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Circumcision at Age 12?

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A court considers whether a boy can be forced to be circumcised, just because his Dad wants him to.


The Oregon Supreme Court ruled that the wishes of a 12-year-old boy should be considered in a dispute between his divorced parents about whether he is circumcised, reports CBS News. The father converted to Judaism in 2004 and wants the boy to be circumcised as part of the faith. The mother appealed to the high court, saying the operation could harm her son physically and psychologically.

If the trial court finds the child agrees to be circumcised, the Supreme Court said, it should deny the mother's requests. But if the trial court finds the child opposes the circumcision, the court has to determine if it will affect the father's ability to care for the child.

We contacted friend of Mom•Logic Rabbi Sherre Hirsch for her take on the matter. "Jewish law says that before the age of 13, parents may convert their sons without their consent. (For daughters, that cut-off age is 12.) Because this boy is 12, and right on the border, I'd advise waiting until the boy is 13 so that he can make the decision for himself. At 13, if the boy didn't want to be Jewish in the first place, he can reject a prior conversion—but a circumcision is irreversible."

Do you think the boy should be circumcised just because his Dad is in favor of it? At what point should kids be able to make decisions about their own bodies for themselves?

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12 comments so far | Post a comment now
miked January 29, 2008, 9:36 PM

“Do you think the boy should be circumcised just because his Dad is in favor of it?”

Of course not.

“At what point should kids be able to make decisions about their own bodies for themselves?”

I think cutting off healthy genital tissue should be an individual choice when a male is old enough to decide, not a parental one. If there was a similar custom that removed parts of female children’s genitals, I wonder whether would still be allowed in the 21st century. Thanks to advances in women’s rights - I doubt it.

Why is it still ok for parents to consent to removal of healthy body parts from males before they can have any say?
There is no answer to this, it’s just cultural blindness. The medical benefits are minor, are balanced out by risks and harms, and they can all be achieved in easier ways that don’t involve cutting off part of a boys penis. Namely washing, which presumably most people have no problem doing. It’s a stupid outdated custom that some people just can’t let go of. Let a male decide for himself when he is old enough.

How old is old enough is debatable, I guess the same age that teenage girls are allowed to have breast implants or something.

Hugh January 30, 2008, 10:39 PM

“At 13, if the boy didn’t want to be Jewish in the first place, he can reject a prior conversion — but a circumcision is irreversible.”

Circumcision is not reversible when it’s done before the age of 12, the last I heard.

richard February 17, 2008, 8:33 PM

why would he want his son to go throgh that pain, if my perants made me do that i think i’d kill my self from the pain or not being able to pleasure my self with out more pain

Jennifer November 20, 2008, 4:53 PM

I think the son has every right to make this decision. Especially because it is being done for religious reasons. I don’t have anything against circumcision but I have something against people being forced to participate in a religious ceremony or belief. Everyone should have the right to choose what faith is best suited to for them, even at the age of 13.

Wilfred November 22, 2008, 12:40 PM

No boy under the age of 18 should be circumcised because a parent or religious custom thinks it is a good idea.
It is a violation of his right to an intact body.
It is a violation of the parents obligation to protect the child.
The only person that can make a life (and body) altering decision is the person to whom the body (and ALL it’s parts) belong when attaining the age of majority, with full disclosure of the risks, losses and impact that this will have on them for the rest of their life.

Charles II December 30, 2008, 9:48 PM

I’m so glad to see a court recognize the rights of boys to make such decisions for themselves, even at age 12.

Sara February 23, 2009, 1:53 PM

I am all for infant circumcision but not past infancy!!! He is old enough to make the decision and he should be the one deciding!

Gregory S April 8, 2009, 1:23 AM

Let’s use a like comparison…to make the point.

How would Sara feel if a clitoridotomy (removal of the clitoral hood) was preformed on her as an infant…??? Maybe she would not be “all for it” done to infants if she had to live with the results of this forced procedure the rest of her life. Just so you know…we boys don’t like this being done to us….

leah May 26, 2009, 12:25 PM

This is crazy can you even think of the pain. Past being an infant I think he is too old. However its the kids choice. period nobody elses at this point.

linda March 23, 2010, 5:34 AM

He should have been circumcised as an infant(my son was). But lacking that his faith should be his choice. I know of someone who had her fourteen year old circumcised over his protests. Best to do it when they are born.

Like Sara, I am 100% in favor of circumcision!

Gobind Singh February 3, 2011, 12:24 AM

I am 100% against circumision.

It should never be done to a boy, at any age.

tabletki na pryszcze April 3, 2011, 7:15 AM

It’s good too read your site again dude, i see some interesting updates here…

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