We’re Ignoring the Most Important Questions in a Controversial Circumcision Schism July 18, 2015

We’re Ignoring the Most Important Questions in a Controversial Circumcision Schism

When Heather Hironimus and Dennis Nebus split up, there was a looming question about whether or not they would circumcise their four-year-old son Chase. They both signed papers saying they would (Nebus would handle the scheduling and payments), but Hironimus had a change of heart afterwards… and ran away with the boy.

Hironimus has been arguing that there is no medical reason for her son to be circumcised and that the procedure could harm or even kill the boy. The practice is even more scrutinized now that the boy is no longer a newborn.

She was found (and arrested) in May and signed another form saying she would consent to the procedure in exchange for getting out of jail. On Thursday, in the latest update to her story, she agreed to participate in an intervention program in exchange for the ability to see her son again and having charges against her dropped within a year.

As part of her intervention program, Hironimus is allowed to visit the child, who has been with his father ever since Heather’s arrest. Hironimus was ordered to follow specific child visitation terms per family court. She is also to complete a four-hour parenting course, as well as undergo a mental health evaluation, submit random drug testing, and check in with a probation officer on a monthly basis.

If she violates the terms, she will be subject of custody charges again, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison after conviction.

While anti-circumcision activists have seized upon this story by threatening to protest outside a hospital where they (wrongly) believed the procedure would take place and using Chase as their movement’s poster child, it’s hard for me to muster up a lot of sympathy for them.

There are serious issues worth discussing, all of which seem to be lost in the chaos of this story:

  • Why does Hironimus need a mental health evaluation for trying to prevent what she felt was an unnecessary procedure (a perspective that many parents share)?
  • Should parents be allowed to circumcise their children at all?
  • Is going through with that procedure good or bad for the child?
  • How does Chase’s age factor into the story, since most children who are circumcised have it done soon after they’re born?
  • Why isn’t there a lot of discussion about the child’s medical condition? (He isn’t able to retract his foreskin, which is why his father wants the procedure done.)

But instead of discussing those questions, most of the media interest has focused on the drama revolving around the parents — the legal battle, Hironimus running away with Chase, the punishments, etc. It’s hard to find a nuanced take because the most vocal people have chosen sides and refuse to acknowledge what the other side is saying. (I know, I know: Welcome to the Internet.)

Caught in this firestorm is Chase, who did nothing wrong but will eventually realize that a bunch of strangers online once fought long and hard about the fate of his penis. That’s a Google search no one should have to endure.

Best thing about having a daughter? I won’t have to deal with any of this shit.

(Thanks to Brian for the link)

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