Manitoba scraps proposal to ban circumcisions outside of medical clinics

Elaine Goldstone, CEO of Jewish Federation of Winnipeg.

“A sigh of relief.”

That’s how Elaine Goldstine, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, responded when she learned the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba will reverse a proposal to ban male circumcisions outside of medical establishments.

“I’m very happy about the decision,” she said.

The issue arose when the College issued a draft Standard of Practice for Performing Office-Based Procedures on June 15 that recommended its members only perform male circumcisions in a medical facility that provides outpatient care.

The proposal would have prevented mohels who are doctors from performing circumcisions in homes or synagogues, as is often done.

The draft Standard was circulating for almost a month, with a closing date for public comments on July 16, before the Federation learned about it on July 13.

Goldstine immediately reached out to the College, and sent an email to the Jewish community. In the email she asked people to let the College know “the performance of all ritual Jewish male circumcisions (brit milot) by a physician should be excluded from the Standard.”

“They got a ton of comments,” said Goldstine, noting she was copied on many of them. “I’m glad the community really stepped up.”

On July 16, the College issued a statement of response on its website. In the statement the College noted the working group that created the draft Standard “did not consult with the Jewish community” and that it was grateful for the response from the community.

“No, the College is not banning male circumcisions, nor is it something we could do,” it went on to say, adding the oversight was unintentional.

The Standard will be amended, it stated, and “will not infringe on any human or religious rights and freedoms whatsoever.”

At a minimum, the College stated, the Standard will add an exemption for male circumcision “performed in a religious ceremony or tradition, particularly respecting low-risk neonatal circumcisions.”

For Goldstine, the response from the College is gratifying, as is the response of the Jewish community.

“I’m glad the Federation was there to reach out on behalf of the community,” she said, adding “I’m really pleased the College acted so quickly.”

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