Earlier this month, an appeals court upheld a ruling allowing the father of a 4-year-old boy to circumcise his son against the boy's mother's wishes. New Times broke the story last year of then-3-year-old Chase, whose parents, Dennis Nebus and Heather Hironimus, went to court to fight over whether he should have the procedure done.
But Judge Jeffrey Dana Gillen, who sits in the 15th judicial district in Palm Beach County, ruled in Nebus' favor, allowing him to go ahead and circumcise young Chase. And in an odd twist to the ruling, he added gag order on Hironimus, basically forbidding her from talking not only to the press but from telling Chase that she fought against the circumcision.
The couple had previously agreed that Nebus would pay for and schedule Chase's circumcision. But Hironimus argued that there is no medical reason for her son to be circumcised and that the procedure could harm or even kill Chase. The practice is even more scrutinized now that the boy is no longer a newborn.
The case not only garnered plenty of media attention but an internet campaign was recently launched in support of Chase and his mother's quest to keep him from being circumcised. There's even been a fundraiser created by the Children's Health Advocates for Surgical Ethics (or CHASE) to help with legal fees.
All this is reportedly because Hironimus is not allowed to speak out for herself or her son, thanks to the gag order. According to Beyond the Bris, a Jewish website dedicated to educating the public on the risks of circumcision, the judge not only placed a gag order on her but ordered Hironimus to be separated from Chase for several weeks after the procedure.
The report also says that Gillen never appointed a legal guardian or ward to advocate for Chase, and testimony by a child mental health professional was disallowed during trial.
New Times spoke with a medical malpractice attorney about the case who pointed out that circumcision is not medically necessary and poses health risks.
"In my opinion, there is never a reason to circumcise," said David Llewellyn, an Atlanta-based trial attorney and civil mediator who specializes in medical malpractice, particularly in the areas of genital injury, circumcision damage, and wrongful circumcision. "There are good legal principles regarding this, but those principles are often disregarded because it's such an emotional topic."
Llewellyn says a good reason circumcision became so widespread in America was because of a belief that being circumcised meant less sexual sensation, which would curb masturbation among boys and men.
The 1970 edition of Campbell's Urology, a peer-reviewed scientific journal of urology, states that parents would do anything to promote hygiene in their sons and curb masturbation and that circumcision was the procedure of choice to do so.
"These myths are why we started doing it," Llewellyn says. "What we've ignored is the damage. Bleeding, surgical mistakes, psychological damage. All because of a lack of understanding."
The hygiene myth became so widespread and eventually so many Americans non-Jews began circumcising their sons that it became an acceptable thing. Llewellyn claims that modern medical journals still make some questionable claims about circumcision.
News of Chase's case has even reached the Jewish Independent, an Orthodox Jewish website, which argues against the boy's being circumcised:
Don't get me wrong, as a Jewish person, I support with every fiber in my body the requirement, even the need for Jewish parents to circumcise their sons. But over the years, I've read tons of evidence proving both sides of the circumcision debate, and I have had no use for them. The only valid reason I see for the brutal attack with a sharp knife on a defenseless infant is if God said so.
Otherwise, I completely agree with the voices out there suggesting circumcision is an aggressive violation of an infant's civil liberties.
For now, as the case is pending in an appeals court, the social media crusade to keep Chase from being circumcised continues, with #SavingChase inundating social media sites and A-list celebrities taking up the crusade.
— Intact Voices (@IntactVoices) November 13, 2014
— carrie simon (@carrieGIE) November 18, 2014
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