Broward News

Court Orders Mom to Circumcise Her 3-Year-Old Son

A local mother is fighting an order from the court 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 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."

On May 9, Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Gillen ruled that there's no reason the parties shouldn't abide by the parenting agreement and that the father can schedule the procedure.

Hironimus objected. "Putting aside what they agreed to, if you're going to enforce this contract, you have to look at what is the best interest of the child," says her attorney, Taryn Sinatra. "The best interest of the child should always trump" any such agreement.

Sinatra says 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 because this statistic comes from three studies, conducted on adult males in Africa, that have been challenged as flawed in scientific journals).

Hironimus' case has drawn support from anti-circumcision 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 and consent.

There is evidence that circumcision was performed by ancient Egyptians, and Jews believe that Abraham made a covenant with God to receive long life and fertility in exchange for agreeing that all of his male descendents 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 circumcision has become controversial in recent years as activists' arguments gained steam, and rates have been steadily declining in the past decade. In Europe, circumcision is considered barbaric and generally not practiced.

Last week, Hironimus' lawyer filed an emergency motion with the Fourth District Court of Appeals to obtain a stay on Gillen's order. The stay was granted, and the next step will be for the parties to file briefs with the appeals court, which will then hand down a decision.

Hironimus, a stay-at-home mom, has started a page at to raise funds for legal costs. She wrote that the decision about his body should not be "left to anyone other than [her son], who is 3 1/2 and fully aware" and that it should not be up to "the 'system' to make these decisions.

"I was always led to believe that being circumcised was the right decision for my son and that it was the 'normal' thing to do. [My son] and I were lucky enough that I had friends step in and educate me and allow me to see the bigger picture. When we know better, we do better."

Nebus, the boy's father, hung up when reached by phone for comment.

The group Intact Florida is planning a protest.

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Deirdra Funcheon