Last month, the Board of Health unanimously approved a circumcision consent form that requires parents to sign a waiver before their infant can undergo the "metzitzah b’peh" ritual, the circumcision practice in which a mohel sucks the blood from a freshly snipped foreskin. Since then, Orthodox rabbis have been fighting the regulation, successfully obtaining a temporary stay of enforcement. Yesterday, a Manhattan judge heard oral arguments about the case, and the lawyer for Orthodox groups said that the ritual is a constitutionally protected religious activity: Snip-N-Suck "lies at the heart of First Amendment protection,” said attorney Shay Dvoretzky.

The DOH's regulation will require that parents sign a consent form that informs them that the procedure could expose their infant “to risk of transmission of herpes simplex virus infection or other infectious diseases.” City lawyers argued that it has already been proved that the ritual led to 11 baby Jewish boys in NYC getting infected with herpes in the last decade: “The health department is not looking at the religion in determining what to do about this conduct,” said Michelle L. Goldberg-Cahn, a lawyer for the city. “The city is looking at the conduct.”

Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald raised an interesting hypothetical situation to Dvoretzky: would the city have a right to regulate a religious group that amputates the left pinkie fingers at birth? He responded that it would depend upon whether the practice caused immediate, serious harm. Buchwald also raised the fact that physicians need consent to perform a circumcision; Dvoretzky called that an “apples and oranges” comparison, because a physician would not perform a metzitzah b’peh. But the Judge interrupted him: “Wait a second. They can’t perform any circumcision without consent. It’s a surgery.”

Buchwald said she'd make her final decision in the coming weeks. Until then, you won't have to worry about the government forcing you to consent to having your child's penis lightly nipped and sucked upon by a possibly herpes-infected mohel!