A Bad Call on Risky Circumcisions

Mar 2, 2015

Image credit: Seth Wenig/Associated Press

By The Editorial Board

The herpes simplex virus, common and relatively harmless in adults, can be deadly to babies. Such infections in newborns are blessedly rare, but one thing is known to increase the risk significantly: the circumcision ritual called metzitzah b’peh, practiced by many ultra-Orthodox and some Orthodox Jews, in which a circumciser, or mohel, sucks blood from a newly cut penis with his mouth.

The New York City Health Department, American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other authorities have long warned about the dangers of the practice. The Health Department has linked it to more than 12 herpes cases, and two deaths, since 2000, and has tried to get mohels to stop doing it.

That is why it is distressing to see Mayor Bill de Blasio and Orthodox leaders celebrating a deal they made this week to abandon the city’s modest effort to regulate the practice, and instead leave it to the ultra-Orthodox community to help limit the damage metzitzah b’peh does — but voluntarily, and only after babies get sick, not before.

Mr. de Blasio wants to stop requiring parents to sign a waiver acknowledging the risks of metzitzah b’peh. Rabbis called that policy, begun under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an unconscionable infringement on religious freedom. They refused to use the forms and sued the city.

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23 comments on “A Bad Call on Risky Circumcisions

  • 1
    Miserablegit says:

    Ah yes religious freedom, in this case the right to butcher the male infant in the name of Judaism and woe betide anyone who dares criticise this legalised barbarism.

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  • And so Mr. de Blasio, who has pleased the potent Orthodox voting bloc by ridiculing the policy as unenforceable while making no visible effort to enforce it, has decided simply to let the mohels do their thing, until a baby gets sick. The plan then is to do a series of DNA tests; if the baby’s mohel has the same herpes strain as the infected baby, he will be forbidden to do circumcisions.

    What happened to First do no harm? According to this policy it’s now come to be Do harm first, then we may need to replace you.

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  • 4
    Lorenzo says:

    “-So, what did you do this afternoon?
    -The usual: I chopped a bit out of a baby’s penis and then sucked it dry.”

    If someone came around with that answer to your question, under normal circumstances, you’d report your interlocutor to the police as a sadist child molester.
    But because the practice has been going on for a couple of thousands of years and a bit, under the claim that there’s a deity who cares how much skin there’s on the end of your penis, all is well -is it not?
    Well, no. Nothing is well. And I’d add the request for a psychiatrical when the police shows up, since the act hasn’t been motivated by anything that has even vaguely to do with sanity. It’s more of a “I hear voices, they tell me to do things” kind of situation here.

    The practice should be outlawed altogether. Full stop.

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  • Bill de Blasio should be made to attend every future funeral for babies killed in the manner and compensate the parent. Perhaps wearing a t’shirt saying something like I helped religious fundamentalists remove body parts of babies and infect them with venereal diseases – something snapper though.

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  • “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”

    ~ Napoleon

    Orthodox Jews are working to reduce their numbers. Hitler would approve.

    On the other hand, just because your parents try to kill you means everyone has to stand around and do nothing just because the motive for the murder is religion. The motive is not really religion, it is tradition.

    Imagine if a doctor had on his own come up with this practice. He would be jailed! We put up with incredible malice in the name of religion/tradition.

    The logic goes like this. I am 200 pounds overweight. I must continue to eat a tray of donuts every Friday night because I have always done it.

    It was always a stupid thing to do. Repeating it does not make it right.

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  • 11
    Lorenzo says:


    I so hope it will become obvious, one day. Right now… I’m afraid ti really isn’t. It needs to be stated, stated again, and again, and again…

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  • What a disgusting and dangerous practice, only apparently allowed because of religious and superstitious ideas. Isn’t it strange that God’s “chosen people” have male baby bodies that need a wee bit removing on birth ? If I was God, the “chosen people” would have been made perfect with no need for disgusting procedures, and potentially life threatening ones. But then I’m not God, mysterious ways n’ all that !

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  • And I could mention a few more like Cartomancer, Epesist, Diacanu, Scottish Geologist, Steve what’s his name, and my favourite theist Revcourt, among many others. But then that is the nature of a website, people come and go. They could die, become disenchanted, or uninterested, or maybe meet Mr Dreamboat, and no longer have time for such frivolities as the Dawkins’ site. I suspect this is true in Katy’s case !

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  • Any form of genital mutilation should count as grievous bodily harm. The police should prosecute.

    When General Napier expressed his intention to ban Suttee, the burning of widows on their late husband’s funeral pyre, the Local holy men protested “It is our ancient custom!”.
    Napier replied: “Well, it is our custom to hang the people who do it. From now on we will build a gallows beside each funeral pyre. You can follow your custom, then we can follow ours.” Suttee largely stopped.

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  • I petitioned my MP, to ban circumcision in all cases except where it’s a clinical imperative! She said she would forward it to the home secretary. If a man/woman wishes to be circumcised, then they can have the operation when they reach 18! No bit’s should be cut off children in a 21st century democracy and it’s an absolute disgrace (and clear testament to the insidious power organised religion still wields!) that this “Tradition” is still considered without being dismissed for the bronze-age aberration that it is!

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  • I recently had a conversation with a Jehovah’s witness who bragged about the wisdom of leaving the circumcision until the 8th day ….wonderful advanced knowledge from the bible in that antibodies are formed by then. I asked what antibodies does a baby have against vd. The answer was well it’s in the bible which is the word of God so it must be right. This practice is worse than the using of a piece of broken glass for female mutilation. Both are vile disgusting examples of religious traditional shite and exponents should be locked up and the key thrown away. The fact of whether it’s done using a sterile scalpel or the result sucked dry by an infected or otherwise should be seen for the crime of assault as it is…with grievous bodily harm. What morons! Oh yes the jw said that they would never use a mouth….they must be really following the word…as no doubt their translation omitted that bit or found another way of putting it….as per New World Translation. Sorry what asinine fatuity as Hitch would expound.

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  • I see there are again reports of deaths and damage from ritual circumcisions:


    The South African authorities have suspended several initiation schools where boys have died in recent weeks taking part in circumcision ceremonies.

    It called for the arrest of those responsible for at least 20 deaths.

    But sometimes things go terribly wrong, with some initiates dying or left disfigured from a botched circumcision.

    “Traditions” and “culture” tied up with religious beliefs, and superstitions are some of the causes behind these abuses, disease, damage to, and deaths  of young men.

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