Circumcision and the Courts: When Parents Can’t Agree
As reported in a recent ABA Journal article found at abajournal.com, a Florida mother was arrested and jailed last week for contempt because of her refusal to cooperate with the court-ordered circumcision of her 4-year-old son.
The parents have been fighting since pregnancy and the legal battle regarding the circumcision has been a long one. Initially, both parents agreed to have the child circumcised; this was memorialized in a consent order. Now, mom has changed her mind, and has filed a federal lawsuit claiming the child’s civil liberties are being infringed upon.
According to abcnews.com, the courts have mostly been on dad’s side. The father’s attorney, Ira Marcus, said mom had not proven any constitutional violation and that the mother had no jurisdiction to prevent the circumcision from proceeding. He said the boy remained in the care of the father and that the surgery was not imminently scheduled.
Several other jurisdictions have addressed this issue, but here in New Jersey, only one case such as this has gone before the courts. In January 2001 a dispute between divorcing parents in New Jersey was resolved when the mother, who sought to have the boy circumcised withdrew her request. The boy, Matthew Price, had experienced two instances of foreskin inflammation and she wanted to have him circumcised. The father, who had experienced a traumatic circumcision as a child objected and they turned to the courts for a decision. The Medical Society of New Jersey and the Urological Society of New Jersey both opposed any court ordered medical treatment. As the parties came to an agreement, no precedent was set.
According to an article by Kate Coscarelli entitled Accord not to circumcise son still leaves heated legal debate. Newark Star-Ledger, January 25, 2001, legal scholars arrive at different conclusions with regard to this issue. “Even custodial parents’ viewpoints of medical treatments can only be sustained if they can prove that treatment is medically necessary,” said Claudette St. Romaine at Seton Hall University Law School in Newark.
But Norman Cantor, a professor at Rutgers University Law School in Newark, said it’s hard to tell what long-term effects the case may have. “If a private settlement is reached in a case and there is not a real authoritative ruling then there is no…impact,” said Cantor.
What are your thoughts? Should a court become involved in the decision to circumcise a child? How should the court address this issue?
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If you are experiencing problems medical decisions regarding your child, contact Brunetti, Donnelly & Gulczynski to schedule a consultation.