Judge to Mother: Circumcise Son or Go to Jail

A judge has delivered an ultimatum to a mother to force her to circumcise her son.

gavel scales law books

Many people assume that, if the hospital wants to cut off the foreskin from our male babies, there must be a good reason to do so. But there is also a strong minority of people who refuse to circumcise boys. They don’t think the alleged health benefits can possibly outweigh the fact that to circumcise means to cut into a healthy organ.

So when I saw this headline at Reason.com, it took my breath away: “Arrest Warrant Issued for Florida Mom Who Refuses to Get Son Circumcised.”

And here is a quotation that made my blood boil: “‘I will allow her to avoid incarceration or get out of jail if she signs the consent to the procedure,’ [Circuit Judge Dana] Gillen said.”

The state now jails parents who don’t want their male children circumcised? They give them ultimatums to choose between prison and cutting their sons?

Actually the lesson here is that you really need to be married to the parent of your child, and to stay married to that person. If you don’t, you allow all sorts of arbitrary and unaccountable authority in your life. The real parent of your children will be the state.

[Heather] Hironimus [the boy’s mother] and the boy’s father, Dennis Nebus, were never married but share custody of their son. In 2012, they signed a “parenting plan” which specified that he would be circumcised, and Nebus would make the arrangements. But Hironimus later backed out of this part of the plan, and Nebus took her to court. 

In Judge Gillen’s initial ruling, he found that Hironimus “willfully violated” the parenting plan by refusing to sign the circumcision consent form, which he ordered her to do. A state appellate court upheld the ruling in December. On Friday, Judge Gillen declared Hironimus in contempt of court for continuing to violate the order.

So, once the plan is signed, no one is permitted to change his or her mind.

Under Florida law, parents must draft a parenting plan “in all cases involving time-sharing with minor child(ren), even when time-sharing is not in dispute.” But the plan goes quite beyond time-sharing concerns, requiring parents to seek state approval on everything from “who will be responsible for any and all forms of health care and school-related matters” to “the methods and technologies that the parents will use to communicate with children.” Perhaps the better question is why we want mandatory, legally enforceable contracts for most of these matters?

This is a horrible way to parent. In this case, the father thinks the lack of circumcision is a problem but the mother says that his opinion is not supported by any medical diagnosis. But the judge seems to believe that no one should be permitted to argue for such a case. Instead, the fact that the mother signed an agreement locks her down. She is not permitted to come to a different opinion about what is in her son’s best interests.

[See also, “Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Defends Family against Feds.”]

If you want to see where family law is going, you should pay attention to the judge’s attitudes and actions. We still have some degree of autonomy from the state as long as we stay a permanent natural family where parents are raising their own children. But with family being re-defined, the state has an opportunity to assert that all families are equal—which will mean that all families are regarded as equally contrived.

And equally controlled.

And then many more parents will be making hard choices that include the possibility of jail time.