News of this case had been all over intactivist circles, and as much as I could help it, I didn't want to touch it. But now, the situation in Florida has escalated, and I feel compelled to write about it.
Long Story Short
A four year old child is caught in the middle of a court dispute. His parents never married, but long ago, they both agreed to have their male child circumcised and signed a legal contract. The boy is now four years old, he hasn't been circumcised, and despite the legal agreement they made earlier, the mother has changed her mind and does not want her son to undergo needless surgery, as the boy is healthy, there is no medical indication for surgical intervention, and there are risks, including death
The case has been in Florida courts for the past year or so, and it has culminated in the judge siding with the father, invoking the legal contract signed by both parents, and ordering that the child must be circumcised as the father wishes, against the mother's wishes, irrespective of what the child, now fully conscious and aware of his own body, wants for himself.
We Talk, You Listen: Crippled Early On
Of peculiarity is the fact that the judge sought to disable the mother from defending her case early on. He placed a gag order on her that forbade her from going to the media, or seeking out the funds necessary for her defense. She was not to talk to the boy about what would happen to him. Basically the judge wanted to render her and her child helpless, sitting ducks. I suppose the judge was expecting for the mother to just fold her hands and say "Here! Take the child; he's all yours."
Silenced, forbidden from seeking funds, even talking to her own child, what was this mother supposed to do? It is clear that the judge sought to rig this case in the father's favor from the very beginning. In my opinion, this is a problem in and of itself. How is it fair to strip one side of their defenses?
Intactivists Step In
The judge may have issued this mother a gag order, but this didn't stop intactivist groups from publicizing this child's case on her behalf, and on behalf of that child. Many groups and individuals have worked hard to raise awareness of this case, and to raise funds for this mother's legal expenses in spite of the judge's attempted blackout. They have also staged protests.
The Plot Thickens
At the end of last year, the judge decided the mother didn't have a case, and that plans for the father to have her son circumcised should proceed as detailed in the legal contract signed by both parents.
Even so, the mother has tried her best to prolong the legal battle, attempting to extend her son's grace period for as long as she can.
Within the past few months, the father has tried to arrange for the elective procedure to happen. On February 18, 2015, the mother filed a motion for
injunction. The judge denied the mother’s motion for an injunction and a
hearing was scheduled for March 6, 2015. Two days later, on Friday, February 20, 2015, the
judge ordered that the circumcision could proceed without the mother’s
consent, in the event the mother refuses.
It is now March 7th, the father has been seeking to have the child circumcised, and now the mother and child are nowhere to be found. The judge has ruled that the mother must appear in court to hand over her son,
and she must sign a consent form to have him circumcised by Tuesday, March 10, 2015 at 2PM or
face jail time. In addition, he "blames" her for making the case public.
It appears the judge is hell-bent on having this four year old child circumcised, meanwhile trying to paint his mother as some sort of villain for standing up and seeking help on his behalf.
Something is seriously the matter with this judge.
What Happens Now?
Many intactivists feared this would happen. In fact, quite a few cautioned against counseling the mother to take the boy and run, that if there were any chance this boy would be spared needless surgery, fleeing with the child would destroy it.
But I say, what choice did she have? Besides just stand by and watch as her child is taken from her arms to have a stranger needlessly cut off part of his penis? If running is the only way to extend the protection of this child's rights, then I say so be it.
In all honesty, I'm not sure what I, the author of this blog would do if I were in this woman's shoes.
I'd like the reader to try and picture what would happen if this case happened in reverse.
You have a daughter with someone and you initially
agree to have her circumcised. You sign a legal document, and it's
binding, as you live in a country where female circumcision is "normal"
and socially accepted. You read more information about it and you want
to change your mind. You and the person you had your daughter with go to
court and the judge sides with that person, citing "research"
it prevents cancer and STDs, and that it's "very, very safe."
You are to hand over your daughter at a determined date to be circumcised, and you will not see her during her healing period.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
What News Outlets Are Saying
Of course, this case has been in the news since last year, and there are too many articles to quote, so I'll be quoting from the most recent articles, and highlighting points from them that jumped out at me.
"In a stinging rebuke of the mother, [the judge] said she had successfully dragged out a legal battle and was 'reprehensible' for going missing with the boy and for conduct that has put the 4-year-old in a public spotlight 'making him an object of curiosity and worse'. "
What I find "reprehensible" is that this judge has the nerve of trying to vilify this mother after all he has done, trying to put a gag order on her, hastening the child's circumcision by removing the need for her consent, etc.
What I find "reprehensible" is the audacity of this judge to condemn that this case be made public.
Why is he so concerned that the public not be aware of his ruling?
"She will only avoid jail on the contempt charge, [the judge] said, if she signs paperwork necessary to schedule the procedure that she initially agreed to in a legal document."
I find it ironic that the judge is basically trying to force this woman to sign consent papers on this child's behalf. "Sign or rot in jail," basically. There goes "consent..." Again, something is seriously the matter with this judge.
"'This child has been placed in a light that provides much too much scrutiny for a little boy,' the judge said. 'I blame no one but the mother for that.'"
This is truly unbelievable.
It is more of a problem for this judge, that this child's case is being scrutinized, and not the fact that he has ordered the child undergo needless surgery at the expense of his bodily integrity, not to mention his basic human rights.
Says the father:
"'She's willing to flee with him and plaster him all over the Internet and do anything she can,' [the father] said. 'She's stated that she's going to do everything that she can to stop it.'"
And he is surprised?
And then, almost as if obligatory, the article concludes:
"The CDC says medical evidence shows benefits clearly outweigh risks, and that circumcision can lower a male's risk of sexually transmitted diseases, penile cancer and urinary tract infections."
What the article doesn't say is that in the end, the CDC can't commit to an actual recommendation for male infant circumcision based on the current body of medical literature.
The trend of
opinion on routine male circumcision is overwhelmingly negative in
industrialized nations. No respected medical board in the world
recommends circumcision for infants, not even in the name of HIV
prevention. They must all point to the risks, and they must all state
that there is no convincing evidence that the benefits outweigh these
risks. To do otherwise would be to take an unfounded position against
the best medical authorities of the West.
It must be asked what bearing the half-assed, non-committal CDC statement on male infant circumcision has on a healthy 4 year old who is at zero risk for sexually transmitted disease. Not even the American Cancer Society recommends infant circumcision as a measure to prevent penile cancer, and UTIs are already rare and easily treated.
"In a hearing held Friday, [the judge] heard testimony from the boy's father, over how [the mother] has fled and vanished with their son. [The father] also asked the court to have [the mother]stop allowing
anti-circumcision activists to continue using their son's name and
likeness on the internet. She had been ordered to do so in the past but
has disobeyed that court order."
As if she could stop other groups from doing what they want... As if she or he had any command over it... In the past she was ordered that she was not to make the case public. This didn't mean that others weren't free to do so on her and that poor child's behalf. She didn't disobey anything. That judge has a problem for trying to put a lid on this case.
"During his testimony, [the father] detailed an incident where [the mother] burst
into a doctor's office where the child was being examined in order to
schedule a procedure. [The father] said she "threw a tantrum" and yelled at the
medical staff that she had not given consent for the boy to be examined
by the doctor. [The father] said their son, who had witnessed the outburst,
was "visibly shaken." He also claimed that the boy had expressed fear
over getting a circumcision. [The father] hinted on the stand that this was due
to Hironimus' using "scare tactics" on the boy, though he didn't make
clear what those tactics might've been."
And why shouldn't this mother have been outraged that her child was being examined for surgery without her consent? It's telling how now the judge, the lawyer and everyone involved on the father's behalf is trying to make the mother look like a villain. Yes, I'm sure it was the mother and her "scare tactics," and not the fact that the child is awaiting someone to come and cut off part of his penis, that scared the child.
Really, dad? Some father YOU are...
"[The judge]said he expected that, although [the mother] was ordered not to
allow the boy's name and likeness to be taken from her personal Facebook
and used on these websites, she did anyway. 'I expected this to
happen,' [the judge] said during his ruling, 'that the child's likeness would
be used, making him an object of curiosity on the Internet.'"
But why would he expect that? And why would he want to preempt it with a gag order?
Is it the child that the judge fears would be an object of curiosity? Or was it circumcision? Or the fact that it was going to happen on a 4 year old without any medical indication whatsoever?
"Moreover, [the judge] said that he had heard enough testimony from doctors
that circumcision is safe. 'I have heard testimony from doctors that
there are zero cases of penile cancer in circumcised males, but there
have been some cases in uncircumcised males,' [the judge] said. 'I've also
heard testimony from doctors that there are less cases of STDs in
circumcised males than in uncircumcised males.'
That circumcised males are immunized against penile cancer is simply categorically false
. One must wonder why sexually transmitted disease is a concern in a four year old, and why he couldn't decide what STD prevention methods he would like to employ for himself as a sexually active adult.
"[The judge], saying he wanted to 'rein in this case,' also added that
circumcision is 'short, under local anesthesia, and, at this stage of
the boy's life, very, very safe.'"
So now, judge is some sort of certified doctor. Yes, I'm sure he must have a degree in pediatric medicine, especially where urology and surgery are concerned.
Is he dense or is he deliberately missing the point?
Would female circumcision be justified to do in a girl if it "reduced cancer and sexually transmitted diseases,"
and rendered "very, very safe?"
I gleaned the following from The Sun Sentinel
, and it seems telling of people's ignorance on the matter:
"[The father] has said he decided to pursue the circumcision in December 2013 when the boy was 3, after he said he noticed his son was urinating on his leg. The father on Friday said the boy's pediatrician had diagnosed a condition called phimosis, which prevents retraction of the foreskin."
If the reporter at The Sun Sentinel is to be believed, readers are being asked to just ignore the legal document the father has to go on. This is no longer about disputing the validity of a legal agreement, but about whether or not circumcision is medically indicated in the child.
The father wasn't intent on circumcising this child at the time he signed the legal document in question, he decided in 2013 he would like to circumcise his son.
Yes, let it be heard here that urinating on one's leg is a sign of phimosis, and not of childhood urinary incontinence. Is this some kind of joke?
It appears now that the father is seeking to use pseudo-medicine to circumcise this perfectly healthy child.
Phimosis? Dad? When medical literature indicates that a child's foreskin does not necessarily retract in infancy? But could remain non-retractile up until late teens?
Scraping the bottom of the barrel.
'There is no reason this case has to have gone this far, under these circumstances, drawing this much attention to a little boy,' [the judge] said. 'There is just no reason.'
The judge is right. He could have just told the father the mother reconsidered, she is as much a parent of the child as he is, and she has every right to change her mind and intervene for her child.
I think what the judge means to say here is that he wishes attention to circumcision,
particularly the circumcision of a healthy, non-consenting four year-old. Weren't drawn.
By now, I think he should be aware that the cat's out of the bag, and a gag-order is not going to stuff it back in.
"The most recent federal statistics indicate circumcision is waning in popularity across the country, but a national pediatricians' group says the health benefits of the procedure for newborn males are greater than the risks."
The national pediatricians' group in question is the AAP, and though yes, they did try to repeat the sound-bite that "the health benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks,"
many times, in the end, they couldn't commit to a recommendation, citing, in their very own article that, "the benefits are not great enough."
Despite what the CDC and AAP have to say on the matter, it remains true and irrefutable fact that no respected medical organization recommends infant circumcision based on current medical literature.
How can it be?
The judge has made a very true point; how is it that this case has gone on as far as it has?
It must be asked, without medical or clinical indication, how is it doctors can legally be performing non-medical surgery on healthy, non-consenting minors? Let alone be giving parents any kind of "choice" in the matter?
How is it that whether or not this child will undergo surgery depends on a written agreement, and not on the presence or absence of medical necessity?
How is it the court can order a mother to relinquish her son, and her voice to protect that son from needless surgery?
There is seriously something very wrong with courts in so-called 1st world developed countries that would allow this to happen.
All Wanted Secrecy - But WHY?
The father, the judge in this case, the father's lawyers have all tried to put a lid on this case. The judge put a gag order on the mother forbidding her to go to the media, or to seek out funds for her legal expenses. The father in particular was hoping to prevent the boy from becoming a poster boy for human rights activists who opposed the forced circumcision of healthy, non-consenting minors.
Why was the judge complicit in trying to keep this case under wraps?
It is said that only those who do evil hate the light, and avoid it, lest their deeds should be reproved. They clench their fists and gnash their teeth when anybody dares shine light on them. It is those who speak the truth, and fear not the truth who don't fear the light. Lo, they come to it and stand in it that their deeds may be made manifest.
The judge also ordered the media not to release the name of the child,
and also asked reporters to be "sensitive"
about identifying the
parents, "Not in deference to me, but in deference to the protection of
the individuals involved."
Just whom does the judge want to "protect?" And why? Certainly not the boy. The boy and his well-being are his least concern. He's talking about the "protection" the father who would be surely hated for his actions. And he is most definitely talking about himself, who would be seen as nothing more than an enabler of the deliberate violation of this child's basic human rights.
They all know they are engaging in deliberate child abuse through forced genital mutilation, and they do not want the light of scrutiny shone on them.
That is why they wanted to have concluded this case in secret.
Who Are the Players? What's at Stake?
The judge, the father, the father's lawyers etc. would all prefer for there to be a media black out regarding this case.
And this is precisely why I'm going to mention the parents' names right here in my blog. (They are no secret, as the names have appeared in other previous news sources.)
This is four-year old Chase.
This is the poor boy caught in the crossfire between his parents. He is not sick, he is not suffering any kind of illness that indicates surgical treatment. Yet the court has ordered that he needs to undergo surgery, the sole reason being the appeasement of his father. This is the child whose penis is in question. And yet, he is but a bystander in the whole case. No one seems to be bothered, no one seems to be interested in what he has to say regarding the future of his own body. That is, except human rights activists who are fighting for his cause.
Heather Hironimus is Chase's mother, here they are pictured together.
This is Dennis Nebus is Chase's father.
And this is Judge Jeffery Dana Gillen
, the judge who appears to have made it his life's mission to see to it that Chase undergoes circumcision.
It must be asked, why in the world would a judge be concerned that this case not be made public? Is it the child's well-being he is concerned about? Or is it something that runs a bit deeper?
I can only speculate, but I think that this judge knows that siding with the mother and recognizing the fact the boy is healthy, and that circumcision is medically unnecessary, will open up a can of worms across the country, perhaps even the world. More and more circumcision is a hot-button issue in this country, and this judge and others may be working to prevent any kind of precedent that says a child's rights ought to be recognized, or even that a child should be spared in the event that parents cannot come to an agreement.
The judge may even have his own personal agenda. I speculate that the judge is himself circumcised, possibly a father to circumcised children, and he is taking the father's side, and placing himself in the father's shoes. Methinks the judge would himself be devastated if his wife would intervene on behalf of his male children and refuse to allow anyone to circumcise them.
Based on the fact that he was invited to be a speaker for career day at the Donna Klein Jewish Academy, where all invited speakers are prominent Jews in the community, it has been speculated in intactivist circles that he may be Jewish, and thus have a religious conviction to make sure this case falls through for the mother, and is a victory for the father. In a recent case in Israel
, a mother succeeded in preventing her son from undergoing circumcision, much to the chagrin of the child's father, and the rabbinical court who wanted that child circumcised. Perhaps this judge wants to prevent a similar precedent in the US? It is possible the Academy may have made an exception and decided to invite a non-Jew to address the students, but doubtful given that one of the main goals of the event seems to be laud accomplishments made by Jewish members.
At any rate, one way or another, I suspect the judge of having a dog in the race, and is abusing his position of power to make sure things go his way. He ought to be relieved from this case, and it should be seen by other judges. This man is proving to be arrogant and belligerent, and it is clear that he could care less for the well-being of this child.
"A Personal Choice"
Circumcision advocates like to bandy about these words when it comes to defending parents who are adamant that their children be circumcised, but it seems their very meaning is lost on them, because they seem to be, either intentionally, or deliberately, leaving out the person whose genitals are in question.
If the child were actually suffering a condition, it would be a different matter, as treatment is necessary, and parents would be faced with having to make a decision.
But otherwise, why is the child and his own express wishes completely ignored?
In essence, the courts are treating this child like a slave in a business transaction
between owners. Perhaps even worse; he's being treated like cattle to be branded.
No "personal choice," no basic human rights, no human dignity for this child.
The Bottom Line
The foreskin is not a birth defect. Neither is it a congenital
deformity or genetic anomaly akin to a 6th finger or a cleft. Neither is
it a medical condition like a ruptured appendix or diseased gall
bladder. Neither is it a dead part of the body, like the umbilical
cord, hair, or fingernails.
The foreskin is not "extra skin." The foreskin is normal, natural,
healthy, functioning tissue, present in all males at birth; it is as
intrinsic to male genitalia as labia are to female genitalia.
Unless there is a medical or clinical indication, the circumcision of a
healthy, non-consenting individuals is a deliberate wound; it is the
destruction of normal, healthy tissue, the permanent disfigurement
of normal, healthy organs, and by very definition, infant genital
mutilation, and a violation of the most basic of human rights.
Without medical or clinical indication, doctors have absolutely no
business performing surgery in healthy, non-consenting individuals, much
less be eliciting any kind of "decision" from parents.
There is something seriously wrong with the courts in Florida, or any
court that would allow the elective, non-medical circumcision on a
healthy, non-consenting individual, especially a four year old child,
where the child will be old enough, fully aware, and fully conscious of
what would happen to his body, and who will remember this event for the
rest of his life.
The court system is broken if the rights of a healthy, non-consenting individual are tramped.
This is the face of a Muslim child just before he undergoes a ritual circumcision. In Muslim traditions, children are circumcised at much later ages. Notice the comfort money he has been given. Notice where his hands are. Notice the look of fear and despair in his face. No one used "fear tactics" to scare this child. He knows what's coming, and he is scared. I can only imagine that if Chase is forcibly circumcised, his face too will look something like this just before. My heart breaks just to think about it.
May there be justice for this poor child.
"Who will cry for the little boy, he cried himself to sleep
cry for the little boy, who never had it for keeps
Who will cry for
the little boy, who walked on burning sands
Who will cry for the
little boy, the boy inside a man
Who will cry for the little boy, who
knew well hurt and pain
Who will cry for the little boy, who died and
Who will cry for the little boy, a good boy he tried to be
Who will cry for the little boy, who cries inside of me"
From the movie Antwone Fischer
SOMEBODY has got to stand up for this boy and mother. Somebody has got to be their voice.
SHAME on this judge for taking this mother's voice away, and for disregarding the voice of the boy whose body is in question.
SHAME on him for abusing his position of power.