Sat Feb 18, 3:38 AM ET
A clash over of their son's circumcision has landed the parents of an eight-year-old Illinois boy in a US court where there is no apparent precedent.
A Cook County judge ordered the mother in the case not to have her son circumcised until the court can hear arguments from the child's father, who opposes the operation, and decide if it is in the boy's best interest.
Jews and Muslims circumcise their sons for religious reasons.
But this case instead involves shifting medical and cultural preferences, which have recently become a matter of debate in the United States.
The mother, 31, is a homemaker from Northbrook, Illinois. She says two doctors recommended the procedure for health reasons.
But her ex-husband, 49, a building manager in Arlington Heights, Illinois, has called the procedure an "unnecessary amputation" that could cause his son physical and emotional harm.
In the 1900s, surgical circumcision, in which the foreskin of the penis is removed usually before a newborn leaves the hospital, was the norm in the United States.
But the percentage of US babies being circumcised has plunged from an estimated 90 percent in 1970 to some 60 percent now, data show.
The American Academy of Pediatrics no longer recommends routine neonatal circumcision but says the decision should be left to the parents. That has added fuel to the fire where until recently there was little debate on the issue at all among the US Christian majority.
Some staunch opponents of the procedure see it as akin to female genital mutilation. They argue that the procedure is medically unnecessary and morally wrong. Still others have launched support groups for those who have been circumcised and would rather not have been; some have even pursued surgical options for restoration.
Legal experts however say that there are no published US opinions to serve as precedents in this case. As such it normally would be determined based on the best interests of the child.
When the divorced parents appeared Friday in Cook County Circuit Court, Judge Jordan Kaplan got the two sides to agree that the child would not be circumcised "until further order of (the) court."
He also also ordered them not to discuss the case with their child.
Tracy Rizzo, an attorney for the mother, said the father scared the child by telling him frightening stories about what might happen if he were circumcised.
The father's lawyers, John D'Arco and Alan Toback, have argued that the couple's divorce agreement provides that the father must be consulted before any non-emergency medical care.
Male circumcision is much more widespread in the United States, Canada, and the Middle East than in Asia, South America, Central America, and most of Europe.