NYTimes The city estimates that metzitzah b’peh is used in some 3,600 local circumcisions each year. The city’s health department says that, between 2000 and 2011, 11 babies contracted herpes as a result, and 2 of them died. This spring, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared that the procedure created a risk for transmission of herpes and other pathogens and was “not safe.”
So on Thursday, the city’s Board of Health is scheduled to vote on a proposal that would require parents to sign a consent form indicating that they are aware of the risk of herpes transmission when a circumcision procedure, or bris, includes direct oral contact.
The measure, which Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg strongly supports, would probably be the first governmental regulation of the ritual in the United States, rabbis say. It would not affect the way most Jewish ritual circumcisions are performed — gauze or a sterile pipette is used to pull blood from the wound — nor would it ban the practice. But the issue being raised in New York coincides with moves in Denmark, Germany and other countries toward restricting or banning infant circumcision. [...]
“There is no safe way to perform oral suction on an open wound in a newborn,” said Dr. Jay K. Varma, the city’s deputy commissioner for disease control. If the measure passes, he said, circumcisers who do not comply could face warning letters or fines.
Ultra-Orthodox leaders plan to sue the city if the regulation is passed, arguing that the measure would constitute an unconstitutional infringement on their religious freedom. Some 200 ultra-Orthodox rabbis published a decree in late August warning adherents that it was forbidden “to participate in the evil plans of the New York City health department,” according to a translation by Yeshiva World News. And a Jewish religious court in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, went further, stating that oral suction was a mandatory part of the procedure that should be promoted.