The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Eliyahu Federman is a Miami-based executive with theological and legal training who has written on religion, culture and law at the Huffington Post, The Forward, USA Today and elsewhere.
by Eliyahu Federman
Parents can refuse to vaccinate their children on the basis of religious beliefs or other values, even if studies show they are exposing children to increased health risks. But the state should be allowed to require that parents acknowledge the risks associated with not vaccinating.
This balance between religious freedom and parental rights and the state’s responsibility to ensure public health and safety — especially when it comes to protecting infants — is being waged between Hasidic Jews and the City of New York over an informed consent requirement for an ancient circumcision rite. The battle pits religious freedom and parental rights against the states interest to inform the public of health and safety concerns.
Metzitzah b’peh (MBP) is an ancient religious practice whereby a trained rabbi, called a mohel, completes a circumcision by orally sucking out the blood from a baby’s penis wound. Hasidic groups often perform this ritual through mouth contact, whereas Modern Orthodox Jews use indirect suction, through a sterile tube or sponge, to reduce the risk of infection.