The New York Times reports on metzitzah b'peh (MBP), the direct-mouth-to-bloody-penis-sucking done (almost exclusively) by haredi mohels after cutting off the baby's foreskin, and the terrible pandering to haredim done by New York City's two major mayoral candidates related to it.
As you know, the city imposed an informed consent requirement that mandates parents to sign a form spelling out MBP's dangers before the procedure is done on their baby.
Haredim oppose this even though two babies died, many others were sickened and at least one suffered serious brain damage from MBP-transmitted HSV-1 infection in New York City alone. Why?
Haredi leaders claim the informed consent is a slippery slope to the outright banning of circumcision and that the informed consent requirement is an interference with t heir constitutionally protected freedom of religion – an argument long settled by the US Supreme Court, which has clearly ruled that freedom of religion does not extend to risks to public health or to the lives of children.
When haredi groups, including Agudath Israel of America and the Satmar-controlled Central Rabbinical Congress, wanted to sue, Nathan Lewin – one of the country's top First Amendment attorneys with extensive US Supreme Court experience (and who is also an Orthodox Jew with close ties to Agudah) – refused to take the case for just that reason.
Agudah and the CRC sued anyway and, so far, their suit has rightfully floundered.
Enter the large Satmar bloc and the dishonesty of New York City politicians like Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota.
The New York Times tells the story – in part based on reporting I've done here on FailedMessiah.com and which the Times kindly links to:
…The Democratic candidate, Bill de Blasio, and the Republican candidate, Joseph J. Lhota, have both pledged to revisit the issue [of metzitzah b’peh] if elected as mayor. But their stances have raised questions because, in Mr. de Blasio’s case, he stood silently as Jewish leaders described his position in different language than he has used, and, in Mr. Lhota’s case, he has changed his position over the course of the campaign.…
In April, Mr. Lhota, speaking at an event at Fordham Law School that was captured on video and posted online, expressed support for the policy on consent forms, calling it “a reasonable approach” to inform parents of the health risks.
“If you understand the risks, and you sign it that you understand the risks, then the burden is on you,” Mr. Lhota said. “It’s a good thing to do. That’s what government should do.”
Then last month, at a Republican mayoral forum in Borough Park sponsored by The Jewish Press, he expressed a different view, saying he believed the administration’s policy was “absolutely wrong.”
“I don’t believe that you need to be given a piece of paper and you must sign it on the dotted line,” Mr. Lhota said. He added that he would support allowing the city to hand parents information about risks when they leave the hospital after childbirth, but not requiring the person who performs a circumcision to obtain a signed consent form from parents.
This week, after he was recorded on video again condemning the policy in a meeting with an ultra-Orthodox leader in Brooklyn whose support he was seeking, he was asked about his change of position.
“My position hasn’t changed,” he told reporters on Tuesday after an appearance at New York University.
But his spokeswoman, Jessica Proud, offered a more nuanced defense, saying in an e-mail: “Mr. Lhota has been consistent in his position that the role of government is to educate, not mandate. After speaking with Jewish leaders early on in his campaign, he gained a better understanding of their concerns and slightly evolved his position so that new parents would receive the information, but not have to sign anything.”
The case with Mr. de Blasio is more complicated. At a forum in the spring, before a Jewish audience in Brooklyn, he answered a question about the policy citing “legitimate concerns” about public health, but criticizing Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who pressed for the regulation, for trying “to impose his will” without sensitivity to religious beliefs. He said he wanted to meet with community leaders and “change the policy to find a way to protect all of our children but also respect religious tradition.”
But earlier this month, two days before the Democratic primary, he stood silently at a rally of Hasidic Jews in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, while two speakers described his policy in much less ambiguous terms. One of them said Mr. de Blasio had promised to get rid of the Bloomberg policy “right away.”
A de Blasio spokesman, Dan Levitan, later said that those comments did not accurately reflect Mr. de Blasio’s position, and that the candidate would keep the consent form policy in place until a better solution was found.
Both Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Lhota have found themselves on the defensive about the issue. Reporters questioned Mr. Lhota about a report on NY1 that described his change of position, while a prominent blogger about ultra-Orthodox Judaism accused Mr. de Blasio of having promised to end the policy in exchange for votes.…
[T]he city does not regularly monitor whether officiants actually collect the consent forms. A spokeswoman for the mayor’s office, Samantha Levine, said that if a parent complained to the city, or if the city received a report of an infant with herpes who might have been infected through oral suction, it would try to determine if a consent form had been obtained.