Maybe it's a slow news day, but the simmering controversy over a practice called metzitzah b'peh is again surfacing on the local political blogs, with both The Politicker and The Daily Politics weighing in.
Metzitzah b'peh (Hebrew for "oral suction") is a practice of some ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, whereby the blood resulting from an infant circumcision is orally sucked up by the person doing the circumcising. This practice, claims the City Department of Health, potentially exposes infants to herpes and has in fact fatally infected at least one child. In consequence, the NYC DoH is seeking to impose strict limits, up to a ban, on the practice, while Hassidic groups are seeking an accommodation with the less assertive (and politically malleable) State Department of Health.
The State DoH has now issued protocols regarding metzitzah b'peh, which the City DoH and its commissioner, Tom Frieden, have rejected as inadequate. Brouhaha is the natural fall-out, with some arguing that a practice that can kill infants should be banned, others saying that it is an open-and-shut case of free exercise under the First Amendment, and probably a majority wishing that they had never even heard of this ickiness.
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