The New York City Health Department will now require parents to give written consent before a mohel can perform an obscure circumcision ritual performed by ultra-Orthodox Jewish sects.
The department believes that one aspect of the ritual, the “metzitzah b’peh,” in which the mohel sucks blood from the child’s penis during the circumcision, may not be safe. The ritual is common among ultra-Orthodox groups, but less common in other Jewish sects. The Department of Health now requires a consent form before allowing the practice.
“We have clearly identified that one specific procedure that is performed as part of some circumcisions, what we are calling direct oral suction, can be transmitting infections to infants that will make them seriously ill and some situations lead to their death,” said Dr. Jay Varma, of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to CBS Local.
The New York City Health Department claims 11 babies contracted the herpes virus due to the ritual. Two of the babies died.
Local Councilmen David Greenfield and Lewis Fidler have come forward to say that they’d support any parents pursuing a lawsuit against the Department of Health on the grounds of interfering with practitioners’ religion.
“I really think this is a real invasion into people’s religious freedom,” Fidler said to the Daily Jewish Forward. “It lacks a sufficient basis and justification. The evidence here supporting this decision is just not strong enough.”
Previously, Senator David Storobin also expressed opposition to the Department of Health bill.