updated 10/25/2006 9:24:09 AM ET 2006-10-25T13:24:09

A judge in a case closely watched by those who oppose circumcision sided Tuesday with a divorced man who did not want his 9-year-old son to undergo the procedure.

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Circuit Judge Jordan Kaplan said that circumcision is “an extraordinary medical procedure” for a 9-year-old and that the boy can decide for himself when he turns 18.

The boy’s father sued to block the operation in a dispute with his ex-wife. The couple’s 2003 divorce decree gave the father the right to be consulted before the boy underwent any “extraordinary” non-emergency procedure.

The father said he believed surgical removal of the boy’s foreskin could cause long-term physical and psychological harm. The child’s mother wanted the procedure to prevent recurring infections. She testified that the boy had suffered five bouts of painful inflammation and had begged her to help him.

Newborns in several mainstream religions are routinely circumcised as part of their faith, but religious beliefs did not figure in the ruling.

The Associated Press is not identifying the parents to protect the boy’s privacy.

Alan Toback, the father’s attorney, said the man is extremely happy with the judge’s decision. A telephone call to the mother’s attorney was not immediately returned.

Most U.S. newborn boys are circumcised. But a growing number of parents are opting against the surgery. The percentage of male babies circumcised has fallen from an estimated 90 percent in 1970 to about 60 percent today.

In a 1999 policy statement that was reaffirmed this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics said there are “potential medical benefits” to circumcision, including a reduction in risk of urinary tract infections. But the academy said there is not enough evidence to recommend routine circumcision of newborns.

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