Sunday, October 28, 2012

Rabbis Delay NYC's Metzitzah B'Peh Regulations - Meanwhile, in Israel...

After looking the other way for the longest time, the New York City Health Department finally decided to do something to address the issue of orthodox mohels spreading herpes through the practice of oral suction after ritual circumcision, also known as "metzitzah b'peh."

Or, at least, do something to look busy.

What did the New York City Health Department do to protect further boys from being infected?

They issued a mandate that would require parents to sign a consent form before allowing a mohel to perform metztizah b’peh on their sons.

According to Deputy Commissioner Jay K. Varma, the health commission would impose penalties at its own discretion. They would respond to public complaints and investigate the claims, (Because this has happened in the past? Do you seriously need a special law that requires parents to sign a waiver to do this?) and that repercussions could range from a phone call or a formal warning letter, to fines of up to $2,000 for each violation. (Again, when has this happened, and shouldn't this be standard procedure for ANY time a child is being put in danger? What happened in 2006 when Thomas Frieden was Health Commissioner?)

The mandate is basically worthless; there is no actual ban or regulation of metzitzah b'peh, and mohels would face no penalties whatsoever if the waivers were not signed. (I ask, what ultra-orthodox Jewish parent doesn't know the health implications of what is probably their most cherished religious tradition?)

But despite the new mandate being essentially impotent, ultra-orthodox rabbis were intolerant of what they see as an "unconstitutional, shocking governmental overreach." According to Rabbi William Handler, leader of Traditional Bris Milah, a self-proclaimed group formed to “protect Jewish ritual circumcision,” this mandate is "the first step in completely taking away traditional bris milah from the Jewish people in New York City.”

To prevent this mandate from taking effect, several rabbis and Jewish organizations, including Agudath Israel of America and the International Bris Association, filed a lawsuit at the Federal District Court in Manhattan. They accuse mayor Bloomberg of "blood libel," and the New York City Health Department of "trying to enforce erroneous opinions on the people of New York City." They claim the city lacks “any definitive proof” that metzitzah b’peh “poses health risks of any kind," despite the fact that the CDC found a total of 11 baby Jewish boys in NYC were infected with herpes.

Well, as they say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and it looks like the very vocal rabbis have gotten their wish.

New York City agreed to a brief stay in the enforcement of the above mandate, so that the plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit in Manhattan can submit a motion for a preliminary injunction.

The implementation of the city’s regulation, originally set to begin Oct. 21, has been pushed back until Nov. 14. 

Meanwhile, in Israel...
While rabbis were successful in holding back a law that does basically nothing to stop ultra-orthodox mohels from putting boys at risk for herpes transmission, the Israel Ambulatory Pediatric Association is calling for an end to the practice of metzitzah b'peh.

Going beyond a mere (and optional) waiver form as proposed in New York City, the Israel Ambulatory Pediatric Association is calling on Israel’s Health Ministry to require maternity wards and clinics to advise parents against metzitzah b’peh.

They are recommending that mohels, or ritual circumcisers, use a tube to take the blood from the circumcision wound, preventing direct contact with the infant’s incision.

Note the strange difference; in New York, officials want to take a "hands off" approach, going as far as highlighting the fact they neither ban nor are regulating how the practice is performed. In Israel, IAPA calls on Israel's Health Ministry to full on advise parents against the practice, and for the practice to be regulated.

Why an Israeli organization is displaying less reservation in regulating a Jewish religious practice than one in New York is beyond me. I would expect more for the Israeli organization to tread lightly on the issue, not the other way around.

Special Pleading
 The angry rabbis in New York try to act as if "religious freedom" is absolute, and government treats all religious practices as "off limits." Government intervenes in religious practices and beliefs all the time. Polygamy and child marriage is illegal, for example. In many states now, parents may not refuse to take their children to the hospital on the basis of "religious beliefs." And, since 1996, all forms of female genital cutting in healthy, non-consenting minors, including a "ritual nick" as proposed by the AAP in 2010, are punishable by law.

So while polygamists, perpetrators of child sex, circumcisers of girls etc., face the law, even in the so-called name of "religious freedom," circumcisers of boys get special kid-glove treatment, especially if they happen to be ritual circumcisers that put boys in extra danger by putting their mouths on the wounds they create.

Because pointing out the reality that cutting a child's penis and then placing one's mouth on it puts a child in danger and DOING something about it constitutes "blood libel," and would "upset" those who engage in the practice.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

AAP TRADESHOW INSIDER: "Listen to Intactivists" Says Sole Presenter on Circumcision

Intactivists already knew that the AAP would be hosting a pro-circumcision workshop at their 2012 tradeshow. Titled "Pros & Cons of Doing Circumcisions," it was described as a session that "aims to explain what one needs to do in order to set up a program to do neonatal circumcisions and how one can become an expert circumciser."  (Here's a screenshot in case the latter gets taken down.)

Given the fact that the AAP had denied Intact America a booth on their tradeshow premises, nevermind the name and description of this workshop, nevermind the AAP's latest policy statement on infant circumcision, and nevermind their refusal to publish letters of opposition, Intactivists assumed the workshop speaker was going to toe the AAP party line on infant circumcision.

However Tweets from within AAP shindig say that something rather different from the workshop's description transpired. According to one Dr. Daniel Flanders:

Dr Yves Homsy supports intactivists

"Dr. Homsy: Those who oppose circumcision are conveying an important message and their voices should be heard."

Queried that this was hardly the message in the session's abstract, Dr. Flanders further Tweeted:
"I noticed that discrepancy as well. The lecture was not as described in the program. Focus was on medically necessary circ."

Challenged on his own views, he Tweeted:
"My personal views are irrelevant. Professionally, I do not do circumcisions."
If I'm understanding correctly, the only presenter on circumcision at the AAP tradeshow, who was supposed to give a pro-circ message, ended up telling his audience they should listen to those protesting outside instead. And, instead of focusing on how to become a prolific mutilator of healthy children's genitals, he focused on medically necessary circumcision. (The only kind of circumcision intactivists believe should ever happen in non-consenting minors.)

Curiouser and curiouser...

Source: Circumstitions News

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

AAP TRADE SHOW 2012: What Went Down in N'Orleans

In earlier posts I wrote about how the AAP has effectively tried to silence critics of its latest position statement on infant circumcision. It has refused to publish letters of opposition, and it banned the presence of Intact America at their trade show in New Orleans.

In my last post, I wrote that, not satisfied with having kicked out Intact America, the AAP was trying to silence protesters outside of the facilities where they were having their get-together.

The details of what exactly went down are now available. (I first accessed them here.)

It should give readers an insight on the prevailing attitudes of the leadership at the AAP.

Intact America's very own Georgeanne Chapin recounts what happened first-hand:

Saturday, the second day of our protest, two AAP officials convened with police and security guards in front of the convention center. A couple of Intactivists were able to overhear some of the conversation. They asked the police if we could not be forced to leave the area. The police told them no, that we were marching on public property, and that we were breaking no laws.

I actually went up to the man, extended my hand, and introduced myself as Georgeanne Chapin, executive director of Intact America. He refused to shake my hand and said, "So what?"

I said I just wanted to introduce myself and I would like to know his name. He said, "I don't agree with anything you do or say," turned on his heel, and walked away.

We had the equivalent of an outdoor, public booth across from the Center; it was a streetcorner, next to an outdoor parking lot, which was next to a Marriott Hotel. On Friday, we had received permission from the lot owner to hang our "I Did Not Consent" banner, and other signs on the chain link fence.

AAP demonstration 2012
                    Picture: Intact Lousiana
Around an hour after the AAP officials' unsuccessful attempt to get rid of us, the valet from the Marriott came and told us that the owner of the parking lot said we were trespassing and had to take the banner and signs down.

Dan Bollinger asked to speak with the owner who "didn't have time" to talk with us, but asked the valet if he could give us the guy's number. Dan called him (turns out it was the manager, not the owner), and had a very pleasant conversation, which ended in him agreeing to extend the permission for us to have the signs up for two more days. (We paid him a small fee.) 

We are certain that the AAP also had complained to the Marriott, which is what sparked them to contact the parking lot manager (who clearly felt he didn't owe the AAP anything). Very nice. All of that said, we had some good conversations, and I felt that by being on the street rather than in the convention exhibit hall, we were free to say all the things we believe.

So there you have it.

Make of the details what you will.

Why do they refuse to publish letters of opposition?

Why did they ban Intact America from their trade show?

But most of all, why did they want have the protesters removed from the premises?

Going as far as trying to get NOPD to remove them from public property?

If the AAP is so confident in its new statement, then what is it so afraid of?

To me, these are the actions of guilty criminals squirming under the light of scrutiny.

The AAP has released a horrendously flawed statement they cannot actually substantiate, they know it, and they don't want to be confronted with anybody who can give them a run for their money.

Sooner or later something's gotta give.

They can't keep the truth hidden forever.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

AAP TRADE SHOW 2012: Silencing Dissent - First the Booth, Now the Protest

In my last post, I wrote about how the AAP decided to kick out the intactivist organization Intact America from within their 2012 trade show. I speculated that the AAP made this decision because they saw Intact America as a threat.

Kicking out Intact America from their 2012 trade show wouldn't have been their only attempt at silencing dissent; the AAP has taken the liberty of taking down, and refusing to publish moderate, referenced, well-researched letters in opposition on their website.

Now, it appears, the AAP is trying to silence dissent outside of their trade show. Intactivists have managed to launch a small, but very vocal protest outside of the facilities where the AAP is hosting their trade exhibition, and the AAP is trying to get them shut down.

Intactivist Protesters Outside of the 2012 AAP Trade Show

It is now ever clear that the AAP has made a huge mistake, they know it, and they are feeling the burn. It is now clear that self-serving forces with an agenda are working from within the AAP to silence dissent. They are intimidated by intactivists and terrified of the truth; their actions of fear and apprehension prove it.

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.”
 "Truth suppress'd, whether by courts or crooks, will find an avenue to be told."
~Sheila Steele
"You can fool some people, some of the time, but you can't fool all the people all the time."

The AAP is mistaken if it thinks they can hide the truth from everyone. They may withhold letters of opposition, and kick out groups they do not like from their trade shows, but they WILL NOT SILENCE US.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

SILENCING DISSENT: AAP Bans Intact America from Trade Show

I had already addressed the AAP silencing dissent following the release of their latest policy statement on circumcision. Letters of criticism that took their latest statement apart were either withdrawn from their website, if not never even published. We know that there are letters that do not appear on the AAP website because a number of human rights activists published them openly. They can be read here.

And now, as if taking down or withholding letters of dissent, weren't enough, the AAP has decided to prohibit Intact America from having a booth inside their trade show happening in New Orleans, even after four straight years of exhibiting.

In contrast, they will host a workshop titled "Pros & Cons of Doing Circumcisions," which is described as follows: "This session aims to explain what one needs to do in order to set up a program to do neonatal circumcisions and how one can become an expert circumciser."  (Here's a screenshot in case the latter gets taken down.)

My only guess is that the AAP is clearly intimidated by Intact America, because they are able to take apart their latest policy statement and call them out on their ulterior motives. The AAP knows their latest policy statement is horrendously flawed, and they are terrified to let Intact America speak on the matter, because they don't want to be confronted with the truth.

The extent to which the AAP is going to silence intactivism shows just how terrified they are of our message, how weak their position actually is, and how inept they are at defending it.


How You Can Help
The AAP may have kicked Intact America out of their trade show, but they are not going to stop intactivists from protesting outside the convention center that weekend. You can still help Intact America make an impact in New Orleans by donating to them. Your donation will help Intact America stage a major press conference and demonstration, produce and distribute educational materials to thousands of pediatricians, and place Open Letters in the New Orleans Times Picayune.

Help our voice be heard!