Is Circumcision Child Abuse?

From: E
Sent: Saturday, February 09, 2019 10:58 PM
Subject: Circumcision as child abuse
Dear Prof. Block,

You stated: “Circumcision is child abuse, even if God wants it. It should be against the law”. But what exactly is child abuse?

Isn’t child abuse really mostly an opinion of an adult? If I tickle a baby is that child abuse? Doesn’t it completely depend on our grown feelings? I recall my sister tickling me at age 5; it was quite unpleasant. Would you call that child abuse? How about being forced to eat foods that would make me want to vomit, such as broccoli or peas. Do you know of anyone who can testify to having experienced pain as a child when they were only, say,  1 week old. For all we know, a 1 week old child has no ability to experience pain, or at least distinguish it from say, tickling. Pain is a subjective feeling that exists entirely in the mind (or brain) of a living creature. Just because a baby cries, this doesn’t prove it is experiencing pain in the same way as we do as adults. They cry for many reasons. Do you have any evidence other than crying that a baby is feeling extreme pain during a circumcision? Only a person that can communicate can say what they are actually feeling. When I was about 4 or 5 I had to get vaccines. Some of them were downright unpleasant. I can remember some of those shots. If you read Lew Rockwell often, you will see many articles stating that vaccination is also a form of abuse. I also very much disliked getting my teeth drilled and filled with a substance that perhaps even had some mercury in it. I didn’t like getting my tonsils out either. My wife is a nurse and when it came time to decide on circumcision for my son, she said that her experience with male patients who were intact was that they were less clean as the folds could harbor bacteria and other undesirable microbes. Maybe that is just her opinion. Who really knows? So, unless you can present compelling evidence to the contrary, isnt it really up to the parent/guardian to make this call? After all, 100s of millions of babies have been circumcised and I doubt you can prove that this changed their lives for the worse. Maybe its just another form of prophylactic that has beneficial results. Should it then be against the law? Should we make a tonsil operation illegal too? I see little difference between the two, and in the latter case, I can testify to the pain of that operation (after awaking).

Best regards,


Dear E:

You make a very good case in favor of this practice. However, I disagree. I’ve written about these issues here; I think I anticipate your objections:

Block, Walter E. and William Barnett II. 2008. “Continuums” Journal Etica e Politica / Ethics & Politics, Vol. 1, pp. 151-166, June;

Block, Walter E. and Michael Fleischer. 2010. “How Would An Anarchist Society Handle Child Abuse?” October 13; (circumcision)

Walter E. Block and Rafi Farber. 2014. “On Circumcision.” July 7;

Best regards,



4:34 pm on May 28, 2019