U.S. Woman Who Fled to Avoid Son's Circumcision Remains Behind Bars

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A woman who fled to avoid the circumcision of her son remained behind bars Friday while her attorney sought a restraining order against the boy's father to keep the surgery from proceeding.

Heather Hironimus, 31, was arrested Thursday and was being held at the Broward County Jail, two months after she ignored a judge's warnings she must appear in court and give her consent for the procedure to avoid imprisonment.

Though the arrest stemmed from a long-running case in state court, a federal judge granted an emergency motion filed Friday by attorney Thomas Hunker, who is representing Hironimus, to hold a hearing on the restraining order. With Hironimus in hiding and her legal options narrowing, Hunker filed a federal civil rights lawsuit last month on behalf of her and her 4-year-old son. A hearing is scheduled for Monday.

In court papers filed Friday, Hironimus argues circumcision "will permanently and irreversibly mutilate" her son and brings the risk of "permanent brain damage or death."

Hironimus went missing with her son nearly three months ago, going into hiding as her long court battle against the surgery reached its climax. Though her defenders said she was simply doing what she could to protect a child portrayed as "scared to death" of the procedure, a judge issued a scalding rebuke for her refusal to appear in court, charging her with contempt and issuing an arrest warrant.

The whereabouts of the child were not known, but Hunker said the boy was assumed to be with his father, Dennis Nebus.

Hironimus and 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, though, giving way to a long legal 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 being targeted by anti-circumcision protesters.

Both sides are under a gag order in the case.

Circumcision rates have fallen in the U.S., but a majority of boys still undergo the removal of their foreskin. Even so, a bubbling movement of so-called "intactivists" has made the case a rallying cry against a surgery they view as barbaric.

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