Avi Schick, a former deputy attorney general of New York State, has published a deceptive op-ed about metzitzah b' peh (MBP), the direct mouth-to-bleeding-penis-sucking done by haredi mohels after cutting off a baby's foreskin. How many babies must be killed through MBP before haredim stop insisting they have the right to do it?
Avi Schick is an attorney and a former deputy attorney general of New York State. He also hails from a haredi family close to the leadership of Lakewood's Beth Medrash Govoha yeshiva.
Schick wrote a deceitful op-ed in today's New York Daily News today on metzitzah b' peh (MBP), the direct mouth-to-bleeding-penis-sucking done by haredi mohels after cutting off a baby's foreskin.
Here's a brief excerpt:
…[T]he city’s case is weak.
To start, none of the experts the city relied upon were able to scientifically link any specific case of herpes to metzitzah b’peh [MBP]. The expert affidavits that they submitted said only that it is “biologically plausible” that the virus can be transmitted through metzitzah b’peh , which, they assert, increases the risk of transmission.
Even more damaging is that the rule targets only the few infections that arise after circumcision, even though the vast majority of newborn herpes infections are linked to other factors.
As the court put it, the regulation “pertains to religious conduct associated with a small percentage of (herpes) infection cases among infants, while leaving secular conduct associated with a larger percentage of such infections unaddressed.”
By focusing solely on a small subset of babies’ herpes cases while ignoring all others, the city invites skepticism about whether it was truly driven by a desire to improve health — or just wanted to regulate religion.
It is revealing to compare the city’s approach to circumcision with its response during that very same year — 2012 — to a proposed regulation to require bicyclists to wear helmets. An average of 20 New York City bicyclists die each year from injuries sustained while cycling. Nevertheless, the city opposed helmet regulations that would have reduced such injuries. Why?
Because it believed that requiring helmets would send a message that bicycling is dangerous, which has the effect of discouraging biking. In other words, the city balanced the proposed helmet regulation’s benefits (fewer head injuries) against its costs (less biking) and decided it wasn’t worthwhile.
City bureaucrats apparently saw no such value when considering circumcision.
Which gets us to the most important point: How can any government assess the costs and benefits of practices such as a circumcision ritual, which are purely spiritual? And how can the city put a value on the desire of parents to raise their children in a particular religious tradition?
When the nanny state and the secular state converge, it is no surprise that government finds no value in religious ritual and no inclination to defer to parents. It offends equally both parental and religious rights.…
[T]he city should now do what the rest of New York State tried several years ago: adopt a protocol that involves testing a mohelwhen herpes follows a circumcision with metzitzah b’peh, prompting treatment or even a ban from performing the practice if DNA testing links the virus to the mohel. All 57 New York counties outside of New York City previously endorsed this idea, as did religious leaders in the communities where metzitzah b’peh is most prevalent.
That would show respect for parental and First Amendment rights, and would demonstrate that the city is actually more interested in promoting the health of newborns than in prohibiting a religious ritual that has been practiced for millennia.
Lets be clear. Schick is either extremely ignorant or extremely dishonest.
1. Almost ten years ago, haredi rabbis agreed to have mohels tested, and then violated that agreement. Even now, mohels the city can identify have most often refused to be tested and many haredi families of sick infants have refused to tell the city who their mohel is.
2. Herpes is a notoriously difficult virus to capture and match, making it almost impossible to do. Why? The adult who passes Herpes to the infant through MBP rarely has an open lesion. Instead, the mohel is asymptomatically shedding virus – a problem common with Herpes, which is why so many US adults have it. Other than putting a mohel in a cell and keeping him there for the months or even years it could take for a lesion to be visible just isn't practical. Government has no desire to do this and likely no legal way to make it happen. Therefore, to get a DNA match is almost impossible.
3. Epidemiologists make decisions on public health all the time without DNA matching. Why? because peoples' lives are at stake and gathering DNA is not always possible in a timely fashion.
5. Infants are not able to consent or make decisions. Subjecting them to a practice – MBP – that is a proven killer with a centuries-long documented history of death and illness is dangerous, and the city has the legal right to regulate it or even ban it outright – which is really what should be done.
6. Shick views the dozen or so known New York City MBP deaths over the past decade as a number too small to raise concern or cause regulation. But every one of those deaths was 100% preventable. If MBP had not been done immediately after their circumcisions, the babies would all likely be alive and well today.
7. Are Jews being singled out? No, they aren't, because only Jews – almost all of them hasidim with no real science or medical education – do MBP. If Episcopalians were sucking on bleeding baby penises because that was state-of-the-art medicine in 200 CE, the city would regulate the practice, as well. But they aren't, are they. Only haredim are.
8. This is not an issue of religious freedom; it is an issue of child safety. And there is no question that infants who are ritually circumcised without MBP are far less likely to be sickened, maimed or killed in the process.
Understand this well: Avi Schick is advocating for a practice that kills and maims haredi babies. He is doing so for political reasons (and perhaps for financial reasons, as well). The health and safety of haredi babies appears to be far, far down on his list.