A judge issued an arrest order Tuesday for a Florida woman who fled with her son to prevent his circumcision and ignored a demand to appear in court.
Circuit Judge Jeffrey Gillen signed the order in a seven-minute hearing, three days after finding Heather Hironimus in contempt and warning that she would face imprisonment unless she reported to court with the child.
Her attorney, Thomas Hunker, said his client is staying with her 4-year-old son in a shelter for domestic violence victims because the boy was "scared to death" of undergoing the surgery.
Hironimus and the boy's father, Dennis Nebus, were never married but share custody of their child. In a parenting agreement filed in court, the two agreed to the boy's circumcision, but the mother later changed her mind, leading to a long court battle. Circuit and appellate judges have sided with the father, but potential surgeons have backed out after refusing to get the mother's consent or becoming the target of anti-circumcision protesters who side with her.
"She did this for one reason and one reason only: because the child is scared to death of this procedure," Hunker told Gillen, launching into a defense that was cut off by the judge.
"So Mr. Hunker, I take it then that the mother is not going to appear today?" the judge said.
"Correct, your honor," Hunker replied.
"OK, that's all I needed to know," Gillen said.
"Your honor, if I may," the lawyer pleaded.
"No, you may not," the judge shot back.
Although circumcision rates have fallen in the U.S., a majority of boys still undergo the procedure to remove their foreskin. Meantime, a movement opposing circumcision has developed, and the case has become a rallying cry for so-called "intactivists" who deride the surgery as barbaric. A small group of those anti-circumcision advocates gathered outside the court to demonstrate in support of Hironimus, and expressed outrage over the judge's order.
"It's just ridiculous," said one of the protesters, Jennifer Cote of Pembroke Pines. "She's protecting her son."