HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Friday, November 9, 2007

Oregon Supreme Court Considers Circumcision Case

Concurring Opinions brings us up-to-date on the latest twist in a case involving the circumcision of a 12-year-old boy.  Sarah Waldeck writes,

On November 6, the Oregon Supreme Court heard a dispute between parents over the circumcision of their 12-year-old son. The father, who has recently converted to Judaism and has full custody of the boy, wants him circumcised. The mother is trying to stop the procedure and argues that it is both sexual and physical abuse. The lower court dismissed her challenge but would not permit the circumcision to occur until all appeals were exhausted.

There’s been plenty of talk about this case over at Law Blog. Reading the comments provides a snapshot of the debate over whether the United States should continue its practice of male infant circumcision. Law Blog has comments about the procedure’s health benefits and associated risks; assertions about whether circumcised males experience less sexual pleasure than uncircumcised males; and questions about whether one can criticize male circumcision and avoid being labeled anti-semitic. . . .

An article in the NY Sun quotes Geoff Miller at NYU as stating that he would “be quite shocked or at least surprised” if the Oregon Supreme Court reverses the lower court. Miller has good reason for his opinion, as courts have been unsympathetic to non-custodial parents who seek to prevent the circumcision of infants, and to custodial parents who claim the procedure was done without their informed consent. Still, this case may turn out differently than the rest. The Pacific Northwest has the lowest circumcision rates of anywhere in the county. The boy is 12. The combination of these two factors may mean that judges in Oregon view this case through a different cultural lens.

The case raises interesting questions about child autonomy in addition to the the entire range of issues surrounding male circumcision.  An OPB News, an Oregon news outlet discussing the case states, "Circumcision opponents are asking the Oregon Supreme Court to look to a trial court case last year in Chicago.  A divorced mother wanted her son circumcised, but the father did not.  The judge in that case did not rule on the religious issues.  Instead, he blocked the circumcision until the boy turned 18 and could decide for himself."

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