Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Oregon court wants to make circumcision decision

Oregon family court news:
SALEM -- A man who converted to Judaism told the Oregon Supreme Court on Tuesday that he has the right as the custodial parent to circumcise his 12-year-old son against the wishes of his Russian Orthodox ex-wife.

"It's the classic kind of decision a custodial parent would make," said James Boldt, an attorney and former southern Oregon man who argued his own case.

But a lawyer for Lia Boldt argued that she should get a court hearing to try and prove that circumcising a 12-year-old boy poses serious health risks. Their son is afraid to tell his father he doesn't want to go through with it, the mother's attorney said. ...

But as the Supreme Court justices questioned the lawyers, they focused largely on family law and the fallout of divorce.

Over and over again, the justices asked about the limits of a custodial parent's general right to make a wide variety of day-to-day decisions, from where a child goes to school to what neighborhood the family lives in.

Justice Michael Gillette asked whether a noncustodial parent who objected to a child playing football was entitled to a court hearing.

"More people get hurt playing football than having a circumcision," Gillette said.
More and more family courts are sticking their noses into private decisions like this, and no good is coming out of it. This is just not something that the courts are equipped to decide. It is for parents, not judges.

Update: A reader sent me the legal brief from Doctors Opposing Circumcision. They say that circumcision is unethical, and that there ought to be a law against male circumcision, just as Oregon has a law against female circumcision.

I am not expressing an opinion about the merits of circumcision here. My quarrel is with the argument that the parents' divorce somehow empowers the court to use the doctrine of parens patriae to make some decision that would ordinarily be the exclusive province of the parents.

If it is really so bad to give a 12-year-old boy a non-therapeutic circumcision, then Oregon should pass a law against it. Or the physicians should adopt an ethics rule against. It would be bad whether the parents are divorced or not. But if the law leaves the decision to the parents, then judges should not get involved.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In this particular case I'm going to have to disagree with you. This is about the rights of the child.

Parents have the duty to get competent medical care for their children, and that can involve surgery. But they can't impose any non-medical surgery they want on a child until his 18th birthday.

A parent should not have the right to force a (male) child into an unnecessary circumcision just like a parents should not have the right to force a (female) child into having breast implants.

This isn't about dad-vs-mom. It's about the rights of a child to be protected against bodily harm.

Here's the brief in support of the boy.