The Oregon Supreme Court is now hearing the case where the (custodial) father wants his 12-year-old son circumcised as part of conversion to Judaism against the wishes of the (non-custodial) mother and, possibly, the wishes of the boy. I wrote about it previously, although there are many issues to consider beyond what was in that entry. NPR’s Day to Day recapped the story in a concise 4:32 (Real Player audio here). I recommend it to anyone interested in principles of self-ownership.
Here are my thoughts on the report, for anyone interested. If the boy wants to convert as the father contends, I have no specific qualms with him choosing circumcision for himself, beyond some basic expectation that he is competent to understand the permanent ramification. Self-ownership is the issue here.
Contrary to the implication early in the report, opposition to circumcision is not synonymous with anti-Semitism or a desire to oppress Jews. I do not care if someone chooses to have himself circumcised, for a religious reason or for no reason. I oppose medically unnecessary genital cutting on a non-consenting individual. Although routine infant circumcision dominates the discussion in America, I am opposed to medically unnecessary genital cutting on a non-consenting individual whether the individual is male or female, child or senior citizen. Proxy consent is reasonable only when a) immediate medical need exists and b) the patient is not legally competent to make the decision. But when a) is absent, b) is irrelevant. Until a) is satisfied, proxy consent is invalid and can’t justify the permanent removal of healthy, functioning genital tissue.
I think the law professor quoted at the end of the report is correct in assuming the case will be decided on family law rather than Constitutional law. The “right” of the parent will trump the right of the boy, regardless of which parent prevails. If that happens, it will be wrong.
From the Female Genital Mutilation Act (pdf):
“In applying subsection (b)(1), no account shall be taken of the effect on the person on whom the operation is to be performed of any belief on the part of that or any other person that the operation is required as a matter of custom or ritual.”
How does family law trump extending that protection to a gender-neutral guarantee (i.e. Constitutional) of the same rights to male minors in the United States?