New York wants to pass the new law out of concern over metzitzah b’peh, a practice among ultra-orthodox Jews in which the person performing the circumcision (mohel) removes blood from the wound with his mouth. Metzitzah b’peh has been linked to 11 cases of oral herpes and two deaths between 2000 and 2011, the city said.
“The city’s highest obligation is to protect its children,” said Dr. Thomas A. Farley, commissioner of New York’s health department, according to the New York Times.
The lawsuit filed by several rabbis and Jewish organizations such as Agudath Israel of America and the International Bris Association states that Jewish families have safely conducted the practice of circumcision and metzitzah b’peh for generations, and that the new law would be unconstitutional.
“Not only is the Department of Health wrong about metzitzah b’peh, it is trying to enforce its erroneous opinions on the people of New York City...By essentially starting a public intimidation campaign that forces private citizens to spread the government’s beliefs, they are shaking the core of our democracy. We believe the courts will stop this overzealous government overreach and keep them out of our speech and religion,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a spokesman for the groups suing the city.