Heather Hironimus was recently jailed on contempt of court charges when she refused to sign consent for her son’s circumcision. This incarceration followed a lengthy dispute about a signed parenting agreement in which the mother had changed her mind. At the root of the issue is Hironimus’ desire to protect her son from an unnecessary surgery. She felt so strongly about the issue, she actually went into hiding with her child after the court sided with the father.
Today, while sitting in a courtroom, under threat of being held in jail and losing her child, the weeping and still handcuffed mother signed the paper giving consent for the elective surgery. Reporter Marc Freeman of The Sun Sentinel was in the courtroom and tweeted updates.
BREAKING: In Palm Beach County court, a crying, handcuffed Heather Hironimus just signed consent for 4-year-old son's circumcision
— Marc Freeman (@MarcJFreeman) May 22, 2015
The Sun Sentinel reports that at first, Hironimus refused to provide consent and the judge ordered her to return to jail until she signed, granting full custody and parental decisions to Dennis Nebus, the boy’s father.
The advocate group Chase’s Guardians shared the following post on their Facebook page.
However, that isn’t the end of the story. Hironimus still faces charges for allegedly “interfering with custody” during the time she was attempting to protect her son from the needless genital surgery. The Sun Sentinel reports:
The charge is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in a state prison for a conviction.
Hironimus is scheduled to appear before a criminal court judge on Tuesday, May 26.
It is extremely concerning that a judge can order a parent’s consent for an elective procedure. It’s even more concerning when the consent is then coerced under threat of imprisonment. Chase’s Guardians claim there isn’t a pediatric urologist in the state of Florida that will perform the elective procedure because of the manner in which the consent has been given. I hope they are correct.
So, what is all the fuss about circumcision?
In the comments on the previous story many people didn’t see what the big deal was with having the child circumcised. Many said they disagreed with doing the procedure on a child of this age, but that it should have been done while he was still an infant – citing pain and trauma as the reason. Some disagreed saying the circumcised penis is healthier and cleaner for men and that it is still better for this child’s genitals to be cut. Let’s explore some of those claims.
“It hurts less as a baby.”
Let’s get one thing out-of-the-way quickly – pain and trauma are still experienced by children when they are a newborn. Age does not change the fact that a piece of the baby’s most private, most sensitive part of their body is being separated, crushed and cut. In fact, the nearly half of all circumcisions performed by OB/GYNs are done WITHOUT even so much as a local anesthetic.
Now, many people like to rely on the unsubstantiated, mythical reasoning that babies do not feel pain or that it hurts less for a newborn. Science does not back this claim. In fact, a research study in 1997 was actually stopped due to ethical concerns when attempting to measure the pain experienced by boys circumcised without anesthetic vs. those with various forms of pain relief. It was reported that over 90 percent of circumcisions performed at that time were without pain relief. However, the data, which came out of the brief research, certainly provided proof that routine infant circumcision is far from a painless experience.
“Men who are circumcised have fewer infections.”
Many cite the importance of preventative health as a reason to circumcise. Some studies claim it reduces the chance of UTI in infant males. There is some debate about the validity of these studies, but for a moment, let’s say they were accurate and one benefit is a reduction of UTI. The CDC cites annual rate for UTI for intact males is .70 percent (yes, the rate is less than ONE PERCENT) versus the .18 percent for a circumcised male infant. Oh, and UTI is easily treated with antibiotics, on the off-chance a baby boy does fall into that less than one percent statistic.
“Circumcision decreases instances of penile cancer.”
Penile cancer is also often used as a reason to routinely circumcise – so one can assume the rate of penile cancer is high for intact men, correct?
Yet again we are dealing with fractions of percentage points. The lifetime risk for a U.S. male being diagnosed with penile cancer is 1 in 1,437 or .07 percent.
Some studies suggest male circumcision decreases instances of cervical cancer in female sexual partners. And, of course, we are all well aware of the African studies, which cite a decrease in HIV transmission when males are circumcised. However, these instances apply to grown adults. Ethically this type of preventative surgery shouldn’t even be considered on an un-consenting minor who would be perfectly capable of electing such a drastic preventative measure as an adult. Babies and children are not sexually active – so this protection doesn’t apply to them.
Angelina Jolie opted to have a double mastectomy to avoid breast cancer. Shall we start advocating for the removal of all newborn girls breast buds upon birth? That would certainly decrease instances of breast cancer. Right?
This is probably one of the most insulting reasons used, but let’s address it since it is also one of the most common reasons. One thing that fuels this argument is the lack of knowledge most Americans have about the natural male body. First and foremost, during infancy foreskin is fused to the glans (head) of the penis. If often doesn’t even begin to retract until well into childhood and can even remain un-retractable until puberty. That is completely normal. So, caring for an intact infant is actually easier than a circumcised baby – there is no wound, no retracting, no petroleum jelly, no scab, no crust, no ring to fall off – you simply wipe the penis off like you would a little finger, elbow, knee or toe. To advocate for anything more than that is the equivalent of advocating vaginal douches for baby girls. It simply doesn’t make sense.
Into adulthood, do we really have such little faith in our men that we think they would walk around with dirty crotches? Seriously. This point should not even be part of the debate. Men and women are perfectly capable of keeping their genitals clean with running water. Painful surgeries are not necessary to achieve desired results.
“It’s just a flap of skin.”
Contrary to this claim, foreskin is not just a “flap” of skin. It is a double-layered sheath. Circumcision actually removes over 33 percent of the penile skin. Included in that skin (far more than a “flap”) are tens of thousands of sensitive nerves. In fact, one study has concluded that when we circumcise we are removing the most sensitive part of the male sexual organ.
Many parents, like Heather Hironimus, choose to forgo circumcision and protect their sons from unnecessary genital cutting. In Hironimus’ case, she also discovered her son has a rare scarring disorder and reacts poorly to anesthesia, only fueling her drive to protect her son.
However, today she was forced to sign a consent form against her wishes and even more importantly, against her son’s wishes.
His body. His choice.
You can continue to follow this case on the Facebook page Chase’s Guardians.
Featured image via Facebook