Federal Court Refuses To Block New York Circumcision Consent Form Law

Rejects Metzitzah B'Peh Motion Filed by Orthodox Groups

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By Seth Berkman

Published February 22, 2013.
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Proponents of metzitzah b’peh, the controversial circumcision ritual, were denied a request for an emergency stay in the enforcement of a recent New York City law that regulates the procedure. The decision was handed down by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

The motion, filed by the Central Rabbinical Congress of the USA & Canada, Agudath Israel, the International Bris Association and a group of rabbis, failed “to meet requisite standards,” according to the court.

Last September, the New York City department of health and mental hygiene approved a regulation that would require signed consent to perform metzitzah b’peh. The procedure, in which the mohel uses his mouth to suction blood from a wound after circumcision, has been reported to transmit herpes simplex virus, which can cause serious injury, and even death, to infants.

For months, plaintiffs have attempted to block the regulation through a series of legal challenges. In January, Manhattan federal Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald denied a request for a preliminary injunction against the regulation. The lingering effects of Hurricane Sandy also caused delays throughout the court system.

David Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel, wrote in the email to the Forward that his organization was, “disappointed” in the ruling,” and that they will continue to appeal Buchwald’s decision. A briefing on the matter is scheduled in early April.

There had been earlier reports of potential civil disobedience and protests of Mayor Bloomberg’s office if the regulation was not stopped. In late January, Zwiebel told the Forward, “frankly we think we have a strong legal case to be made, and we’re hopeful in the end we will prevail.”

Recent studies by the New York City DOHMH have revealed 12 area infants who have contracted herpes after circumcision, with two of the infants dying soon after.


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