for a variety of reasons, some of them cultural or
The General Medical Council does not have a public position on the issue
of ritual male circumcision on children who cannot give informed
A spokeswoman said: "We do not have general authority to determine
public policy on issues that arise within medical practice - these are
matters for society as a whole to determine, through the parliamentary
Katy Swaine, legal director of Child Rights Alliance for England, told
the Mirror: "The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has made clear
that female genital mutilation violates childrens rights and this
position has been reflected in the banning of such procedures under UK
"The carrying out of circumcision procedures on young male children must
also be examined in the context of childrens rights under the treaty -
not least given the requirement for nondiscrimination in the application
of treaty rights.
"A body of medical opinion has for some time supported the view that
most male circumcision procedures do not have a medical basis. As such,
given the invasiveness of the procedure and the negative consequences
suffered by some individuals, there is a strong argument that it should
not be carried out without informed consent from the individual who is
to undergo the procedure.
"It is only a matter of time before these issues are raised in the
courts by those who have undergone the procedure as children and have
suffered negative consequences. In the meantime it behoves the NHS,
Department of Health, professional medical bodies and communities to
examine this issue seriously, acknowledging and addressing its
implications for childrens rights."
The individual bringing the test-case is collating evidence and
financial and legal support and will launch it next year.
A solicitor close to the case said: "The action being brought against
the doctor is more likely to lead to financial damage rather than
prosecution, but it is complicated and nothing can be ruled out.
"Doctors performing 'forced circumcision' on a small minority of
children are acting in defiance of general medical council and are
effectively medical rebels.
"Most urologists will only perform a circumcision on someone who needs
it, just like any form of amputation.
"This is not a straightforward case. Parents have the right to give
consent but only when in the best interests of a child. I don't think
any act involving cutting off half of a child's penis is in their best
TRADITIONAL leaders have apologised to a
teenager forced to undergo traditional
circumcision after he took the matter to
court, where it was ruled
Bhisho High Court judge Yusuf Ebrahim
ruled that circumcision without consent
was illegal and went against an
individual’s constitutional rights.
He made the ruling during the
unprecedented court battle between a
father and his son.
The son claimed to have been been forced
to undergo traditional circumcision
against his religious beliefs.
Bonani Yamani, a second year
microbiology student at the University
of the Free State, was forcefully
circumcised after he was abducted by his
father Lindile Yamani and 10 other men
at his KwaMasele village near King
William’s Town on March 3, 2007.
This was three months after he had
returned from East London’s Frere
Hospital, where he had been surgically
circumcised in November 2006.
Yamani refused to go with the men,
telling them that he had already been
circumcised, but the men mocked the
circumcision and took him to the bush
were they circumcised him again.
Yesterday Ebrahim said that forced
circumcision was against the
Constitution and it was unfair for
anyone to be discriminated against based
on their religious beliefs.
Following an apology from Eastern Cape
Contralesa, Yamani gave his consent for
a settlement and withdrew his complaint.
The chairperson of Eastern Cape
Contralesa, Nkosi Ngubo Mgcotyelwa,
apologised to Yamani for remarks made by
his predecessor, Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana,
that people such as Yamani, who refused
traditional circumcision, should be
ostracised by the community. —
(WBTV) - A father who admitted to circumcising his
infant sons earlier this week was sentenced in Caldwell
County court Friday afternoon.
was accused of two felony counts of abuse in the case
and the jury convicted him Thursday on one count of
misdemeanor child abuse. They jury was deadlocked in
reaching a verdict in the other count and because of
this, Judge Robert Ervin declared a mistrial.
the court gave Marlowe the maximum sentence of 150 days
which must be served after a 12-to-15 year sentence he
received for an assault charge in which he was convicted
of earlier this year.
Prior to the
sentencing on Friday, Marlowe's ex-wife, Amber, pleaded
with the court to keep Marlowe in jail as long as
possible. She told the court that he once threatened
that he would kill her if she ever told police about the
circumcisions or testified against him in court. She
told the court she is terrified that some day he's going
to come after her.
defendant left the courthouse Friday afternoon, WBTV
reporter Steve Ohnesorge asked Marlowe if he still
thought what he did was right. Marlowe responded, "Yes."
When asked if
he would ever circumcise any more children in which he
might have in the future, Marlowe said, "Yes."
After he was
sentenced, Marlowe told the court he would appeal.
proceedings earlier this week, Marlowe said he
circumcised his boys for religious reasons, but he never
specifically said which faith he followed.
convicted back in May of several assault charges with
his ex-wife and children as the victims. Sentencing in
that case was delayed until the trial this week.
Marlowe admitted he circumcised two of his children
without any anesthetic. He said God told him to perform
reason I did it was, the Holy Spirit pressed me to do
it," he said.
learned how to do the circumcisions, he said, by reading
books and the internet. He used his shirt to demonstrate
to the courtroom his surgical method.
the skin over the tip and cut it off," he said.
revealed that he has circumcised a total of three
children: one in Mecklenburg County and two in Caldwell
County. At this time, he has not been charged in
connection with the alleged incident in Mecklenburg
the pain couldn't have been that bad for the infants. He
says he knows because he performed a circumcision on
himself a few years ago when he was 30.
"The pain did
not overwhelm me or stop me," he said. "Within an hour
or so, [I] was able to put in 13 stitches."
He claims he
did the right thing with his children and that putting
him in jail for it sets a bad precedent.
Marlowe confronted his accusers -- his ex-wife and a
second woman he claimed he was married to at the time.
this is all about religious freedom and his right to
circumcise his children. "It hasn't been illegal till
now, why should it be illegal?" Marlowe said.
reminding witnesses and the court that this was a
understand what the outcome of the case will do to the
state and this country?" he asked.
prosecutors say this is not about religious freedom, but
instead is about what one man did to his children.
ex-wife, Amber Marlowe, said he used a box knife to
circumcise her son.
who also lived with John Marlowe, described how he
circumcised her child.
"He held the
foreskin out, took the box cutter, and made an
incision," Fleming she said.
didn't deny doing that or how the infants reacted.
said they couldn't stop John Marlowe from performing the
procedure because they were fearful for their lives.
Fleming described her escape months later.
necessary for me to leave out a back window with just
the clothes I had on," she said, "[I was] running for my
says she's testifying now because she finally feels
longer under your power, I no longer have nightmares of
you coming and killing me, I know you are safe behind
bars where you can't reach me," she said.
As for the
Caldwell County victims who were just a few days old
when the circumcisions occurred, one is still in the
custody of Department of Social Services. The second
child is with his mother, Sara Fleming. A doctor told us
the children are well and should not have any long
lasting physical effects.
and several local authorities in Sweden refuse to
circumcise boys unless it is medically motivated,
reported Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.
Göthberg, chairman of the Swedish Pediatric Surgeons
Association (Svensk barnkirurgisk förening), compared
the procedure to female genital mutilation.
A survey done
by the association reported that two of three pediatric
surgeons do not want to perform circumcision. Göthberg
regards the operation as an assault since the procedure
is done without the child's consent.
Nyheter reported that 12 of 21 local municipalities also
refuse to perform circumcisions for non-medical reasons.
circumcisions are estimated to be done in Sweden each
year. Of these, around 2,000 are performed by people who
are not doctors and who do not have a medical license,
which pose risks for the child and lead to
of boys for non-medical reasons is permitted in Sweden,
and the Swedish Board of Health and Welfare
(Socialstyrelsen) is of the opinion that a prohibition
would be an illegal limitation on religious freedom.
has proposed that the issue should be legally regulated
and that all municipalities should offer male
circumcision for non-medical reasons. The Swedish
Association of Local Authorities and Regions believes
that a formal recommendation would be sufficient.
that non-medical circumcision is in violation of the
United Nation's Declaration of the Rights of the Child,
now often thought unkind, the cut may also be illegal.
Parental consent might not be enough to protect the
circumcisers of baby boys from later legal action.
In a rare
legal analysis of the medical procedure, the Tasmanian
Law Reform Institute found that criminal and civil law
lacked certainty, and may abuse the rights of a child.
laws regulate the removal of the foreskin in Australia,
and there are few clear answers in general law,
according to an institute researcher, Warwick Marshall.
"What is clear is that the current laws were not framed
with male circumcision in mind," he said in an issues
paper released yesterday.
About 12 per
cent of newborn boys are believed to be circumcised in
Australia, down from 90 per cent in the 1950s.
circumcision is no longer performed in most Australian
public hospitals, and Australian medical colleges
combined to conclude in 2004 that "there is no medical
indication for routine neonatal circumcision".
according to the law reform institute, most practising
Jews still consider it a requirement of their faith, to
be conducted by a specially-trained circumciser eight
days after birth, while Muslims are the largest
identifiable group who do it today.
about the circumcisers' legal position were first raised
by the Tasmanian Children's Commissioner, Paul Mason,
who referred the issue to the institute.
subject of non-therapeutic circumcision on boys is so
fraught with emotion and unreasonable assumption that it
is hard to find answers to the most basic legal
questions," Mr Mason concluded.
He found that
the risks included pain, surgical mishap or
complications, and decreased sexual pleasure. Among the
claimed benefits were reduced chance of infections, and
cultural or religious conformity.
institute's paper, "Non-Therapeutic Male Circumcision",
found that the consequences of an ill-advised procedure
could be particularly grave.
"Even if a
court considers the physical loss following circumcision
negligible, the social and psychological effects of a
wrong decision can be devastating."
said in law the operation might be considered an assault
or a wounding, though there was little legal guidance on
whether a routine circumcision was injurious.
uncertainty as to whether the consent of a parent for
the circumcision of their child is sufficient to allow a
circumciser to legally perform the procedure," it said.
"Intactivists," demonstrating yesterday, want a federal ban on newborn
Rallying in the Name of the Unkindest Cut?
Sharp Rhetoric Abounds In Circumcision
By Dan Zak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 31, 2009; C01
In the shadow
of the nation's most recognizable phallic symbol, they
gather and march. There are about 50 of them, all ages,
both sexes, nearly all white, smiling, quiet, enjoying
the sun as they make a slow loop in front of the White
House with their signs of protest. Their mounted photos
of pink squealing babies make the event look, at first
glance, like an anti-abortion rally.
closer at the squealing baby photos and see why they're
Just read the big black sign with bold white letters:
As in, activists who want male genitalia kept intact. As
in, people who want a federal ban on male circumcision
A herd of
eighth-graders on a class trip gets mixed up in the
rally yesterday. The girls snap photos as the boys gawk
protest, kids, freedom to protest," says their teacher,
delivering the day's civics lesson.
A man walks
by with a sign depicting a cartoon baby exclaiming, "You
Want to Cut Off WHAT?"
To no one in
particular, the teacher mutters: "It's gonna be their
favorite souvenir. They got a picture that says 'penis'
Integrity Awareness Week, in case you didn't know, as
well as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Female
genital mutilation has received worldwide attention and
condemnation -- and was banned by Congress 12 years ago
this week -- and now intactivists say it's time for
equal rights for boys. In this case, gender equality
enters a murky, impassioned area in which medicine,
religion, culture, industry, sexuality, language and a
bit of craziness collide over the most common type of
surgery in America (56 percent of male infants were
circumcised in 2006 in the United States, the only
Western industrialized country to routinely practice
It is a
sensitive issue. Pun absolutely intended.
* * *
intactivists define circumcision: a cruel, traumatic and
unnecessary surgery (the American Academy of Pediatrics
says the benefits are not sufficient enough to recommend
the procedure) that causes enduring sexual and
psychological injury to a helpless infant who can't give
How much of
the medical community defines circumcision: a simple,
nearly painless operation that removes an obsolete part
of the body that can increase a man's susceptibility to
infections and sexually transmitted diseases
(circumcision reduces the risk of getting HIV by 60
percent, studies show).
defines circumcision: as a covenant with God, as
conveyed to Abraham.
lopsided fight, but each side has doctors and lawyers.
Each side has data. Each accuses the other of denial.
One side is labeled as a bunch of baby-cutting sex
criminals. The other is labeled as sex-obsessed,
fanatical loonies who are duping the public.
understand this," says Van Lewis, who has protested
infant circumcision in Tallahassee since the '70s and
helped make Florida one of 16 states that no longer
publicly fund circumcision. "We're living in denial as a
nation. Of what we've done to ourselves."
anti-circs have a lot to answer for," Brian J. Morris,
professor of molecular medical sciences at the
University of Sydney, writes in an e-mail. "Only
deception by their propaganda leads some gullible men
into believing that their sexual problems have something
to do with their circumcision as an infant. This is just
not true. . . . Most are just ignorant do-gooders with a
misplaced sence of political correctness, who get sucked
into these organizations by believing the rubbish posted
on their websites."
touch on human rights, bodily integrity and public
health. Strong emotions are just the tip of the issue.
* * *
departs from the White House about 2 p.m., headed toward
Pennsylvania Avenue, on the breezy walk to the Capitol.
The 50 people include the only man to ever file a
lawsuit over a medically successful circumcision (and
win), the woman who saw him on "Good Morning America"
and later became his wife and joined the crusade, and a
guy from Chicago who mass-produces (in his basement) an
apparatus that he says allows men to grow back foreskin.
He says he's sold 15,000 of the devices over the past
five years. Men want to reclaim what was taken from
them, he says, and they will pay $16 to $60 a pop to
This is the
16th annual march. Numbers are down this year (dang
economy), but everyone still seems to be from a
different anti-circumcision group. And they will talk
your ear off. Spend some time with intactivists and you
will hear how circumcision is responsible for, among
other things, the oppression of women, sexual
disharmony, deforestation, militarization, the rise and
fall of empires and the invasion of foreign lands for
You will also
hear some sensible things about condoms and
cost-effectiveness and the pain of men who say they are
struggling with the emotional and physical effects of
circumcision. Then there's Soraya Miré, a speaker and
activist who endured female genital mutilation in her
native Somalia when she was 13. After witnessing a male
circumcision in the United States, she broadened her
message to include both genders.
women's circumcision is more severe but, to me, pain is
pain," says Miré, who lives in Los Angeles and doesn't
believe anesthesia for circumcision makes a difference.
A young guy
sticks his buzzed head out of a white minivan as the
marchers pass through a crosswalk on Pennsylvania.
he shouts, in response to one of the protest signs.
causes premature ejaculation!" says Marilyn Milos, a
former nurse and founder of the National Organization of
Circumcision Information Resource Centers.
happened to me!" the guy yells back.
laughs. There seems to be a sense of humor about this,
march passes a cluster of security guards in sunglasses.
circumcision started in the 1800s to stop our boys from
masturbating," announces David Wilson, who lives in
Cocoa Beach, Fla., and is the director of the Stop
Infant Circumcision Society.
says a security guard, and the marchers discuss whether
that's a poor, ignorant joke or a great, subversive
* * *
There is, of
course, a serious, disturbing side to this. Leading the
pack are two 21-year-olds, Jason Siegel and Zachary Levi
Balakoff, who are on Day 3 of a hunger strike. They say
they won't eat until genital mutilation is exposed. Go
ahead, ask them why. They'll tell you, for many minutes,
about the "entire realms of exquisite feeling" they are
missing by not having foreskins and the corresponding
nerves. The "giant monstrosity" of circumcision
"envelops" their entire lives.
"If we have
to die, then that's what's necessary," Balakoff says.
They say they'll sit in front of the Capitol until they
marchers just want people to keep the clamps and knives
away from infants. They just want society to respect the
bodies of everyone, with no disrespect to any religion.
They just want men to know what they're missing, so
maybe they won't choose to do the same to their sons.
They say their message is reaching a wider audience.
Circumcision rates are way down from their peak of 85
percent in 1965. The foundation Intact America started
six months ago to direct the message to the mainstream.
The goal is a male genital mutilation bill.
nears the Capitol. An open-air trolley packed with
tourists trundles past the signs. The tourists can't
help but look. The guide's voice is audible over the
speakers as the trolley rolls by.
what? This is America," the guide says, and it's hard to
tell if she means it as a celebration or an excuse.
In Osun, controversy trails move by House of Assembly
to outlaw tribal marks, circumcision
When did it
become an offence for parents to circumcise their
children? That is the question many parents in Osun
State may soon be asking law enforcement agents if the
state government put teeth into the Child Rights Act
recently passed by the House of Assembly. Under the law,
no parent or guardian has the right to “tattoo or make a
skin mark on a child. A person who tattoos or makes a
skin mark on a child commits an offence under this Law
and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding five
thousand naira or imprisonment for a term not exceeding
one month or to both such fine and imprisonment.”
Skin mark, in
the eye of this law, means any form of genital
mutilation or facial mark. But religion appears the
biggest challenge of this law.
Logic and the
rights of the child appear to play little part in
determining the acceptability of genital mutilation in
our society. Article 24(3) of the United Nations
convention on the rights of the child commits all
ratifying states to taking all effective and appropriate
measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices
prejudicial to the health of children.” And article
19(1) says, “States shall take all appropriate
legislative administrative social and educational
measures to protect the child from all forms of physical
or mental violence, injury or abuse.”
Anti-circumcision exponents, Y Hofvander and J Smith, in
their respective works against circumcision, contend
that it cannot be in the best interest of a child to be
subjected, without its consent, to an irreversible
surgical procedure, often without anesthetic.
In the US and
UK, female genital mutilation is expressively barred by
law but the same cannot be said of male circumcision
which is approved if the two parents consent on
religious or cultural grounds.
ethnic groups, an individual receives his or her first
marks at the age of 14, signifying transition from
childhood to adulthood.
circumcision and facial marks for children, the Ooni of
Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, threw his weight behind the
abolition of the age-long practice, saying it has
outlived its usefulness. The traditional ruler of
Ile-Ife, which is widely held as the cradle of the
Yoruba traditional and cultural practices, held that
practices that were harmful or capable of inflicting
pain on people should be expunged. Sijuwade, who spoke
through his Media Executive, Chief Funmi Olorunnisola,
recalled that facial marks were basically used for
identification purposes, adding that emerging trends in
the 21st Century had evolved modern means of
acclaimed Ifa priest and Awise of Osogbo, Chief Yemi
Elebuibon, disagrees with the opponents of circumcision
and facial marks. He said, “Tattoo is a form of
identification and beautification practised by
Europeans, Australians and Americans. It is unfortunate
that western values have continued to erode our
tradition and culture. It smacks of inferiority complex
to canvass abolition of facial marks or circumcision.
What government should do is ensure the use of hygienic
needles and maintain best practice during the act of
facial mark or circumcision. Facial marks are rooted in
the history and socio-cultural heritage of our people.
We should not forget our history in order for us not to
go astray. Panegyrics extolling facial marks are fast
dying. The whites still hold on to their tradition and
traditional ruler in Osun State, the Owa of Igbajo, Oba
Olufemi Fasade, said the Child Right Act would be put to
the test in the law courts by parents and guardians.
According to the Owa, parental discretion, rather than
law, should be employed in determining male
circumcision, noting that the art of facial marks was
gradually dying a natural death.
“Culture differs from clime to clime. For instance, the
burial of kings has its rites; if a government enacts a
law to prohibit the rites associated with burial of
kings, it might fail because people have their cultural
differences and leanings regarding this matter. Facial
mark art is dying a natural death because people no
longer feel the need for it. Traditional circumcisers
could seek legal protection for their profession by
challenging the Act if they believe that their trade is
The Oludo of
Ido-Osun community in Osun State, Oba Aderemi Adedapo,
said facial marks were used in the slave trade era to
distinguish slaves from freeborn. He said, “Health and
economic developments have rendered some traditional and
cultural practices ineffectual. Polygamy, which was rife
in those days, is fast going out of fashion even among
traditional rulers. Polygamy was rife because of
agrarian farming practices. People nowadays investigate
genotypes before they get married. People ate any type
of food with their bare hands, but all these are fast
changing. Fingerprints and holograms are examples of
modern day identification.@
Nigerian medical doctor, Yemi Oladimeji, who owns five
dialysis centres in Maryland, USA, said, “There are
short term risks of bleeding and infection associated
with any surgical procedure. Longer term potential
complications include pain on erection, penile
disfigurement, and psychological problems. A recent
report shows that the non-circumcised adult penis is
more sensitive than the circumcised penis, largely
because the five most sensitive areas in the male organ
are removed during circumcision. This implies a
reduction in future sexual sensitivity for circumcised
adults. Far from being a harmless traditional practice,
circumcision damages young boys.”
said renowned researchers and crusaders against
circumcision such as Williams Kaplia, Peterson S, and
Sorrells M, in their various works, contend that male
child circumcision has continued unchecked throughout
expert said circumcision phenomenon was a direct tussle
between the primacy of parental religious conviction and
the primacy of the human rights of the child, the
preservation of its bodily integrity, and its right to
self determination. Debunking the insinuations that
circumcision prevents penile cancer, masturbation,
blindness and insanity, Oladimeji said the claims relate
to adult sexual behaviour and not genital anatomy or
best interest of a child.
“There may be
a case that male circumcision reduces HIV risk in
sexually active adults, but the decision about whether
to have this procedure should be left until the person
is old enough to make his own informed healthcare
choices,” Oladimeji contended.
President, Association of Resident Doctors, Ladoke
Akintola University Teaching Hospital, Osogbo. Dr
Mobolaji Olaoye, said traditional practices like
circumcision and facial marks could cause children to
bleed to death. “It is high risk to give facial marks or
scarify babies, because they could easily bleed to
death,” he said.
A nurse in
LAUTECH, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said
several cases of infection in children resulted from
scarification and circumcision, adding that the act
disfigures rather that beautifies.
parent, who spoke with our correspondent, said, “I have
facial marks but I didn’t give my five children any
facial marks because facial marks have outlived their
that Christian parents will defy the law against male
circumcision, a pastor of one of the pentecostal
churches in Osogbo, Dr Soji Olabisi, said, “The law
against male circumcision is a law against God’s
commandment. True Christians will resist the law.”
Christians and Muslims in the state bow to temporal law,
in the face of God’s injunction to circumcise the male
child on the eighth day? Time will tell.
Furor over Proposed Ban of Circumcision in Denmark
Muslims in Denmark are in an uproar about a bill to ban
circumcision for boys under the age of 15, according to
Yediot Ahronot. The country's National Council for
Children and Ethics Council have both endorsed the
proposal and only the parliament's medical committee can
prevent it from being heard.
Council for Children argued that, "Circumcision is the
irreversible damage to a child's body before he is given
the chance to object." It also said the ban was a matter
of equality, in the wake of a five-year-old ban on
Chief Rabbi Bent Lexner – who is also a certified mohel
(circumciser) in the community – told Yediot Ahronot,
"The comparison between circumcision and the intentional
mutilation of the female sex organ in certain societies
is simply complete nonsense." He added, "If the law
forbidding circumcision is ever passed in Denmark, Jews
will have to leave the place they have been living in
for hundreds of years."
specifies circumcsion when a boy is eight days old,
unless medically dictated otherwise. Islam does not
specify a date, but allows it through puberty.
Several parliamentary parties are considering creating legislation
that would spare all children from circumcision - not just girls
A proposal to ban circumcision for boys may be on its way to parliament
after intense discussions by MPs over the past week, reports Kristeligt
Although circumcision of girls was outlawed in response to the practice
being common among immigrants from some Muslim countries, boys may still
be circumcised if a certified physician is present.
Jewish traditions calls for the circumcision of newborn boys, and many
Muslims and Christians support the practice as well. But both the Ethics
Council and the National Council for Children have recently criticised
the practice, stating that a boy should be able to decide for himself if
he wants the procedure performed when he reaches the age of 15 - the
legal age in Denmark for a child to have sole jurisdiction over his own
While the Social Democrats, Red-Green Alliance and Liberal Alliance have
come out in support of a ban, the Danish People's Party called it
'It's completely ridiculous to compare the circumcision of girls - which
is a barbaric mutilation - with that of boys, where it's just the
removal of a skin flap,' said the party's Jesper Langballe.
But the party's own health spokeswoman, Liselott Brixt, said she
supports a ban.
'A lot of parents want it done to their children because they themselves
had it done. But we're living in the present and it isn't fair to expose
healthy children to religious circumcision.'
Medical wisdom is mixed on the supposed benefits of male circumcision,
some studies claiming it prevents disease while others indicate normal
hygiene procedures sufficiently negate the need for the practice.
The American Academy of Pediatrics does not support male circumcision,
indicating any health advantages from it are minimal.
Gaston County Father Charged with
Child Abuse, Circumcision
CAROLINA - A
Gaston County man, who is the father of a dozen
kids by two different women, is now facing even
more child abuse charges in Caldwell County.
week, Johnny Marlowe pleaded no contest to
assaulting his wife and neglecting all 12 kids.
WBTV's Michael Handy found out the latest
charges came after Marlowe was accused of
circumcising two of his sons.
Johnny Marlowe remains in the Gaston County jail
tonight, but he could be released within the
next few weeks. Either way, his legal troubles
are far from over now that he's facing felony
child abuse charges in Caldwell County.
"Instead of doing this, could we just give me
the maximum and let it go," asked Marlowe at his
most recent court appearance.
pleaded no contest to more than a dozen counts
of child neglect and one count of assaulting his
wife. "I'd rather just take the maximum and let
it go," he said to the judge.
Marlowe made it clear he wanted the whole mess
behind him as quickly as possible and his wife
Amber was barely able to speak.
tried to tell the judge that her husband was
married to another women at the same time and
they all lived together in a very small house.
hard to imagine three adults and 12 kids living
in the house, but police say that's nothing
compared to what happened in Caldwell County.
Marlowe and his two wives lived in Lenoir for
several years and during that time Amber says he
delivered and then circumcised two of his
Police reports indicate that Marlowe used a
utility knife and one of the boys even bled
question everyone is asking is, what could
motivate a father to deliver and circumcise his
Marlowe says it all started back in 2004 at a
Pennsylvania hospital. Doctors there tried to
force Amber to have a C-section and that's
something Marlowe says he strongly opposes.
Doctors at that Pennsylvania hospital even went
to court to try and get legal guardianship of
the Marlowe's unborn daughter.
made national news, but the Marlowe's won the
case. Amber gave birth naturally and without
complications at another hospital.
-- The Oregon Supreme Court Friday blocked a Jewish
convert from having his 12-year-old son circumcised
until the boy's own wishes have been determined.
high court sent the case back to a trial court, The
Portland Oregonian reported.
parents, James and Lia Boldt, are divorced. The father
argued that having custody of his son gives him the
right to make medical decisions for the boy.
argued that circumcision is dangerous. She said that the
boy was afraid to disagree with his father.
ruled in the father's favor. But the state supreme court
found that there had been no adequate finding of what
the 12-year-old actually wants.
"In our view,
at age 12, M's attitude regarding circumcision, though
not conclusive of the custody issue presented here, is a
fact necessary to the determination," Chief Justice Paul
De Muniz wrote. "Forcing M at age 12 to undergo
circumcision against his will could seriously affect the
relationship between M and his father, and could have a
pronounced effect on father's capability to properly
care for M."
Frankfurt court finds circumcision an unlawful personal
appeals court in Frankfurt am Main found that the
circumcision of an 11-year-old Muslim boy without his
approval was an unlawful personal injury.
The Sept. 20
decision opened the way toward financial compensation
for the boy.
The case may
have repercussions for the practice of ritual
circumcision in Germany by Muslims and Jews. The court
suggested, in part, that it was a punishable offense to
subject one's child to teasing by other children for
The boy, now
14, plans to sue his father for 10,000 Euro (about
$14,000), according to a report by the German ddp press
the boy, whose parents are divorced, was visiting his
father during a vacation when his father forced the
ritual circumcision. The boy lives with his mother, who
had always rejected circumcision. Muslim boys are
traditionally circumcised at elementary school age.
the court, circumcision can "be important in individual
cases for the cultural-religious and physical
self-image," even if there are no health disadvantages
involved. So the decision about whether or not to go
through with a circumcision is "a central right of a
person to determine his identity and life."
The court did
not give an age minimum at which their parents must seek
a child's permission to perform a circumcision . The
amount of damages depends, said the court, on the extent
to which the boy suffered long-term physical or
emotional damage, or "whether his peers would tease him
for looking different."
Children's Act has come into effect today, giving
children from the age of 12, among others, the right to
access medical services such as HIV treatment and
contraception without parental consent.
the President, these sections of the act do not require
regulations before being released. Only sections that do
not require regulations are enforced. They include the
right for children from age 12 to get HIV treatment and
contraception without consent. Twelve-year-olds can also
have pregnancies terminated if they wish.
from the department of social development, says: "The
reason behind that is to make sure that our law is
aligned in terms of age, when children can access
contraceptives. Children become sexually active at an
early stage. It's a reality that we're dealing with.
Secondly, children are abused at a very young age."
age for sexual activity
been raised that the act might promote sexual activity
at a young age. Joan van Niekerk, the national
coordinator of Childline, says: "Certainly, one would
question the advisability of giving children access to
contraception from a very young age. But the reality is…
that the age at which children become sexually active is
getting younger and younger."
Under 16s may
not be tested for virginity or be circumcised, unless
required by tradition or religion.
A child is now regarded as an adult at 18, and no longer
21. This means 18-year-olds can now get into contractual
agreements without parental consent. The section dealing
with corporal punishment requires regulations and the
act should be complete by March next year.
A former Medford man who converted to Judaism wants
his 12-year-old son to do the same. That requires
circumcision -- something the mother adamantly opposes.
The divorced couple has been battling over the issue
for three years, including whether the boy wants to
undergo the procedure. So far, Oregon courts have
squarely sided with the father, who has custody.
That doesn't surprise Kathy T. Graham, associate dean
for academic affairs at Willamette University College of
"The primary custodial parent is the one that makes
the decisions about religion and education and about
matters of child-rearing," Graham said.
Other family law experts agree, but say the courts
should at least look into the situation to make sure the
surgery is in the best interests of the child.
"You're talking about not just religious instruction
or whether you're going to send the child to parochial
school or public school," commented Lawrence D. Gorin, a
Portland attorney. "This is a matter of permanent change
of bodily structure. And it's irreversible."
The mother is running out of legal options.
The Oregon Supreme Court has been briefed, but has
not decided whether to take the case.
Mark Johnson, a Portland lawyer commenting on the
case, said the court shouldn't let the case be decided
based only on the legal papers filed on behalf of the
mother and father.
"Frankly, the child should have a lawyer," Johnson
The Oregonian is not identifying the family members,
in order to protect the privacy of the minor.
The couple married in the early 1990s. She filed for
divorce in 1998.
The man started studying Judaism in 1999 and
eventually converted. He now lives near Olympia . The
child initially lived with his mother, but the father
later gained custody.
In court papers, the father claims the boy gradually
concluded that he also wanted to convert to Judaism and
understood that this required circumcision.
The father also claims as the custodial parent he had
a constitutional right to raise his son in his religion.
The father made an appointment for a circumcision in
The mother responded by going to court, saying her
son told her that he was afraid to defy his father, but
didn't want the procedure.
She asked for a hearing where she could present
evidence that the circumcision would be dangerous. She
also sought custody of her son.
But Jackson County Circuit Judge Rebecca G. Orf sided
with the father.
"I am still of the opinion that the decision of
whether or not a child has elective surgery, which this
appears to be, is a call that should be made and is
reserved to the custodial parent," Orf said in a
More than a million U.S. infants are circumcised each
year, but circumcising adults or teens remains
Despite her ruling, Orf ordered the boy not be
circumcised until the legal proceedings were done.
The Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed Orf's decision
without an opinion, often an indication that the
three-judge panel found no merit to the appeal.
The lawyer for the mother has asked the Oregon
Supreme Court to take the case, and gained an ally
called Doctors Opposing Circumcision, which filed a
brief last week.
There is no schedule for when the court will decide
whether to review the case.
The mother's attorney declined to comment.
The father, an attorney who is representing himself,
did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Oregon legal experts agree that judges generally
defer to the choices of custodial parents.
"Judges traditionally have stayed away in getting
involving decisions about the day-to-day upbringing of
the child," said Gorin, the Portland attorney.
Still, there are limits.
"It may be that the religious belief is to engage in
human sacrifice or kill animals, but we don't do that,"
But Julie H. McFarlane, a supervising attorney with
the Portland-based Juvenile Rights Project, said that
the child's consent for a medical procedure is not
required until he turns 15.
"I think the dad has the legal right as the custodial
parent to make those kind of religious or medical
decisions," McFarlane said. "It's not much different
from cosmetic surgery."
The bottom line, McFarlane said, is that "when you
lose custody, you lose a lot of those things that go
with custody -- deciding whether the kids go to school
and the rest of the day-to-day parenting decisions."
case that has been closely watched by anti-circumcision
groups nationwide, a Cook County judge ruled Tuesday
that the medical benefits of the procedure are not clear
enough to compel a 9-year-old Northbrook boy to be
circumcised against his will.
The boy's mother and her new husband had claimed the
operation was necessary to prevent recurrent episodes of
redness and discomfort. The boy's father sought a court
order barring the circumcision, which he called an
mother has sole custody, but their 2003 parenting
agreement gave her ex-husband a say in non-emergency
medical decisions. The Tribune is not naming the parents
in order to protect the boy's privacy.
In a written opinion handed down Tuesday, Circuit Court
Judge Jordan Kaplan said, "The evidence was conflicting
and inconclusive as to any past infections or
irritations that may have been suffered by the child.
"Moreover," he continued, "this court also finds that
the medical evidence as provided by the testimony of the
expert witnesses ... is inconclusive as to the medical
benefits or non-benefits of circumcision as it relates
to the 9-year-old child."
Kaplan said the boy, as a minor, cannot make his own
medical decisions but had indicated in a written
statement that he does not want to be circumcised.
"The injury to the child as a result of an unnecessary
circumcision would be irreversible," Kaplan wrote,
adding that his order would remain in effect until the
boy turns 18 and can decide for himself whether or not
he wants to undergo the procedure.
Because there are no U.S. precedents, other courts could
look to this ruling in future cases, said George Hill of
Doctors Opposing Circumcision.
Geoffrey Miller, a law professor at New York University,
called the ruling a "significant victory" for the
growing "intactivist" movement, which has argued
circumcision is harmful and violates the rights of
children, who can't give informed consent.
Miller conceded Tuesday's decision was "limited by the
facts of the case," including the agreement that gives
the father the right to be consulted on medical care.
Nevertheless, he said, "The fact that a non-custodial
parent was able to prevent a custodial parent from
having this procedure done is a sign that courts are
more receptive to arguments against circumcision than
they were in past years."
The father, a 50-year-old building manager from
Arlington Heights, said he was relieved by the decision
and "so happy."
His lawyer, Alan Toback, said, "We always thought it was
not in the child's best interest to have a circumcision
at age 9 that was not medically necessary, and the judge
The mother was not in court Tuesday, and her lawyer,
Tracy Rizzo, also was not there because of the death of
her father, famed Chicago private investigator Ernie
Rizzo. The mother was represented instead by Gail
O'Connor, who said, "We're disappointed, of course, but
we will abide by the injunction."
Circumcision, in which the foreskin of the penis is
surgically removed, usually before a newborn leaves the
hospital, was extremely common in the U.S. during the
last century. But the percentage of U.S. babies being
circumcised has gone from an estimated 90 percent in
1970 to about 55 percent today. In most other countries,
circumcision is performed only for religious reasons.
The boy, who never appeared in court, was represented by
attorney David Pasulka, who recommended against
circumcision at this time.
The eight-month dispute took some nasty turns. Rizzo
charged that the father did not care about the boy's
health but feared his ex-wife and her new husband were
trying to convert the boy to Judaism.
The father's attorneys hinted that the mother's aim was
to spite her ex-husband and please her current husband,
who is Jewish.
The boy's stepfather and stepbrother are both
circumcised, while the biological parents are Catholic
immigrants from Eastern European countries where
circumcision is rare.
But Kaplan said he did not address "issues of ethnicity
or religious beliefs relative to circumcision" because
the parents did not raise them in their legal pleadings.
Dan Strandjord, a self-proclaimed "intactivist" who
attended every hearing in the case, was elated Tuesday.
"I believe this is a human rights issue," said
Dusseldorf - A 77-year-old Turkish national who
performed ritual circumcisions on seven boys was
convicted Tuesday in Germany of causing dangerous bodily
harm and fined €2 100 (about R20 000).
Prosecutors told the state court in Dusseldorf that
circumcision was only allowed in Germany for medical
reasons and could only be performed by surgeons.
Traditional Turkish Muslims practise circumcision on
boys aged 6 to 11 as a manhood initiation ritual.
The accused did not attend the trial, a re-hearing in
an appeal court, two years after he had been fined the
At the original trial, the accused agreed he had
performed the circumcisions at the request of parents in
several cities. Police who seized the surgical
instruments at his home described them as dirty and
university scientists said he did not follow hygiene
rules. - Sapa-dpa
Court rules circumcision of four-year-old boy illegal
Legal status of nonmedical procedure remains murky
Finland’s first court ruling on male child
circumcision was handed down by a Finnish court on
Friday. A Muslim mother faced charges of assault in
Tampere District Court for having her four-year-old son
circumcised. The incident was reported to the police by
the boy’s father, who had not been consulted. The court
found that the mother’s action was illegal. However, it
did not assign any punishment. The mother defended her
action by saying that she thought that circumcisions
performed by doctors were legal in Finland. The case
will now go to the Court of Appeals.
The mother said that the procedure is part of the
family’s religion and cultural heritage. The court found
that interfering with personal inviolability could be
allowed only in cases specifically permitted by law.
"There is a perception in Finland that only girls’
circumcisions are banned by law. There is no specific
legislation about them; both types are illegal under the
same criminal law. After all, in both procedures, part
of healthy genitalia is removed without medical
foundation, or competent consent", says local prosecutor
Jouko Nurminen. Nurminen says that the "misconception"
may have arisen in connection with the drafting of the
new constitution, at which time only the circumcision of
girls was part of the debate. In its decision, the court
notes that not even a long religious tradition justifies
protecting the bodily inviolability of boys to a lesser
degree than that of girls.
A working group of the Ministry of Social Affairs and
Health proposed a few years ago that circumcisions
performed under medical supervision in hospitals should
be allowed. The working group wanted to avoid
complications from operations performed at home, and to
reduce the suffering of the child.
Legislation is somewhat vague on the matter, and
practice varies in Finland. For instance, a report
drafted by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health in
2004 notes that male circumcision is permitted in all
countries. "There is no legislation on male
circumcision, but there is also no prohibition. The
operations have been performed on the basis of common
law", says Riitta-Maija Jouttimäki, a lawyer for the
Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.
A group of men caused a stir in parliament on Tuesday
by calling for an end to all circumcision of baby boys -
or anyone under 18 years old.
The National Organisation of Circumcision Information
Resource Centres South Africa (NOCIRC-SA) is fighting
for boys' rights to retain their foreskins. They say
that circumcision without consent is a "violation of a
They are supported by a number of other local and
international organisations, including the International
Coalition of Genital Integrity, Doctors Opposing
Circumcision and the National Organisation of Restoring
The select committee on social development was
holding public hearings into the Children's Bill, which
outlaws female genital mutilation and virginity testing.
Under the proposed Bill, which has already been
approved by the national Assembly, anyone who practises
female genital mutilation or virginity testing is guilty
of an offence and can be imprisoned for up to 10 years.
"Male circumcision should not be isolated from female
circumcision," Dean Ferris of NOCIRC said.
This is unlikely to go down well with Jewish, Islamic
and Xhosa groups, all of which see circumcision as an
essential part of their cultures.
According to a Children's Institute discussion paper
on the Children's Bill, if a child is old enough to give
consent, then the boy has the right to say no. Forcing a
child to be circumcised is a criminal offence. The bill
is silent on the age for consent.
However, circumcising baby boys who are too young to
give consent, is not outlawed.
A written statement submitted to the select committee
by NORM states that: "As children, we were unable to
voice our objections to halt these ritual genital
mutilations that were carried out on us in hospitals and
"We are now able as adults to loudly and unreservedly
condemn such sexual abuse."
Ferris said that the South African Medical
Association has said that there is no need for
circumcision from a medical point of view.
"It's a human issue," said paediatrician Dr Daniel
Sidler. "It's about the integrity of the genitals. We're
fiddling with normal and healthy genitals."
accused of assaulting son through circumcision
“assaulted” his five-year-old son by having him
circumcised against his mother’s wishes, a court heard
father is alleged to have secretly taken the boy to a
doctor in north London for the procedure.
Crown Court heard he then told the mother – an English
Christian – what had happened and said: “There is
nothing you can do.”
27-year-old man – who lives in Crawley, West Sussex, but
cannot be named for legal reasons – denies committing an
assault occasioning actual bodily harm in August 2003.
Ray-Crosby, prosecuting, told the court today that the
parents had been involved in a three-month relationship
and the mother realised she was pregnant after they
defendant, who is of Moroccan origin, realised the child
was his he began raising the issue of circumcision in
line with his religious beliefs.
(the mother) he wanted to have the boy circumcised and
she said she would agree with that only for medical
reasons and never for religious ones.”
heard that in August 2003 – shortly after the boy’s
fifth birthday – he went to stay with his father.
defendant telephoned the mother and asked her to come
out of her house to talk to him, at which point he told
her about the circumcision.
to Ms Ray-Crosby, the mother accused him of assaulting
their son, and the defendant responded: “There’s nothing
you can do. I’ve looked into it and it’s perfectly
sent her a text message saying she should give the boy
salty baths in order to help him heal.
heard that the father had been “under pressure” from
fellow Muslims to get his son circumcised, and paid £100
in cash for the procedure to be carried out.
Ray-Crosby said the defendant had admitted when arrested
and interviewed by police that he had not told the
mother in advance of his plans. She added that there had
been no medical reason why the boy needed to be
not a case that is anti-Islam or anti-any other faith.
It’s simply about a boy who was circumcised without his
Ray-Crosby said the father had never applied for legal
parental responsibility, and therefore could not have
provided proper consent for the operation to take place.
STAMFORD, Conn. -- An Oxford couple on Wednesday sued a
doctor who they say partially amputated their son's
penis during a circumcision at St. Vincent's Hospital in
Immediately after his injury last June, the day-old boy
was transferred to Yale-New Haven Hospital where he
underwent reconstructive surgery.
bringing this case because we already know this baby has
suffered a horrible, life-altering physical injury, but
we are still learning about the long term ramifications
of the injury," said Ernest Teitell, one of the boy's
attorneys. "What happened will profoundly affect him as
he grows older."
Circumcision, often performed for religious reasons,
involves removing foreskin from the penis. The American
Academy of Pediatrics says most complications from the
procedure, such as bleeding, are usually minor.
Biondo, the boy's mother, said Dr. Daniel S. Gottschall
cut off 40 percent of the tip of her son's penis.
a very difficult thing to go through to see your new
born child laying there and wondering how much pain he
was in and how this is going to affect him," Biondo
2001, a jury in California awarded $1.42 million to a
7-year-old boy for a botched circumcision. In another
case, the late David Reimer, a Canadian, was born as a
boy but raised as a girl after a botched circumcision.
lawsuit, filed in Bridgeport Superior Court, seeks
unspecified damages from Dr. Gottschall, who performed
the surgery last June, and his medical and surgical
group, Alliance for Women's Health.
Gottschall said he has performed more than 1,000
circumcisions without a problem.
was a slight tip that was removed, recognized and
repaired," Gottschall said. "We believe there was a
congenital deformity of the penis that made the injury
more likely. Because of my diligence, the boy had the
repair that was necessary."
boy, now nine months old, spent about 10 days in the
hospital, according to his mother.
were always told it was uncharted territory because they
had never seen anything like this before," Biondo said.
boy's attorneys said the lawsuit was brought in part
"because the family wants to make sure something this
awful doesn't happen to another child when their parents
decide to have them undergo this same procedure."
Baby dies after allegedly being infected
NEW YORK, NY
- City health officials are trying to stop a Rockland
County rabbi from performing circumcisions, after a baby
boy died from herpes he allegedly contracted from the
rabbi during a circumcision.
Department of Health said Wednesday it is seeking a
permanent injunction against Rabbi Yitzhok Fischer. The
DOH says Fischer uses an ancient religious custom of
using his mouth to suck the infant's blood after cutting
court papers filed in Manhattan, a 3-week-old boy died
from herpes 10 days after he and his twin brother were
circumcised by Fischer in October. The boy’s twin was
also infected with the virus.
a Staten Island boy was also reportedly infected with
herpes after a circumcision performed by Fischer in
say Fischer did not comply with an order given in
November to stop performing circumcisions and to have
his blood tested.
particularly under the age of six months, are highly
susceptible to infections. They do not have a
functioning immune system," said Health Commissioner Dr.
attorney says his client is cooperating with the city in
an effort to determine what he says is “the true source”
of the infection.
Man sentenced to 36 months for circumcision attempt
RIDGEFIELD, Wash. - A Clark County father of nine has
been sentenced to 36 months in prison after trying to
circumcise his eight-year-old son with a knife. A jury
found Edwin Baxter guilty of assault last week. The
judge formally sentenced him today.
In September, Baxter used a three-inch serrated
hunting knife but called 9-1-1 when his son's bleeding
would not stop. The boy had to get several stitches.
The Ridgefield, Washington, man says he was inspired
to do the circumcision after reading the Bible. He says
he did not mean to hurt his son.
RIDGEFIELD, WASH. - A jury deliberated 40 minutes
Tuesday before convicting a Ridgefield man of assault
for attempting to circumcise his 8-year-old.
Edwin B. Baxter, 33, was polite after the verdict as
he was handcuffed to be taken back to the Clark County
Jail. He thanked his attorney and the prosecutor, who
last week offered Baxter a plea deal that would've given
the father of nine credit for the three months spent in
custody and released him from jail. He declined.
Now, Baxter faces up to three years and five months
A truck driver and fundamentalist Christian who wears
a long beard, Baxter dressed in flannel shirts and work
boots during his two-day trial and had a Bible with him
in court. He did not testify before the jury of seven
men and five women.
He did, however, make a statement to Judge James
Rulli for the purpose of preserving his right to appeal
on the grounds Rulli did not allow him to use his faith
as a defense.
Baxter said he decided to circumcise his 8-year-old,
the eldest of his four boys, on Sept. 3 after he read in
the Old Testament that males should undergo the
"I had no reason to think I would be in violation of
any of God's laws," Baxter said.
"I felt it was an act of obedience."
He said he was only following in the footsteps of
Abraham, Isaac and "every other godly man."
He had his son lay on towels in what was described by
witnesses as a dirty bathtub. He used a hunting knife to
attempt the procedure, but called 911 when his son began
"It breaks my heart to think that this state would
think of me as a child abuser," Baxter said.
Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kim Farr asked whether the
circumcision would have been equally symbolic if it had
been performed by a doctor in a sterile environment.
"I have no reason to think otherwise," Baxter said.
Farr said after the trial that Baxter's son was not
circumcised at birth because none of the Baxter children
have been born in hospitals. He said the family used a
van outside their Ridgefield home as a birthing place.
Baxter's 30-year-old wife, Tammy, is said to be
pregnant with her 10th child.
She and the children have not been found by law
enforcement or investigators from the state Department
of Children and Family Services, who had been seeking
them in connection with the trial.
After the verdict, Judge Rulli dismissed arrest
warrants for Tammy Baxter and the victim.
A urologist who treated the victim said he has not
seen the boy to know if his wound has healed.
Dr. Douglas Masson said he closed the boy's wound,
rather than complete the circumcision, to let it heal
and to minimize the chance of infection.
However, scar tissue could require that the boy be
circumcised in the future, he said.
THE NETHERLANDS - A Dutch Member of Parliament, Hirsi
Ali, has told a Dutch television programme that the
government should consider making the circumcision of
boys an offence. The MP, who is often in the news for
her controversial views on integration, says
circumcision can have long-term damaging effects.
operation, in which the foreskin of the penis is
removed, is carried out on tens of thousands of Islamic
and Jewish boys in the Netherlands each year for
religious reasons. The Dutch government recently
outlawed female circumcision.
Three-year-old Ethan Azar is recovering
well from his recent circumcision, said his father, Ray
"It was quick and done under anesthesia,"
A doctor performed the procedure last
week despite opposition from the boy's mother.
Camille Azar, Independence, was denied an
order to protect a child from medical harm from the
Jackson County Circuit Court several weeks ago and was
then denied a writ of prohibition from the Court of
She petitioned the Missouri Supreme Court
to intervene in July. The court was to determine whether
the circuit court should listen to the case instead of
However, Jagoda went ahead with the
"It was for religious reasons and we
found it was medically necessary," he said. "...Or Ethan
would have had future problems if we didn't do it."
Camille Azar disagreed.
"That's not true," she said. "Saying it
was medically justified is a fabrication to justify what
Jagoda would not reveal where the surgery
was done or who performed it, conditions the doctor had
Camille Azar said she is angry for her
"He will not be able to function normally
the way nature intended," she said. "There were experts
who tried to talk (to Jagoda about the negative side of
circumcision). Two were even world experts, but he
Jagoda said he was under no legal
obligation to wait for the circumcision.
"I just had to find someone who had not
been intimidated by Camille," he said.
Jackson County Circuit Judge Christine
Sill-Rogers gave Jagoda full custody of Ethan in May;
Azar gets supervised visits. They had been sharing
custody, but Azar previously had full custody.
seeks high court order to block circumcision
By Steve Rock, The Kansas City Star
MO - A Lee's
Summit woman is asking the Missouri Supreme Court to
prevent the “unneeded and irreparable'' circumcision of
her almost 3-year-old son.
for Camille Azar filed a petition for a writ of
prohibition Wednesday with the Supreme Court,
effectively asking the state's highest court to reverse
a decision made in Jackson County Circuit Court.
Ultimately, Azar hopes to stop Ray Jagoda, the child's
father, from having their son circumcised.
turns 3 in September and, according to the petition, is
“aware of his own body.”
potential for psychological harm from non-infant
circumcisions is well established and great,” the
Whitsitt, the attorney for Jagoda, said Wednesday he had
no comment about the latest development in the case.
Azar never married, and Jackson County Circuit Judge
Christine Sill-Rogers granted full custody to Jagoda
earlier this year. Azar, who was the child's primary
caregiver until he was about 29 months old, has appealed
concern, she said Wednesday, is preventing a
circumcision that she deems unnecessary and potentially
harmful. According to the petition filed with the
Supreme Court, “Mr. Jagoda has indicated that he is
determined to circumcise the child immediately, with or
without a doctor, with or without anesthesia.”
Wednesday that, according to studies she has read and
experts she has spoken with, her son's age might be the
worst for a child to be circumcised.
“This is the
most frightening age and damaging age psychologically,”
she said. “I have to protect him.
“He knows his
body very well. He's aware enough to understand what his
body is like now but not able to understand why part of
that would be taken away. Kids this age see the
operation as a punishment, a mutilation, a castration.”
Azar said she
is generally opposed to the idea of circumcision. If her
son were old enough to decide for himself, she said, she
taking her fight to the state's highest court.
legal rules, Whitsitt has 10 days to file suggestions
… would be the removal of perfectly healthy tissue from
a person not legally competent to object,” the petition
states. “Circumcision is non-reversible amputation. It
is the permanent destruction of living, non-threatening,
Denmark: National Council for Children calls for ban on
National Council for Children has called on lawmakers to
make male circumcision
media reports of female circumcision in Denmark have
caused a public ou
and prompted lawmakers to amend existing legislation,
this unacceptable practice is still a lot less common
than the circumcision of boys, the chairman of the
council told Danish media this morning.
chairman is now calling on legislators to ban male
circumcision for the benefit of the children.