Intactivism News

May - June, 2015

To more recent news

News items are copied to Circumstitions News blog (which takes comments)

- thanks to Joseph4GI

Jakarta Post

June 30, 2015

Painless circumcision method introduced to curb HIV spread

by Nethy Dharma Somba

The Papua AIDS Eradication Commission (KPAD) began to distribute 1,800 PrePex circumcision devices to residents on Monday in four regions in a bid to reduce the risk of HIV infections in the province.

The device, made of elastic rings and placed on male genitals for seven days before it is released, has been considered practical and easy to use and can provide a non-surgical, medical means to achieve adult male circumcision.

Papua KPAD secretary Constant Karma said that the 1,800 PrePex units, which were donated by the US-based Clinton Foundation through the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), would be distributed to Jayapura, Jayawijaya, Paniai and Manokwari, starting Monday.
[No mention of informed consent.  Papua is under military occupation by Indonesia and the rights of local people are severely curtailed. Is this just another example?]

“This is only the first stage. For the second phase, we will receive another 10 million PrePex units [from the foundation],” Karma said on Monday on the sidelines of a free circumcision service held to introduce PrePex use at the regional administration-run hospital RSUD Dok II Jayapura.
[The population of Papua is 3.5 million. Who are the other 8.25 million Prepexes for?]

The hospital, according to Karma, would open such a service until Friday.

In 2007, the World Health Organization and UNAIDS argued that circumcised men could reduce the risk of HIV infection by approximately 60 percent in high-risk areas.

The spread of HIV infections in Papua is alarming, according to the Papua KPAD. HIV in Papua is mainly transmitted through unsafe sexual intercourse. [And mainly from men to women, to whom male genital cutting offers no protection and may increase the risk.]

Unlike regular circumcision surgery, PrePex-assisted circumcision is much easier to perform. After the male genitalia is cleaned and measured, anesthesia cream is applied on the tip of it to get rid of a tingling sensation.

Then the PrePex, which is a set of two rings, one black and one white, is inserted onto the genitals according to the respective size.

The white ring is put inside the genital skin while the black one is put around the outer skin. The rings will clamp the skin, stopping the flow of blood, nerves and nutrition to the skin that will be cut off.

“As the flow of the blood, nerves and nutrition stops, the skin will automatically feel nothing so that no pain will be felt and no blood will come out,” said Suwardi, one of the hospital doctors who assisted in Monday’s circumcision service. [This is optimistic to say the least. The sensation caused by a tourniquet of any kind can be intensely painful. Pain and blood are far from the only downsides of genital cutting.]

After the rings are attached, patients could engage in normal activities and then return to the hospital a week later to have the dead skin cut off and the rings released, said Karma, who was also among the patients.


And so it begins again...

EyeWitness News

June 27, 2015

Three EC initiates die while undergoing rite of passage

by Xolani Koyana

CAPE TOWN - Just four days into the initiation season, three Eastern Cape boys have died while undergoing the rite of passage.

This follows the hospitalisation of nine other initiates in the province last week from complications following circumcision.

It’s believed the deceased are aged between 14 and 17 years old.

Eastern Cape Traditional Affairs spokesperson Mamnkeli Ngam says the department was alerted to the deaths after sending officials to the initiation school.

“While monitoring the schools they were informed that initiates had died in two different areas. At the moment we are unable to divulge the details around their deaths until we have received the post-mortem results.”

Earlier this month, the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs said new regulations proposed to govern initiation schools could see the use of modern medical practice to minimise injuries while women would also play a greater role.

Sixty thousand young boys undergo traditional circumcision across the country every season.

Over the past few years, interventions by the health department have seen the number of fatalities decrease.

Government said the proposal is aimed at streamlining standard medical practice with cultural norms.

(Edited by Winnie Theletsane)
Earlier Story


June 18, 2015

Nine boys in hospital after botched circumcisions

The teens apparently went to unregistered initiation schools without their parents' consent.

by Xolani Koyana / Tamsin Wort

CAPE TOWN – Nine Eastern Cape teenagers have been hospitalised due to complications from botched circumcisions.

It's understood the boys went to unregistered initiation schools without their parent's consent.

Eastern Cape health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said, “We admitted seven initiates at a state hospital and two were admitted in Umtata following circumcision-related complications. We heard reports of other boys being affected.”

the Broward Palm Beach New Times (Florida)

June 10, 2015

Hironimus Circumcision Case: Doctor Threatens to File Complaint Against Hospital

by Deirdra Funcheon

John Trainer, M.D., is a family doctor in Jacksonville. He has circumcised children and taught other doctors how to perform circumcisions. His own son is circumcised.

But during the past few months, as he's followed the case of 4-year-old Chase Hironimus — whose father won a highly publicized legal battle against his mother regarding whether the boy should be circumcised — Trainer reexamined his own position on the surgery and has come to believe that routine infant circumcision is a violation of medical ethics and that Chase's case is particularly egregious because the mother's consent was forced under duress.

Now, he is threatening Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, where a doctor is rumored to be circumcising Chase this week, saying that if the surgery proceeds, he will file a complaint with the state Department of Health, which would then have to consider the matter. So far, the matter has been treated in state court as a contract dispute, but this could force a different set of authorities — medical administrators — to look at it in a new light.

Hironimus, in a contract signed years ago, agreed to the circumcision but changed her mind as the boy aged and she learned more about the procedure. A judge ruled that the circumcision could proceed, and she fled with the child and was caught months later and jailed. She was forced to sign a consent form for the procedure or else remain in jail indefinitely. She signed it, crying hysterically in a courtroom.

From a physician's point of view, Trainer told New Times, "it's absolutely mind-boggling this would be considered as real consent." Of the doctor rumored to be scheduled to perform a circumcision on Chase — Gary Birken — Trainer said, "it is incumbent on him" to be "aware that this is a dramatic case, an unusual case.

"Where this this galls me the most," Trainer says, "is that if we are physicians and ethical and called on to police our profession," and the doctor here "either knew or should have known" — that's the phrasing commonly used in ethical standards — "that consent was tainted," and if he proceeds in this particular case, "at the very least his ethics need to be challenged."

Furthermore, he said, pediatric surgery ethics require that a doctor make the child aware of what is happening and consider the child's opinion in elective surgeries. Court documents asserted that Chase was scared of and does not want the procedure.

Trainer says he has no personal connection to the case, but as he followed it and engaged with anticircumcision activists, it was like the "allegorical scales falling off my eyes."

Circumcision in America was popularized by John Harvey Kellogg in the 1800s to prevent masturbation. Trainer says it's absurd that "the cereal magnate could still have impact on human anatomy 100 years later — I think it's barbaric and cruel." In a circumcision, he says, irrespective of the pain to the child, "you have an open wound in a soiled diaper with urine and feces. If we were asking any other surgeon to do this under these circumstances, it would be 'reductio ad absurdum.'"

It's also, he says, "the only procedure an obstetrician will do on a man — and with absolutely no follow-up. They'll never see that penis again — no follow-up. This is unheard-of with any other procedure."

Asked if he faced any career risks by preemptively speaking out against a doctor or hospital, Trainer said, "I am on the Board of Directors of Baptist Primary Care, a leader in a consortium of 150 providers — the largest and most trusted health-care system in Northeast Florida. If I suffer backlash for speaking out, I am OK with that. Actually, my Facebook page is blowing up with people commending me for being courageous. I don't really feel that brave."

Activists have launched a letter-writing and social media campaign to warn doctors not to circumcise Chase. Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital has acknowledged on Facebook that it is aware of the objections, writing:

We have heard your concerns loud and clear. We recognize this is an emotionally charged topic and case, evident by the number of posts to this page from people in and outside our community. Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital has been a pillar in the South Florida community and an advocate for many causes, always working for the benefit of its patients while providing quality service and care. We ask that you respect the confidentiality of all our patients as cases evolve. Please understand that we can't and will not discuss specifics in this forum due to HIPAA guidelines.

A protest at the hospital was scheduled for today at 11 a.m.

[The story is progressing rapidly. A further statement from the hospital says -

...the child in question is not a patient at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital or any Memorial Healthcare System facility or of Dr. Gary Birken. - yet leaked medical records show him as one. An emergency legal threat from another lawyer appears to have at least postponed the operation.]

Earlier story

NY Times

June 9, 2015

De Blasio Puts Allies on Panel Hearing Circumcision Plan

by Michael M. Grynbaum

Mayor Bill de Blasio has installed numerous allies on the New York City Board of Health as his administration prepares to present a controversial plan that would ease the rules on a circumcision ritual linked to herpes infections in infants.

The mayor has pointed to his proposal as a way to protect public health while respecting the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community that cherishes the ritual, known as metzitzah b’peh, or oral suction.

But a planned presentation to the board in March was abruptly delayed. Since then, Mr. de Blasio has moved to shake up the health panel, filling vacant spots and replacing members appointed by his predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg.

Three of the new board members were contributors to Mr. de Blasio’s 2013 mayoral campaign; among those donors, one is married to an unpaid special adviser to the mayor. The fourth is the president of the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation, a position he was placed in by Mr. de Blasio.

The mayor’s proposal, which requires approval by the board and will be presented on Wednesday, is supported by ultra-Orthodox rabbis who are among Mr. de Blasio’s most important political supporters. It would waive a requirement that parents sign a consent form before the ritual, which involves sucking blood from the incision on a baby’s penis.

Instead, the mayor’s plan would create an alternative system that would test a circumciser, or mohel, for herpes, although only after a baby is found to be infected. If the circumciser tests positive, penalties would be pursued if DNA tests can prove that the mohel and the baby were infected with the same strain.

The consent rule, introduced under Mayor Bloomberg, was assailed by Orthodox leaders as an infringement of their religious rights. Mr. de Blasio pledged to rescind the rule, and his aides later said the consent forms had been difficult to enforce, saying that herpes infections linked to the practice actually rose in 2014.

“This approach hasn’t been working in the past, and we need a new approach to truly reduce the health risk for infants,” Mr. de Blasio’s press secretary, Karen Hinton, said in a statement on Tuesday. Ms. Hinton added that the mayor had an “obligation to ensure that the Board of Health is fully staffed with highly qualified health experts.”

Since 2000, the circumcision ritual has been linked to more than a dozen cases of herpes infection in infants and at least two deaths. Several health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have warned that the ritual can significantly raise the risk of an infant’s being infected.

Aides to Mr. de Blasio have sought to characterize the mayor’s plan as sound science, and they dismiss the earlier Bloomberg approach as a mockery that was ineffective and strained ties with the Orthodox community. Ms. Hinton said that the city would distribute information about the ritual.

A simple majority of the 11-member Board of Health is required to adopt the new circumcision rules. Dr. Mary T. Bassett, the city health commissioner, has a vote. So does Pamela S. Brier, a Bloomberg appointee who supports the mayor’s plan.

Ms. Brier, the chief executive of Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, has her own ties to Mr. de Blasio. About a decade ago, she created a job at the medical center for his wife, Chirlane McCray.

Dr. Thomas A. Farley, who served as health commissioner under Mr. Bloomberg and spearheaded the consent rule, said on Tuesday that he was concerned about the board’s undoing the older policy.

“This is an inherently risky procedure,” Dr. Farley said. “Focusing on one or another specific mohel is not going to address that fundamental risk.”

Mr. de Blasio’s new appointees include Karen B. Redlener, who oversees several pediatric programs at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore. Ms. Redlener and her husband, Irwin, the special adviser to the mayor, contributed $1,900 to Mr. de Blasio’s 2013 campaign. Two of the appointees, Rosa Gil and Gail Nayowith, gave $400 and $800.

Earlier story


May 30, 2015

Man Circumcises Boy With Home-Made Knife

An elderly man from Mucheke Village under Chief Murinye in Masvingo District has been jailed for six-month after he tied and forcibly used a home-made knife to circumcise his nephew, a 16-year-old boy who has a mental problem.

82 year Kufakunesu Pagwaringira appeared before Regional Magistrate Judith Zuyu.

The court heard that on May 17, this year, around 1100 hours the accused called the complainant Gibson Hwekave into his house and asked him to get some nice clothes so that they could go to church, and the complainant complied.However Pagwaringira tied Hwekwave’s hands behind his back. The accused person force-marched the complainant to a mountain and ordered the complainant to lie down.He removed Hwekwave’s pair of trousers and produced a knife from his pocket and cut the foreskin of the complainant’s penis and applied some herbs.

It is suspected that Pagwaringira circumcised the boy because he has been sexually abused from time to time and Pagwaringira felt that he could protect him from sexually transmitted diseases by removing his foreskin.

Pagwaringira pleaded with the court to give him a non-custodial sentence since he was the only one looking after the mentally challenged boy.

Magistrate Zuyu slapped Pagwaringira with a 6 month imprisonment wholly suspended for 5 years.

An unknown caller tipped the Police who discovered that a home-made knife had been used to circumcise the boy. The accused was arrested and the knife was then recovered as an exhibit. The complainant was referred to hospital for medical examination by a medical doctor who compiled the medical report. 

The Post and Courier (South Carolina)

May 25, 2015

Lawyers prepare for medical malpractice trial in rare ‘intersex’ lawsuit

by Lauren Sausser

A Richland County jury may decide later this year if the Medical University of South Carolina, Greenville Health System and the state child welfare agency are guilty of medical malpractice for removing a baby’s penis before he turned 2 years old.

Pam and Mark Crawford say surgeons in Charleston and Greenville performed unnecessary sex assignment surgery on their son — named M.C. in court records — when he was 16 months old. M.C. was born with both male and female reproductive organs [or rather, with reproductive organs that were not clearly male or female], but “there was no medical necessity to remove any of his genital tissue,” his adoptive parents said in their lawsuit.

Doctors should have let M.C. eventually choose a gender for himself, they contend.

“Our client’s penis was surgically removed for no medical reason. He’s going to have to live with that for the rest of his life,” said attorney Anne Tamar-Mattis, the legal director for Advocates for Informed Choice. “No surgery he can get can give him back what he lost.”

The Crawfords adopted M.C. from state custody after the S.C. Department of Social Services approved surgery that made him biologically female [no, only "ostensibly female"]. But it soon became clear, his mom said, that M.C. wanted to be a boy [or rather, felt himself to be a boy] — a decision his adoptive parents respected.

“He made the social transition with the name change at 7,” Pam Crawford said. “He’s just like any other boy. He’s been very well accepted in the community and the school and it’s really just not been an issue.”

The Crawfords, who live in Columbia, filed federal and state lawsuits two years ago against MUSC, Greenville Health System and DSS.

The court dismissed their federal lawsuit in Charleston earlier this year. Defense lawyers successfully argued that doctors weren’t aware when they operated that they may have violated M.C.’s civil rights. 

... on January 26, 2015, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed and remanded with instructions to dismiss the complaint.  The Fourth Circuit stated that it did not “mean to diminish the severe harm that M.C. claims to have suffered” but that a reasonable official in 2006 did not have fair warning from then-existing precedent that performing sex assignment surgery on sixteen-month-old M.C. violated a clearly established constitutional right.
Bill of Health, March 5, 2015

“It’s not clear if a different court in a different time in a different place would have decided it the same way,” Tamar-Mattis said. “The court did not rule if they did, in fact, violate his civil rights. They left that question open.”

MUSC attorneys would not comment on this case specifically, but a spokeswoman for the hospital said, “If at any time there is controversy or disagreement about a care plan, the case can be referred to that ethics committee for a decision.”

A spokeswoman for Greenville Hospital System declined to comment on the case.

Meanwhile, the state lawsuit in Richland County is moving forward. DSS denies the allegations, court records show. The case may be tried by a jury sometime after Nov. 15.

“We do feel that our case is strong,” Tamar-Mattis said. “A lot more will come out at trial.”

This may be the first public case of its kind, she said. Similar lawsuits have been settled privately out of court in other states.

“The reason we’re doing this is so some change is made. That’s really what we see as what’s important,” Pam Crawford said. “To make a settlement and make it a private thing, it’s not what we want to accomplish with this.”

They also want money to pay for treatment that M.C. will need during and after puberty, but the Crawfords have not named a specific amount in their lawsuit. They don’t yet know what his treatment will entail or how much it will cost.

“We monitor him in terms of hormone levels, maybe once a year,” Pam Crawford said. “I don’t think there’s a specific set date (for treatment) ... but it’s coming up in the next couple years.”

M.C., now 10 years old, may testify at the trial, but he’s not overly preoccupied with the lawsuit, his mom said.

“We’re certainly not hiding it from him, but it’s not a huge concern for him,” she said. “I don’t know how much he understands of it — not all.”

The specific intersex condition he was born with, called ovotesticular disorder of sexual development, is rare. It only affects one in 83,000 infants, but an estimated one in 2,000 children are born with genitals that are “visibly intersex,” the World Health Organization reports.

“It’s something like 5 percent every year are born with genetic bodies, sexual bodies that operate differently than we’re used to,” said Alison Piepmeier, director of women’s and gender studies at the College of Charleston. “Five percent, that’s significant.”

Gender is based on several complex variables, she said, and children should be allowed time and space to express who they really are. Luckily, she said, society is talking more openly about gender identity than ever before.

“I’m seeing college students, some that I know and many that I don’t know, who are beginning to recognize themselves in a different way,” Piepmeier said. “In the last 10 years ... it’s far more visible. We’re still perhaps a little uncomfortable by it, but I’m seeing that less and less, especially among people who are younger.”

Earlier story

Yahoo! news (AP)

May 22, 2015

After week in jail, Florida mom agrees to son's circumcision

by Matt Sedensky

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A Florida woman's yearslong battle with her child's father over the boy's circumcision ended Friday after she agreed to the procedure in exchange for her release from jail.

In a remarkable turnaround after a week behind bars for contempt and an initial hearing in which she was ordered to remain jailed, court reconvened and a sobbing Heather Hironimus signed paperwork giving approval for the 4-year-old boy's surgery, recoiling in tears and clasping her shackled hands after it was done. The shift, though under duress, threatened the hero status given to Hironimus by a bubbling movement of anti-circumcision advocates who have followed the case's every turn.

She remained jailed Friday afternoon and was due back in court Tuesday on a separate criminal charge of interfering with child custody. It was not clear how soon she would be released.

Attorneys for both Hironimus and the boy's father, Dennis Nebus, declined to comment, citing an ongoing gag order in the case.

Georganne Chapin, executive director of Intact America, which advocates against circumcision, said Hironimus had been "bullied" into signing, calling it the "saddest commentary on the court."

"I don't know what's in his head," she said of Judge Jeffrey Gillen, who presided over the case. "I don't know how he can sleep at night."

Hironimus and Nebus had initially agreed to the circumcision in a parenting agreement filed in court, but the mother later changed her mind. Circuit and appellate judges sided with the father, but potential surgeons backed out after failing to get the mother's consent and becoming the target of protesters.

Hironimus went missing with the boy in February, ignoring warnings from Gillen to be in court and allow the circumcision to proceed. She remained missing until her arrest last week, staying in a domestic violence shelter. With her legal options dwindling, she filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of her son, looking for a solution outside state court.

But her attorney abruptly withdrew that case Wednesday, two days after its first hearing, when a judge expressed open skepticism of its merits.

Upon arriving in court Friday, chained at the wrists and ankles and wearing a navy blue jail jumpsuit, Hironimus quietly invoked her Fifth Amendment rights when asked whether she had signed the consent agreement. Gillen said Hironimus would be jailed indefinitely unless she did.

Her mother, Mary Hironimus, fought back tears but said her daughter was right to fight for her son.

"Of course it's worth it," she said, "any mother would do anything for her child."

Gillen approved a motion by Nebus' attorney, May Cain, to temporarily give the father sole decision-making over matters including his son's health and to travel out of state, if needed, to have the circumcision performed. Cain said her client had been receiving death threats and warnings his son would be kidnapped.

"I am fearful that the child might be abducted," Gillen said.

After Hironimus agreed to sign the form and court reconvened, Gillen offered advice to the parents: "You are both going to continue to be the parents to this young man. You're going to have to learn how to deal with that in an amicable, friendly, civil manner. You're going to have to always take into consideration what's in your child's best interest. To the extent that you may differ on things, you're going to have to talk them out. That's what parents do in a civilized society. You do not take the law into your own hands."

Though Chapin and other so-called "intactivists" remained dismayed by the developments, she said Gillen had inadvertently advanced the anti-circumcision cause.

"People who never gave it a thought before are appalled and repulsed," she said.


The parallels between Hironimus vs Nebus and Bassanio vs Shylock ("The Merchant of Venice" http://shakespeare.mit.edu/merchant/full.html) are now acute.

In both cases, two enemies make a bad contract, with part of a third party's body (a pound of Antonio's flesh, C.R.N.H's foreskin) in hazard. Time passes and circumstances change, but Nebus/Shylock demands his flesh. (Nebus is not Jewish, however. Antisemitism is not part of this case, as it was in Venice.)

The case comes to trial, and enter a lawyer with a brilliant defence:
Hunker: http://arclaw.org/sites/default/files/hunker-hironimus-civil-rights-complaint-2015-04-13.pdf
"The quality of mercy is not strained,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from Heaven..."

Notwithstanding, the case is lost:
Ira Marcus, counsel for Nebus: "I guess they felt the handwriting was on the wall."
Portia: Why then, thus it is: You must prepare your bosom for his knife.
Shylock: O noble judge! O excellent young man!

In Venice, Portia waited till the last second before pointing out that
"But, in the cutting it, if thou dost shed
One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods
Are, by the laws of Venice, confiscate
Unto the state of Venice."

Does Thomas Hunker have a last-second reprieve for C.R.H.N.?

Earlier story

Sun-Sentinal (AP)

May 20, 2015

Circumcision battle: Mom seeks release from jail after federal lawsuit is dismissed

By Marc Freeman

A West Boynton mother on Wednesday gave up trying to get a federal judge to stop her 4 1/2-year-old son from being circumcised as his father wishes — a battle that also led to her arrest May 14 on a state court warrant.

An attorney for Heather Hironimus, who lost similar legal challenges in two state courts, notified U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra that she voluntarily dismissed the month-old case, and would be barred from filing it again in federal court.

But at the same time, the 31-year-old mother remained behind bars, charged with interfering with the father's custody of the boy in violation of an order from Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Dana Gillen.

Hironimus — held in Broward County Jail since her arrest after nearly three months of hiding with the boy at a domestic violence shelter — is expected in Gillen's Delray Beach courtroom early Friday. The judge previously said that her get-out-of-jail ticket will be her signature of consent to her son's circumcision. Thomas Hunker, attorney for the mother, told her supporters that his mission now is to try to "Heather get out of jail and preserve her custody rights." Hunker said they quit the federal lawsuit because it appeared hopeless, in light of a hearing Monday where the judge repeatedly questioned the justification for a case already decided by state judges.

"Unfortunately, Judge Marra was not only not sympathetic, he seemed quite hostile toward our position," the attorney wrote in a message shared by circumcision opponents and posted on a Facebook page dedicated to the boy and his mom.

Hunker could not be reached for comment despite calls and an email to his office Wednesday. Previously, he has said he couldn't speak because of a gag order imposed by Gillen.

In his message, he said continuing the federal lawsuit would surely result in "an unfavorable order which could potentially hurt the cause and future efforts to establish a child's right to object to circumcision. I hope you understand and agree that under the circumstances, this was our only available option."

Ira Marcus, attorney for the boy's father, Dennis Nebus of Boca Raton, told the Sun Sentinel he was stunned to learn the case had been withdrawn. He said he gave the news to his client, who took custody of his son when Hironimus was jailed but had not yet attempted to schedule the surgery.

"I'm shocked because they were so aggressive about their position," Marcus said, referring to the mother and her attorney's numerous case pleadings and arguments in court Monday. ["Aggressive" or just thorough?]

Hironimus' sudden decision to quit sparked a wave of anger and sadness among anti-circumcision groups, called "intactivists." They have followed the debate for more than a year, raising money for the mom's legal fund and championing her efforts at local rallies and through social media.

"I am very disappointed that the attorney for the child precipitously abandoned the federal lawsuit," said Georganne Chapin, executive director of Intact America, who attended Monday's federal court hearing. "What we hope for now is that the father will have compassion for his young son, and not compound the trauma of the past few months with the trauma of a medically unnecessary surgery."

Hunker had urged Marra to protect the boy from "physical harm," brain damage or worse from an elective procedure that allegedly violates his constitutional rights.

"This is a potentially life-and-death situation," Hunker said, arguing the child doesn't respond well to general anesthesia and is prone to scarring that could further harm his genitals if he survives. He said the removal of the foreskin from the boy's penis is not "reversible" and violates his right to bodily "integrity."

Hunker, revising claims already made in state court, also said the boy's civil rights were violated because he hasn't had a psychological examination or an independent guardian to speak on his behalf in court, as the mother requested.


Earlier story

Sun-Sentinal (AP)

May 18, 2015

Battle over Florida boy's circumcision enters federal court

By Matt Sedensky

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) - A judge expressed skepticism Monday that a long-running court battle over a Florida boy's circumcision amounted to a constitutional issue worthy of being argued in federal court after being exhaustively litigated in state courts.

In the first hearing on the issue in federal court, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra questioned the attorney for the boy's mother, Heather Hironimus, over the legality of proceeding with the case when a state judge had already ruled.

"Aren't you really asking me to revisit and second-guess?" Marra said near the start of the 80-minute hearing in West Palm Beach.

Already a legal oddity for its subject matter, the long-running case between the boy's estranged parents over the fate of his genitals got an extra dose of drama when Hironimus fled with the child nearly three months ago, going into hiding at a domestic violence shelter while a state judge warned she risked imprisonment for defying orders and refusing to appear in court. She was arrested Thursday and remains jailed.

Though Marra made no ruling in the case, he was often incredulous as Hironimus' attorney, Thomas Hunker, contended the case could continue in federal court because it was filed on behalf of the boy, whereas the state case was simply between the parents. Hunker said the child's interests were not fully and fairly represented in state court and that the boy had the right to make his own wishes known.

"So if the mother wants to have the child's tonsils removed, you have to ask the child?" an obviously dubious Marra asked.
[No ethical doctor would remove a child's tonsils just because a parent wanted them removed.]

Hunker said because the procedure was not performed in the boy's infancy, it had now grown to become a "life-and-death situation" involving the unnecessary risk of anesthesia. Though Marra quickly dismantled Hunker's argument over the fairness of circumcising the boy at all when such a procedure would be barred as genital mutilation if he were a girl, the attorney sought to frame the case as having the ability to protect the constitutional right to bodily integrity.

"There has to be a limit to how far a parent can go to permanently alter a child's body," Hunker said.

Hironimus, 31, and the boy's father, Dennis Nebus, have been warring since her pregnancy. They were never married but share custody of their child, and in a parenting agreement filed in court, the two agreed to the boy's circumcision. The mother later changed her mind, giving way to the long legal battle. Circuit and appellate judges have sided with the father, but potential surgeons have backed out after failing to get the mother's consent and becoming the target of protesters.

The federal case, contending the boy's civil rights were being infringed upon, was filed while Hironimus was missing and her legal options evaporating.

Nebus' attorney, Ira Marcus, said Hunker had not proven any constitutional violation and that Marra had no jurisdiction to prevent the circumcision from proceeding. He said the boy remained in the care of Nebus and that the surgery was not imminently scheduled. Marcus agreed to give Marra 10 days' notice if he was proceeding with an appointment but rejected Hunker's argument that the boy had a say in the matter.

"Minor children, up until the age of majority, do not make elective medical decisions," he said. "Parents make those decisions."

The case has stirred the attention of so-called "intactivists" who reject circumcision as barbaric, and a small group of protesters gathered outside the courthouse with signs including "Free Heather" and "Keep Foreskin and State Separate." One of the advocates, Georganne Chapin, who leads the group Intact America, said the state court had "utterly disregarded the rights and wellbeing of the child."

"It is a sad day in America when a mother is jailed for trying to protect her young son from another adult who is intent on cutting off a normal, healthy part of the boy's genitals," she said.

Earlier story

Chase's Guardians (Palm Beach, Florida)
May 15, 2015

Temporary Restraining Order granted

Yesterday, the attorney for Heather Hironimus, The Hunker Law Group, P.A. filed her Affidavit, in support of Motions for Temporary Restraining Orders. The restraining orders will maintain her son's liberty and prevent his forced circumcision by the lower court's previous order, while the US District Court adjudicates the Civil Rights Complaint filed on behalf of Chase last week.

Heather's affidavit in support of motion for temporary restraining order against Dennis Nebus, Judge Gillen, and all sheriff's of the state of Florida includes some information that was not previously public, like the fact that Chase is prone to developing keloid scars (which means that if he is circumcised he will likely have a keloid scar on his penis)

Earlier story

Sun-Sentinal (Palm Beach, Florida)
May 14, 2015

Mom in circumcision fight found, jailed

by Kate Jacobson

After two months in hiding, Heather Hironimus, the mother at the center of a bitter circumcision battle, was booked Thursday into Broward County Jail, records show.

A Palm Beach County judge in March signed a warrant for Hironimus' arrest for contempt of court after she failed to appear in court with the boy so a circumcision could be performed. According to Broward county records, Hironimus was booked in into the jail just after 6 p.m. Thursday. 

Dennis Nebus, of Boca Raton, testifies in a Palm Beach County court hearing. Nebus and the mother of his son are in a court battle over whether the 4-year-old should be circumcised. Nebus wants the procedure done, while the mother, Heather Hironimus, does not. 

Hironimus has been fighting Dennis Nebus, the father of her child, for years over the circumcision of their son. After the couple split, they decided on a "parenting plan" in 2012 that allowed for Nebus to circumcise the boy.

A state court judge ruled in Nebus' favor in May 2014, and in March ordered Hironimus to hand the boy over.

Hironimus and her son, now 4-1/2, did not show up in court and went into hiding.

In April, Hironimus filed a federal lawsuit against Nebus in an attempt to block the circumcision. Also listed in the suit is Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Gillen, who made the May 2014 ruling, and Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw.

Earlier story

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