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To Circumcise a 12-Year-Old

Written by Katrina Moncure Apr 28, 2007

There are a lot of pretty disgusting news stories out there proving more and more how little youth are regarded in society. This, however, has got to be one of the worst.

Divorced parents clash over 12-year-old son’s circumcision

A former Medford man who converted to Judaism wants his 12-year-old son to do the same. That requires circumcision — something the mother adamantly opposes.
The divorced couple has been battling over the issue for three years, including whether the boy wants to undergo the procedure. So far, Oregon courts have squarely sided with the father, who has custody.

Well, good for the dad for making a personal religious choice. How’s about, oh, letting his son make his own personal religious choice instead of just expecting him to fall like a domino when you snap your fingers? Oh, but you’ve got one problem. His mother doesn’t want it. You two play tug-of-war with your son’s foreskin, without seeming to seriously care what the boy himself has to say about it. You two fight over what he has to say. Shut up and let him speak. It’s HIS body, not yours!

That doesn’t surprise Kathy T. Graham, associate dean for academic affairs at Willamette University College of Law.
“The primary custodial parent is the one that makes the decisions about religion and education and about matters of child-rearing,” Graham said.
Other family law experts agree, but say the courts should at least look into the situation to make sure the surgery is in the best interests of the child.
“You’re talking about not just religious instruction or whether you’re going to send the child to parochial school or public school,” commented Lawrence D. Gorin, a Portland attorney. “This is a matter of permanent change of bodily structure. And it’s irreversible.”

That’s right! We’re not talking just a matter of education. We’re talking a medical procedure! We’re essentially talking about people who find a harmless piece on their child’s body and think “I don’t like it, take it off”, as if the kid were just a lifeless piece of meat. Sickening.

The mother is running out of legal options.
The Oregon Supreme Court has been briefed, but has not decided whether to take the case.
Mark Johnson, a Portland lawyer commenting on the case, said the court shouldn’t let the case be decided based only on the legal papers filed on behalf of the mother and father.
“Frankly, the child should have a lawyer,” Johnson said.
The Oregonian is not identifying the family members, in order to protect the privacy of the minor.

Hey, now, Mr. Johnson has the right idea! Where’s the boy in all this? Where’s his say when we’ve got his parents and lawyers and all eyeing his genitalia?

The couple married in the early 1990s. She filed for divorce in 1998.
The man started studying Judaism in 1999 and eventually converted. He now lives near Olympia . The child initially lived with his mother, but the father later gained custody.
In court papers, the father claims the boy gradually concluded that he also wanted to convert to Judaism and understood that this required circumcision.

If this is true, it still stands that it is the boy’s personal decision, in which case his mother should back off.

The father also claims as the custodial parent he had a constitutional right to raise his son in his religion.

WHAT?! Constitutional right to force your personal religion on your son?! Freedom of religion means freedom to choose YOUR religion, and certainly does NOT mean choosing someone else’s religion. Your son is not YOU! You don’t have some magical rights over him. He’s not your little obedient follower. He’s his own person that you happened to bring into the world. Treat him like he’s human!

The father made an appointment for a circumcision in 2004.
The mother responded by going to court, saying her son told her that he was afraid to defy his father, but didn’t want the procedure.
She asked for a hearing where she could present evidence that the circumcision would be dangerous. She also sought custody of her son.

Again, will someone PLEASE tell this boy it is HIS body and therefore HIS decision? To hell with what his parents want. They do not, or should not, matter here! Why are we listening to them? Is treating this boy like a person so hard?

But Jackson County Circuit Judge Rebecca G. Orf sided with the father.
“I am still of the opinion that the decision of whether or not a child has elective surgery, which this appears to be, is a call that should be made and is reserved to the custodial parent,” Orf said in a hearing.
More than a million U.S. infants are circumcised each year, but circumcising adults or teens remains relatively rare.
Despite her ruling, Orf ordered the boy not be circumcised until the legal proceedings were done.
The Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed Orf’s decision without an opinion, often an indication that the three-judge panel found no merit to the appeal.

Okay, it’s up to the custodial parent? How do you feel about a parent forcing elective surgery on a child who doesn’t want it? Does that strike you as wrong at all, Ms. Judge?

The lawyer for the mother has asked the Oregon Supreme Court to take the case, and gained an ally called Doctors Opposing Circumcision, which filed a brief last week.
There is no schedule for when the court will decide whether to review the case.
The mother’s attorney declined to comment.
The father, an attorney who is representing himself, did not return a phone call seeking comment.

The issue of circumcision itself is not even the issue here! The issue is if a parent has the right to force unnecessary surgery on his son!

Oregon legal experts agree that judges generally defer to the choices of custodial parents.
“Judges traditionally have stayed away in getting involving decisions about the day-to-day upbringing of the child,” said Gorin, the Portland attorney.
Still, there are limits.
“It may be that the religious belief is to engage in human sacrifice or kill animals, but we don’t do that,” he said.

Well, obviously.

But Julie H. McFarlane, a supervising attorney with the Portland-based Juvenile Rights Project, said that the child’s consent for a medical procedure is not required until he turns 15.
“I think the dad has the legal right as the custodial parent to make those kind of religious or medical decisions,” McFarlane said. “It’s not much different from cosmetic surgery.”
The bottom line, McFarlane said, is that “when you lose custody, you lose a lot of those things that go with custody — deciding whether the kids go to school and the rest of the day-to-day parenting decisions.”

So his body doesn’t belong to him until he’s 15? Ugh. From the sounds of this McFarlane woman, she is probably opposed to that, but the article didn’t go into that. Hard to tell. Anyway, so basically, until he’s 15, have all the crazy cosmetic surgery you want done to the kid. It’s perfectly legal. Not like he’s human. He belongs to you.

After that, I hope you’re as revolted as I am. We’re not even talking about the issue of circumcising infants. A 12-year-old is not an infant and is very aware and is to undergo what will be a painful medical procedure. How can anyone seriously think he can have no say in this? You just think 12-year-olds are all stupid and unaware of anything? That’s pretty bad.

As mentioned earlier, what the boy himself wants done seems to be neither known for sure or even given the slightest bit of importance aside from what that Johnson guy said. Both parents are more interested in their own agendas here that they don’t care. If this boy is saying what he wants here, which is ALL that matters, then nobody is listening. Of course, there’s always the concern of whether he even knows he has a choice here, whether it has even crossed his mind to make a decision that neither parent has force-fed him. That is perhaps the saddest thing of all.

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