Should extreme Orthodox Jewish circumcision be illegal?

New York City is warning parents about a herpes-spreading, mouth-to-genitals circumcision ritual called metzitzah b'peh that has killed two babies

A rabbi prepares for a standard circumcision at an Orthodox Jewish yeshiva: Over the past 11 years, two New York City infants have died from herpes after undergoing a rare circumcision proced
(Image credit: David H. Wells/CORBIS)

In March, New York City confirmed that a second baby in 11 years had died of herpes contracted through an Orthodox Jewish circumcision ritual called metzitzah b'peh, where the rabbi or mohel cleans the blood from the baby's penis with his mouth. From 2000 to 2011, at least 11 baby boys in the city were infected with herpes simplex 1 — common in adults, deadly in infants — through the oral-genital ritual; 10 of them were hospitalized, two suffered brain damage, and two died. New York City's health department, in conjunction with all city-owned hospitals and eight private ones, is now distributing a pamphlet, "Before the Bris," explaining the dangers of metzitzah b'peh, especially targeting the ultra Orthodox haredi Jews who still practice it. Is New York stepping on Jews' freedom of religion, or should the city just outright ban an archaic, potentially deadly tradition that most Jews abandoned 150 years ago?

New York needs to quash this nonsense: A warning pamphlet is better than nothing, but "it is not enough," says Danielle Sullivan at Babble. "This practice needs to be outlawed." New York has to stop "hiding behind religion" and think about the health and lives of innocent babies. But above and beyond the herpes risk, there's a larger issue with this creepy ritual: "No grown man should ever be legally allowed to put his mouth on a newborn's penis... ever."

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