Even as New York's health department considers a law that makes parental consent compulsory for babies to undergo the circumcision ritual, orthodox rabbis in the city said that even if the law is passed, they will defy it.
During the ritual, called Metzitzah b'Peh, a Mohel removes the foreskin and uses his mouth to stop the bleeding.
However, at least 11 New York infants are thought to have contracted herpes from the practice, two of whom have died and two of whom have had irreversible brain damage, according to New York City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
"This is the government forcing a rabbi practicing a religious ritual to tell his congregants it could hurt their child. If, God forbid, there was a danger, we would be the first to stop the practice," ABC News quoted Rabbi David Niederman, Executive Director of the United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg, as saying.
Niederman said the research linking metzitzah b'peh to infant deaths is "full of holes," adding that the ritual is performed safely "tens of thousands of times a year" worldwide, and that babies who aren't circumcised can also acquire herpes shortly after birth.
However, the Department of Health argues that parents should be informed of the risks before making a decision, as since 2004, it has received "multiple complaints from parents who were not aware that direct oral suction was going to be performed as part of their sons' circumcisions," according to a public notice.
The city's Health Department is scheduled to vote on the proposed law on Sept. 13, which would require mohels to explain the oral suction procedure and its risks, including the possible transmission of herpes simplex virus, and have parents sign a waiver.But Niederman worries that a vote to enact the law would force rabbis, who are "among the most law-abiding citizens," to put their religious beliefs first.
"When it comes to the law, we are all there - it's our obligation, according to our religion. But not when the law goes against our religion," he said.