WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A Florida woman who fled with her son to keep his circumcision from going forward has filed a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of the boy, hoping a federal judge might intervene where state judges haven't.
Heather Hironimus filed the complaint late Monday, repeating her claims that surgery on her 4-year-old son isn't necessary, that the boy doesn't want it, and that his constitutional rights are being violated.
Aside from seeking to stop the procedure, Hironimus is trying to avoid her own arrest, which was ordered after she fled in February and ignored a judge's demand that she appear in court and allow the surgery to go forward.
Hironimus and the boy's father, Dennis Nebus, have been warring since her pregnancy. They were never married but share custody of their child, and in a parenting agreement filed in court, the two agreed to the boy's circumcision. The mother later changed her mind, giving way to a long court battle. Circuit and appellate judges have sided with the father, but potential surgeons have backed out after failing to get the mother's consent and becoming the target of anti-circumcision protesters.
Though circumcision remains popular in Judeo-Christian tradition, religion had not been a driver in seeking the cutting of the boy's foreskin in this case. Nebus called it "just the normal thing to do." In the new filing, though, Hironimus tries to use the child's faith as a defense against the surgery, saying he is a Christian and citing New Testament passages to bolster her case that the practice is discouraged by their beliefs.
Both parents have been under a gag order since December. An attorney for Nebus did not return a call seeking comment. Hironimus' attorney, Thomas Hunker, said that he couldn't reveal where his client was, but that she was fighting on behalf of a child who is frightened by the idea of undergoing surgery. Given the boy's age and the fact that he has voiced his own opposition to circumcision, Hunker said, the procedure could be particularly scarring.
"This could have a profound negative impact, a long-lasting if not permanent negative impact, on the child's psychological condition," he said Tuesday.
Circumcision rates have fallen in the U.S., but a majority of boys still undergo the procedure. Meantime, a bubbling movement of so-called anti-circumcision "intactivists" has made the case a rallying cry against a surgery they view as barbaric.