Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Solomonic Conundrum

"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."
Judge Jeffrey Gillen, West Palm Beach, Florida

Brought before Judge Jeffrey Gillen on Friday, Hironimus again declined to sign a consent form for the surgery but when she was told she would be jailed Indefinitely then she agreed
Brought before Judge Jeffrey Gillen on Friday, Hironimus again declined to sign a consent form for the surgery but when she was told she would be jailed Indefinitely then she agreed

A 31-year-old mother of a four-year-old boy was jailed in Florida, held behind bars for nine days as punishment for contempt because in February she disappeared with the little boy and their whereabouts were unknown. She had taken that dramatic step to evade a disagreement with the child's father who wanted the little boy to undergo circumcision. The mother of the child fought having her child circumcised.

When she appeared back in court she was informed that it was the court's intention to return her to prison unless she signed consent for the surgery to be performed. The child's father, Dennis Nebus and the mother Heather Hironimus, had argued bitterly for years about having the child's foreskin removed. It is the father's contention that for the health of his son it represented "just the normal thing to do."

An extremely emotional Ms. Hironimus felt she had no choices left to her but to obtain her release from prison by signing the document representing her legal permission for the circumcision to proceed. There are many people who feel that circumcision represents an unnatural outrage against a child, that as a man he would prefer to have had his foreskin left intact. This, despite that medical science has proven that the transmission of sexual disease is drastically reduced with circumcision.

Men who have been circumcised have far fewer health problems. Simply put, removal of the foreskin makes it far easier to maintain cleanliness in that area. There are far fewer cases of penile cancer among circumcised males. HIV transmission is greatly reduced because of the state of hygiene. Some argue that circumcision should only be performed when a boy reaches the age of consent.

Circumcising an infant is far less medically traumatic than performing the surgery on a young man or teen-age boy.

At one time it was perfectly ordinary, and no one questioned the routine of circumcising babies before their release from hospital after childbirth. The rise of "intactivists", damning the pedestrian nature of circumcision in society, calling it unnecessary and barbaric and destructive to an adult male's self-esteem has seen a huge reduction in the once-routine surgery. Unsurprisingly, anti-circumcision activists have been supportive of Heather Hironimus's position.

Last Friday, Ms. Hironimus invoked her fifth amendment rights when she was asked whether she had signed the consent agreement. Justice Gillen informed her that she would be jailed indefinitely until such time as she signed the consent form. At which juncture, sobbing in frustrated misery, she signed her consent to surgery for the little boy. The choice to agree or not to agree aside, this is a most peculiar situation.

Details that have been released about the relationship of intimacy between the two parents of this child were brief, but telling. The pair had a six-month relationship outside of marriage. He was obviously not committed to a long-term relationship, but is committed, it would appear, to the needs of a child he helped to conceive and who carries his genes. But it was the woman who carried the child through a pregnancy, gave birth to the baby and is raising him.

Presumably, both have some measure of shared custody. However, since the woman's role is primary in the child's life, far more so than that of a biological father whose presence in the child's life is relatively peripheral, it is puzzling that the kind of child custody that appears to have been awarded to the biological father has impaired the mother's ability to make choices on behalf of a child she is responsible for in a major way.

The mother previously said she wanted to protect her child and was 'scared to death' by the procedure
The mother previously said she wanted to protect her child and was 'scared to death' by the procedure

Little wonder that she absconded with the little boy in February and her presence with the child at a Broward County shelter wasn't discovered until May 14. Judge Gillen, in his judicial wisdom has given the biological father sole authority on a temporary basis for the boy's medical decisions, granting a motion to permit him to travel out-of-state for the procedure to be conducted.

Presumably because of the profile given the case, and the situation of the prevalence of advocates against circumcision, many doctors would refuse to take on this surgery "If anyone finds out the circumstances under which she [the mother] signed, a doctor would be insane to carry out that surgery", stated Georganne Chapin, executive director of Intact America.

Why does this man's opinion carry more weight in the legal arena than the mother's?

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