October 16, 2012
City's Circumcision Regulations Delayed
By Sean Gardiner
A city Department of Health regulation that would force rabbis to obtain written permission before performing a controversial circumcision won’t go into effect in several days as planned.
The city agreed to a brief stay in the enforcement of the regulation regarding the circumcisions–in which the mouth is used to remove blood from the incision wound–so that the plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit last week in Manhattan federal court can submit a motion for a preliminary injunction.
Under the regulation, the rabbi or other person performing the metzitzah b’ peh would need to obtain a signed permission form from parents of the infant warning that the procedure could expose their infant “to risk of transmission of herpes simplex virus infection or other infectious diseases.”
Since some of those who perform the ritual don’t agree with that warning, the lawsuit argues the regulation violates their constitutional rights to free speech and freedom of religion.
The implementation of the city’s regulation, originally set to begin Oct. 21, has been pushed back until Nov. 14, said Hank Sheinkopf, who is representing the groups that sued.
City health officials have argued that the practice has lead to 11 confirmed cases of infants contracting herpes simplex virus. Two of those babies died and two others suffered brain damage, city officials said. Some of the parents of those children were not aware that direct oral suction would be performed, city officials said.
The Health Department is working with the Law Department on a response that will be filed this month.