Her absence defied an order Gillen signed Feb. 25, ordering Hironimus to bring the boy to court on Friday to be turned over to his father, Dennis Nebus. When she didn’t appear, Gillen gave her until 2 p.m. Monday to appear in court with her son.
Exactly how the dispute will unfold is unclear. Once she is arrested, she will be brought before Gillen, Hunker said. It is likely the child will be turned over to Nebus. Gillen has given him authority to have the circumcision done without Hironimus’ approval.
Nebus’ attorneys declined comment. But, Hunker said, Hironimus is scared both for herself and her son.
“She doesn’t believe she should be incarcerated for protecting her child,” he said.
The strange and convoluted case has spawned international headlines and the attention of self-described “intactivists,” who are against the forced circumcision of children. Carrying signs declaring, ““His Body, His Right,” and “Whose Penis? Whose Body? Whose Rights?” about 15 activists gathered outside the South County Courthouse to support Hironimus, who has used social media to publicize her son’s plight.
The now controversial case began as a simple paternity lawsuit. Three months after his son was born in October 2010, Nebus went to court to claim his parental rights. Nebus, 47, of Boca Raton, and Hironimus never married.
In 2012, the two signed a parenting agreement. Hironimus agreed her son could be circumcised as long as Nebus paid for it.
Soon after, she had second thoughts about allowing her son to undergo the procedure. After various court hearings, Gillen in May ruled that the agreement trumped her reservations. The 4th District Court of Appeal upheld his decision without comment.
The agreement, Gillen wrote, is clear and unambiguous. “Mother agrees to and shall timely execute any and all documents reasonably necessary to effectuate the circumcision of the minor child,” he wrote, quoting the agreement.
Before reaching his conclusion, he heard from pediatric urologist Charles Flack. The physician testified that while the procedure wasn’t medically necessary it’s advisable. Penile cancer only afflicts uncircumcised men. Further, uncircumcised men are at a greater risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. The procedure, Flack testified, lasts only 17 minutes and causes little discomfort.
Men who gathered outside the courthouse disagreed. Carl Silverman, who drove from his home in Royal Palm Beach to participate in the protest, said he still remembers the pain of the circumcision he had done as an infant. “From my earliest days, I remember a searing pain down there,” he said.
Mothers who gathered with their children for the protest said the operation would be particularly traumatic for Hironimus’ son, who is not being named by court order. “(He’s) 4 1/2 years old and I know he does not want this,” said Kristen Shockley, of Boynton Beach, who said she is friends with Hironimus. “He’ll remember it. I know I remember things that happened to me when I was four.”
Attorney Andrew DeLaney, who wrote a paper on female genital mutilation and male circumcision while in law school at St. John’s University and has been watching the case unfold from his home in Texas, said Gillen’s decision seems draconian given the passage of time and the mother’s current wishes.
“A reasonable judge, in my opinion, would void the agreement due to the change of circumstances and recognize that it is not in the best interests of this boy to force the mother into consenting to the procedure at this point,” he said.
But, others said, a court order is a court order. The agreement, approved by Gillen, is just that. It can’t be flaunted by those who signed off on it and now have second thoughts.
Further, the medical community appears to be on Gillen’s side. While stopping short of mandating circumcision, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in November issued guidelines saying the benefits of circumcision far outweigh the risks. In the guidelines, it urges doctors to tell parents of males the benefits of the procedure.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said protestors opposed the forced sterilization of children. They oppose the forced circumcision of children.