Judge rules against boys circumcision
By Judy Peres
Published October 24,
2006, 5:27 PM CDT
In a case that has been
closely watched by anti-circumcision groups nationwide, a Cook
County judge ruled Tuesday that the medical benefits of the
procedure are not clear enough to compel a 9-year-old
Northbrook boy to be circumcised against his will.
boy's mother and her new husband had claimed the operation was
necessary to prevent recurrent episodes of redness and
discomfort. The boy's father sought a court order barring the
circumcision, which he called an "unnecessary
The mother has sole custody, but their
2003 parenting agreement gave her ex-husband a say in
non-emergency medical decisions. The Tribune is not naming the
parents in order to protect the boy's privacy.
written opinion handed down Tuesday, Circuit Court Judge
Jordan Kaplan said, "The evidence was conflicting and
inconclusive as to any past infections or irritations that may
have been suffered by the child.
continued, "this court also finds that the medical evidence as
provided by the testimony of the expert witnesses ... is
inconclusive as to the medical benefits or non-benefits of
circumcision as it relates to the 9-year-old
Kaplan said the boy, as a minor, cannot make
his own medical decisions but had indicated in a written
statement that he does not want to be circumcised.
injury to the child as a result of an unnecessary circumcision
would be irreversible," Kaplan wrote, adding that his order
would remain in effect until the boy turns 18 and can decide
for himself whether or not he wants to undergo the
Because there are no U.S. precedents, other
courts could look to this ruling in future cases, said George
Hill of Doctors Opposing Circumcision.
a law professor at New York University, called the ruling a
"significant victory" for the growing "intactivist" movement,
which has argued circumcision is harmful and violates the
rights of children, who can't give informed
Miller conceded Tuesday's decision was
"limited by the facts of the case," including the agreement
that gives the father the right to be consulted on medical
care. Nevertheless, he said, "The fact that a non-custodial
parent was able to prevent a custodial parent from having this
procedure done is a sign that courts are more receptive to
arguments against circumcision than they were in past
The father, a 50-year-old building manager from
Arlington Heights, said he was relieved by the decision and
His lawyer, Alan Toback, said, "We always
thought it was not in the child's best interest to have a
circumcision at age 9 that was not medically necessary, and
the judge agreed."
The mother was not in court Tuesday,
and her lawyer, Tracy Rizzo, also was not there because of the
death of her father, famed Chicago private investigator Ernie
Rizzo. The mother was represented instead by Gail O'Connor,
who said, "We're disappointed, of course, but we will abide by
Circumcision, in which the foreskin of
the penis is surgically removed, usually before a newborn
leaves the hospital, was extremely common in the U.S. during
the last century. But the percentage of U.S. babies being
circumcised has gone from an estimated 90 percent in 1970 to
about 55 percent today. In most other countries, circumcision
is performed only for religious reasons.
The boy, who
never appeared in court, was represented by attorney David
Pasulka, who recommended against circumcision at this
The eight-month dispute took some nasty turns.
Rizzo charged that the father did not care about the boy's
health but feared his ex-wife and her new husband were trying
to convert the boy to Judaism.
The father's attorneys
hinted that the mother's aim was to spite her ex-husband and
please her current husband, who is Jewish.
stepfather and stepbrother are both circumcised, while the
biological parents are Catholic immigrants from Eastern
European countries where circumcision is rare.
Kaplan said he did not address "issues of ethnicity or
religious beliefs relative to circumcision" because the
parents did not raise them in their legal
Dan Strandjord, a self-proclaimed
"intactivist" who attended every hearing in the case, was
elated Tuesday. "I believe this is a human rights issue," said
Copyright © 2006, Chicago