Bris Milah Under Attack? NYC Urges Parental Waiver for Bris

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bris-milahNew York City health officials proposed on Tuesday that Orthodox Jewish parents be required to sign a consent waiver before they can take part in a bris that is alleged – though there is no proof – to have led to the deaths of at least two babies in the city over the past decade.

The proposal, introduced at a Board of Health meeting, represents an escalation of the city’s efforts to curtail metzitzah b’peh, and bris milah in general.

Last week, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report based on city information that said that from 2000 to 2011, 11 newborn babies in New York contracted the herpes simplex virus after metzitzah b’peh.

Based on those findings, the city’s health department issued a statement last week strongly urging that direct oral-genital suction not be performed during bris milah. It also announced that a number of hospitals had agreed to distribute a pamphlet to parents considering at-home circumcision, warning them of the risks.

On Tuesday, Dr. Jay K. Varma, deputy commissioner for disease control for the health department, announced the city’s next step, proposing that the Board of Health, which approves public health policies, require all parents who want direct oral suction to be used to sign a consent form indicating that they are aware of the risk of infection.

The mohel would distribute the consent forms to parents before the circumcision and keep them on hand for at least a year. The precise warning language would be written by health officials, Dr. Varma said.

In its study, the C.D.C. estimated that roughly 3,600 newborn boys a year in New York had a bris that included metzitzah b’peh.

Avi Shafran, spokesman for Agudath Israel, said on Tuesday that the group wanted to study the proposed regulation before commenting on it. In March, the organization’s executive vice president, Rabbi Chaim David Zwiebel, warned that regulating the practice could drive it underground, making it more risky.

In his presentation to the Board of Health, Dr. Varma said that two of the families whose babies got herpes after a bris had told health authorities that they were unaware beforehand that it would be performed. He said distressed families had called, as recently as two weeks ago, saying they did not know their mohel would place his mouth on their infant’s wound, and wanting to know what could be done.

The health department is accepting public comments on the regulation until a public hearing on July 23, and will vote on it in September. Dr. Varma said the department was prepared for opposition.

“Since we are regulating how part of a religious procedure is done, this will be heavily scrutinized by legal experts, and it may be challenged at some point,” he said. “But we feel we are on very firm legal ground, because there is a compelling interest on behalf of the city in protecting the health of infants.”

Click here for a comprehensive report by Daniel S. Berman, M.D. on metzitzah b’peh.

{NY Times/Matzav.com Newscenter}

17 COMMENTS

  1. You’re having headline problems again. The City is moving against metzitzah b’peh, not against brissim in general. Judging by other announcements they’ve made, using a pipette poses no problems for them.

    The issue in halacha seems to be open – some authorities don’t require it, some do. It’s the same old situation with the same old answer – ask your own LOR (local Orthodox Rabbi) or whichever person you ask shelios. If your own rabbi doesn’t require metzitzah b’peh, then it indeed might be safer to have the mohel uwe a pipette.

  2. Oops – that’s “sheilos” instead of “shelios” and “use” instead of “uwe.” It’s getting too late at night for us old codger types, I guess.

  3. The original New York Times article only mentions that the proposal “represents an escalation of the city’s efforts to curtail the ancient Jewish procedure of metzitzah b’peh.” Matzav adds that the city wants to ban bris milah in general. That is disenguous and not true. The city only wants to give the parents (many of whom are secular and don’t even know about metzizah b’peh) knowledge of the procedure so that they can make an informed consent. What’s wrong with that? How does that ban bris milah? Anyone who does not want it done will be given the choice of using a glass tube, sponge, or sterile gauze pad.

    “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” (Shakespeare’s Hamlet)

  4. The original New York Times article only mentions that the proposal “represents an escalation of the city’s efforts to curtail the ancient Jewish procedure of metzitzah b’peh.” Matzav adds that the city wants to ban bris milah in general. That is disingenuous and not true. The city only wants to give the parents (many of whom are secular and don’t even know about metzizah b’peh) knowledge of the procedure so that they can make an informed consent. What’s wrong with that? How does that ban bris milah? Anyone who does not want it done will be given the choice of using a glass tube, sponge, or sterile gauze pad.

    “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” (Shakespeare’s Hamlet)

  5. I would be interested to know how many babies who did not receive a Bris or did not have Metzitz B’peh contracted herpes

  6. time to regulate allowing mothers to take an epidural, to drive a car, to eat meat etc…… There’s been more than 10000 babies this year who’ve had metzitza bpeh.
    Wake Up & Get with the program

  7. Am Yisroel has survived Gezairas Shmad before.

    Shabbos 130A Adayon oisen oisah B’Simcha.

    Nothing and noone will change us.

  8. It seems fair to me. I have told my sons-in-law that I will only pay for brisim where the metzitza is not done by peh.

  9. It be stated again and again, Bris Milah IS NOT under attack. In San Francisco last year where there was a campaign to ban all Bris Milah good people from all religions, and non-religious, rose up against it and stopped the campaign. This now is a campaign against metzitzah b’peh. Already there are Orthodox organizations like the RCA that recommend against the practice. NYC is not trying to ban Bris Milah, only MBP.

  10. After so many commenters have commented to get Matzav to fix the headline, the incorrect title for the article is still there. Matzav – are you listening???? Fix it already!

  11. It’s wonderful that matzav readers are so precise in their language, but it’s important to know that most people don’t read more than headlines. The typical non-frum new parents upon receiving a pamphlet containing the risks of “at-home circumcision” will not read the rest and will likely opt for a hospital procedure (if they are serious about Jewish practice as they understand it) or if they’re the typical “enlightened” types they’ll skip it altogether. So although the “attack” is officially on Metzitza Bipeh, (which we know already is required by some Rabbis and not others) what is really at stake here is our freedom to perform our religious customs in the manner that has been passed down for generations. This particular edict affects one community, the next may affect another. We need to stand together regardless of what our personal poseik decides on this matter.

  12. SHMUEL, you don’t want to pay, we have a Gmach for cases where people can’t afford to pay. It is listed in Hamodia Classified. We promise not to tell anybody that we paid for your grandson’s bris.

  13. “Comment from SHMUEL, Time June 13, 2012 at 9:03 AM: It seems fair to me. I have told my sons-in-law that I will only pay for brisim where the metzitza is not done by peh”.
    Hi Shmuel you’re great. You want the whole world to know how generous you are. But, by the way we find out your religious affiliation. Do you belong to Avi’s congregation or are you a follower of the “mrahat” former “rabbah”?

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