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Metzitza B’Peh: Infant Russian Roulette

Jews perform a brit mila in the French Jewish Community in Paris.

Jews perform a brit mila in the French Jewish Community in Paris.
Photo Credit: Serge Attal/FLASH90

But that is not the law being proposed. The law being proposed is a requirement for parents to be informed of the dangers. That means that not a single parent would be denied the opportunity for their child to be circumcised with the accompanying MbP. The only difference would be that parents would know that there are risks attached – small though they may be.

One of the most upsetting things in the Ami article is their characterizing this law as an “anti circumcision” law. I have to protest that characterization. No one in the United States has ever suggested that the government ban circumcision itself except for some on the fringes of society. Not only that, but the American Academy of Pediatrics who has been studying this issue long term has just concluded that the health benefits of circumcision outweigh the possible risks. Having been neutral in the past – they now advocate it. It is therefore ridiculous – and insulting to the intelligence – to say that this is all about banning Bris Milah.

One of the more incredible arguments I read in that Ami article is the assertion that the Mohalim are the experts here and not the CDC whose studies and reports on herpes infected infants are behind the proposed NY legislation. Yes, Mohalim are experts in the procedure. But they are ignoramuses about Herpes and how it infects a newborn. Calling them experts on this issue is a shocking assertion to my mind.

What about the slippery slope argument? … if you start legislating MbP – actual Bris Mila will be next? That’s like saying cars will be banned if we start legislating safe driving laws.

And finally asking people to sign an informed consent form before MbP is performed is no different than asking a heart patient to sign an informed consent form before open heart surgery. Signing an informed consent form does not equate to interfering in either MbP or surgery.

This is important legislation. There are circumcisions being performed multiple times every day in this country. Most of them are done in the city of New York. Until recently I would be willing to bet that the vast majority of parents about to have their son circumcised had never heard of MbP. The way most people chose a Mohel is by reputation. They had no clue about the actual procedure – certainly not the MbP aspect of it. They just assume that the Mohel they hired will do a great job based on his reputation and experience. In the vast majority of those cases that is what happens.

Although MbP has been in the news over the last few years, I’d be willing to bet that a lot of people still don’t what it is or what the risks are. This legislation will enable them to make an informed decision about it. There is nothing wrong with that. My guess is that the phenomenon of “moving to the right” will result in most parents still opting for MbP.

I believe that at least some of the motivation behind this opposition is not the fear that Chasidim or other Charedim will opt out of MbP. They are afraid that informed consent in other segments of Jewry will make them to decide to opt out of it. And therefore out of what they believe to be an essential part of a Bris. And that ultimately parents will be frightened out of what was a centuries old part of Bris Milah.

My answer to them is that it is not their job to decide what is Halachicly permissible for Jews outside of their own community. It is far more important for people to know the truth.

Visit the author’s blog, Emes Ve-Emunah.

About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at hmaryles@yahoo.com.


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Binyamin and Chaya Maryles, uncle and aunt of Emes Ve-Emunah author Harry Maryles.
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