More Babies Get Herpes Because Religious Freedom Is Trumping Their Safety


I am all about religious freedom and a parent’s right to choose circumcision for their son, but these ‘snip and suck’ circumcisions where a few babies have contracted herpes make me question how much religious freedom parents are given when it comes to non-necessary medical procedures.

Some Orthodox Jewish families choose to have their infant undergo a ritual called “metzitzah b’peh”- the circumcision practice in which a Jewish person trained in circumcision, called a mohel, sucks the blood from a freshly snipped foreskin. According to the New York Department of Health, between 2000 and 2012 there were 11 babies reported that contracted herpes as a result of this practice.

In an effort to prevent this from happening, two years ago New York passed a law requiring parents to sign a waiver before the ritual can be performed, but some mohels and Orthodox Jewish families object to the form as a violation of their religious freedoms and simply don’t sign it. Since the consent form law has been enacted, five more infants have been reported as contracting herpes as a result of ‘sip and snip’ circumcisions.

I am not Jewish, so while I know it is a religion steeped in culture and tradition, I won’t pretend to know or speculate as to why some choose to perform circumcisions in this matter. And it is important to note that this ‘snip and sip’ practice is happening in a very small percentage of the Orthodox Jewish population, and is not common practice for the Jewish people as a whole.

I am as pro-circumcision as they come. I have two sons, both who were circumcised in the hospital shortly after birth. My reasons for having my own children circumcised were completely shallow. I’ve only ever seen circumcised males and my husband wanted to, so we had the procedure done. I know that there are viewpoints out there that argue circumcision isn’t purely cosmetic and has benefits,such as lowing the risk of contracting certain sexually transmitted infections, but for me, it was a cosmetic procedure and I won’t climb onto a high horse and pretend otherwise. I knew that circumcision carried some risks ,but because of the method used by our pediatrician, a herpes infection wasn’t one of them.

Because I generally have such a laid back attitude about circumcision, I want to champion these families that elect to have ‘sip and snip’ circumcisions, but I can’t. While I respect a person’s right to religious freedom, I don’t think that a parent’s religious right should trump the health rights of their child. Getting a circumcision doesn’t have to carry the potential risk of contracting herpes when there are alternative ways to perform the procedure. Circumcision can and should be done without the ‘sip and snip’ aspect.

(Image: ketmanee/Shutterstock)

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