January 7, 2015
De Blasio to act ‘soon’ on circumcision ritualJan The de Blasio administration says action is coming soon on the mayor's long-stalled vow to address the controversial circumcision practice known as metzitzah b'peh, promising a policy that will protect children while respecting religious rights.
The religious ritual as practiced by some Orthodox Jewish sects involves a mohel—a person who performs circumcisions of 8-day-old boys—suctioning blood directly from a wounded penis with his mouth.
Health department officials believe the practice can spread herpes simplex virus-1, which is common in adults but can be especially dangerous for infants. The communities that practice metzitzah b'peh have fiercely resisted city attempts, going back before the de Blasio administration, to regulate it.
The city's health department currently requires parents to sign a consent form acknowledging that the health department recommends against performing the practice, a Bloomberg-era policy that was challenged in court. Attorneys representing the Orthodox sects said the city's health department was overestimating the dangers, and that there is insufficient evidence to prove metzitzah b'peh is dangerous enough to warrant a public health intervention.
"The administration is working to develop a new, more effective policy that protects children and protects religious rights in a way that the community is comfortable with, and accepting of, and will participate in," Adams said. "We expect to announce this new policy soon.”
In 2014, the health department reported four cases of neonatal herpes it believed were linked to the practice.