Mayor Bill de Blasio has reached an agreement with New York City's Jewish leaders over new regulations governing Metzitzah B'Peh, a ritual in which a specially-designated rabbi sucks blood from a child's circumcised penis, Capital New York reports.
NBC New York reported last summer that between 2000 and 2014 the Health Department found 16 confirmed cases of herpes in infant boys after circumcisions that probably had involved direct oral contact.
Since 2012, rabbis who performed such ceremonies—known as "mohels"—have had to produce written consent forms from the child's parents. The regulations were offensive to members of certain Orthodox sects, Capital reports. During his campaign, de Blasio promised to find an alternative regulation, and now he's made good on his promise.
In exchange for abandoning the consent forms, the coalition of rabbis negotiating with City Hall agreed that if a baby is diagnosed with HSV-1, the community would identify the mohel in question and ask him to undergo testing. If the mohel tests positive for HSV-1, the city's health department will test the DNA of the strain to see if it matches the infant's.
If it does, the mohel will be banned from performing the ritual for life.
"While the de Blasio Administration continues to believe that MBP carries with it health risks, given the sacred nature of this ritual to the community, the administration is pursuing a policy centered around education of health risks by the health care community and respect for traditional practices by the religious community," the mayor's office said in a statement.
"Increasing trust and communication between the City and this community is critical to achieve the Administration's ultimate goal of ensuring the health and safety of every child, and this new policy seeks to establish a relationship based on engagement and mutual respect," the statement continued.
The New York Observer reports that under the old policy the city had only received one signed consent form. According to the Observer, administration officials "confessed even the new policy would function largely on the honor system within the tight-knit community."