Van Lewis was an American intactivist (17 May 1943 in Tallahassee, FL – 6 June 2011).
Van Lewis and his brother Benjamin Lewis carried the first modern intactivist protest, on December 17th of 1970 in front of the Tallahassee Memorial Hospital in Florida. Van and Benjamin were arrested for "shouting and disturbing the peace". Charges were dismissed the following days.
Van Lewis continued protesting circumcision for most of his life. One of his achievements was to get Medicaid in Florida to stop covering routine infant circumcisions. Unfortunately an insurance overhaul in Florida open the path for private programs to offer infant circumcision as an extended service from 2013.
A mutilator's question
“Many years ago, I witnessed an infant circumcision in person at the invitation of a mutilator. He invited me to attend, to prove to me that there is nothing wrong with mutilating babies. He also decided and told me that he would not do a complete circumcision, just a little dorsal slit, to minimize trauma, damage, injury, and blood loss. “I will cut on the center line. There are no blood vessels there.” (Right.)
I decided to go. White mutilator, black baby, southern USA, 1972 or so. With the first probe under the foreskin the baby screams a blood curdling scream and keeps screaming. With the crushing of the center line of the top of the foreskin with the hemostat the baby’s screaming and thrashing ratchet WAY up (he was restrained by tie-downs, put in place in preparation for this human hurricane they already knew from long experience was coming) and when the clamp comes off and the dorsal cut is made the baby begins to vomit—projectile vomiting—the most violent vomiting I have ever witnessed from any human being. Blood from the baby’s penis spurts everywhere. The vomiting interrupts the screaming and the screaming interrupts the vomiting. The mutilator takes out his sewing kit and starts sewing. With every puncture of the needle a new blood-curdling scream comes rushing out, with every pulling of the thread through the foreskin the baby turns bluer and screams louder and harder and finally, when I think the police are going to arrive, or the baby is going to die, or God is going to strike us all dead on the spot—the baby goes totally silent and completely limp. He passes out, knocked cold by the trauma of the mutilating. [Ed. Some babies dissociate and this may be what Mr. Lewis observed] The mutilator can now work in peace.
He finishes his sewing, cleans up, and we head for the stairs. On the staircase he looks at me and starts to talk. I thought he was going to tell me how he had never seen anything like that in his life, that babies never respond like that, or something at least. Instead, what he revealed with his off-hand question was that this was a normal operation, nothing out of the ordinary here. “Did you have any objection to that?” he asked.
I was momentarily speechless. What I wanted to do in answer to the mutilator’s insane question was kick him in his groin as hard as I could and then ask him, “Did YOU have any objection to THAT?” I supposed he would have objected to my reaction, so I didn’t do it. Also I didn’t want to go to jail; I wanted him to go to jail. So I responded calmly, “I think the baby objected to it.”
I have since learned from a reformed circumciser, who did scores of circumcisions, that he didn’t hear the babies he circumcised screaming. He was so intent on doing his work “correctly” that he literally, as hard as it is to believe, did not hear the screaming. Then, one day—why, he didn’t know—he heard it. He heard the baby and knew what the screaming meant. He was injuring the baby, deeply. He’s never done another one.”
- Lewis, Van (28 April 2007).
A mutilator’s question(archive URL), blOUCH!. Retrieved 14 October 2021.
- (June 2011)."Van Lewis 1943-2011", Tallahassee Democrat. Retrieved 19 November 2021.