Florida Mom Fights Court Order to Circumcise Her 3-Year-Old Son
Photo by Deirdra Funcheon
Update, 11 a.m.: The appeals court has granted the emergency order. A copy of the ruling is posted below.
A Florida mother is hoping the Fourth District Court of Appeals will intervene and stop a court order that her 3-year-old son be circumcised.
Heather Hironimus of Boynton Beach and Dennis Nebus of Boca Raton had a child together in 2010 and entered into a parenting agreement more than a year later. The agreement clearly stated that the father would be responsible for scheduling and paying for the boy's circumcision.
But now that the boy is 3 and has not yet been circumcised, the mother objects, because, as court documents explain it, the procedure is "not medically necessary and she did not want to have the parties' son undergo requisite general anesthesia for fear of death."
However, Judge Jeffrey Gillen last week ordered that there's no reason the parties shouldn't abide by the parenting agreement and that the father can go ahead and schedule the procedure.
"Putting aside what they agreed to, if you're going to enforce this contract, you have to look in what is the best interest of the child," says Hironimus' attorney, Taryn Sinatra. "The best interest of the child should always trump" any such agreement, she said.
Sinatra says that a pediatric urologist testified at a hearing and was asked what he would do in such a situation, and the urologist said he would not circumcise the boy at this age.
However, the judge's order claims the urologist also testified that "penile cancer occurs only in uncircumcised males " -- which is untrue -- and "uncircumcised males have a higher risk of HIV infection than circumcised males," which is debatable.
Hironimus' case has drawn support from anticircumcision activists around the country who argue that the foreskin is a useful part of the human body and that men should decide for themselves whether to circumcise when they are old enough to research it for themselves and consent.
Circumcision has become controversial in recent years. There is evidence that circumcision was performed by ancient Egyptians, and Jews believe that Abraham made a covenant with God, getting long life and fertility if he agreed that all his male descendents would be cut. In the 1800s, circumcision grew popular as a supposed cure for masturbation, and the procedure was popularized in America as hospital births became the norm after World War II, but rates have been steadily declining in the past decade. In Europe, circumcision is considered barbaric and generally not practiced.
Hironimus' lawyer filed an emergency motion with the Fourth DCA to get a stay on Gillen's order so they could argue the matter before an appeals court.
Hironimus is a stay-at-home mom and has started a fundraising page to fight the matter. She describes the judge as "very pro-circumcision" and says:
"My attorney and I are going to be appealing this decision as neither of us believe it should be a decision left to anyone other than Chase, who is 3 1/2 and fully aware. As a stay at home mom, I do not have the funding to be able to fully accomplish this on my own. I am pleading with fellow intactavists, parents and all others to help me save my son, his foreskin, his rights and hopefully other children from allowing the 'system' to make these decisions."
Sinatra said she expects the Fourth DCA to issue a ruling by sometime today on whether to grant the stay.
Dennis Nebus hung up when reached by phone for comment.
A group called Intact Florida is trying to organize a protest.
See the order of the court below.
And here is the order granting emergency motion for review.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss New Times Broward-Palm Beach's biggest stories.