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For centuries, metzitzah b’peh was a common practice for cleaning the circumcision wound, until some rabbis ruled that a sponge, and later a sterile pipette, could be used instead. Zwiebel said that only some ultra-Orthodox groups use a pipette, while others insist on direct oral suction.
Ultra-Orthodox rabbis do not believe that MBP poses a health risk to infants. Instead, they believe that other caregivers may have been responsible for the infections recorded in New York.
In court papers, the ultra-Orthodox groups rely, in part, on the affidavit of Daniel S. Berman, chief of infectious diseases at the New York Westchester Square Hospital, who states that “the evidence does not show that MBP has ever resulted in transmission” of neonatal herpes.
An array of groups represented by Shapiro contradicted Berman’s testimony, among them the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
“On one hand, the plaintiffs say the department of health hasn’t collected blood samples or gotten proof of contraction,” Shapiro said. “On the other hand, people are refusing to identify the mohel, and mohels are refusing to be tested. The community’s intransigence makes it impossible to obtain the proof they say is necessary” to show that MBP causes neonatal herpes.
During last year’s mayoral race, some ultra-Orthodox groups hoped that de Blasio would get rid of the consent forms. During the campaign, de Blasio said that Bloomberg had been “wrong to simply dictate to a community on a matter of religious tradition.”
At a January press conference after taking office, de Blasio said he would keep the forms in place “while searching for a solution that we think is more effective.”
De Blasio added: “I think it’s evident that because there hasn’t been the kind of dialogue necessary to get to common ground on this issue, [that DEL] we can do a better job of coming up with an approach that I think is much more effective at protecting the lives of our children.”