Episode 2.8


Beth, Jen and Tracie discuss more anti-choice laws and the smut-for-smut program.

  • Chris

    I’ve been waiting for this episode all week!

    Apr 7, 2012 at 3:17 pm
  • stubby


    Apr 7, 2012 at 6:24 pm
  • Eric

    Very good comments. Completely agree!

    Apr 7, 2012 at 7:38 pm
  • ullrich fischer

    The War On Women is correctly named in that women are the direct targets of the Bible Thumpers’ war on freedom. However, it should also be pointed out at every opportunity that the Bible Thumpers, despite their bleating about religious freedom, are, in fact, attacking all kinds of personal freedoms in the name of “Christian Morality”.

    Apr 7, 2012 at 8:05 pm
  • Courtney

    “Nocturnal emissions are blessed by god?!” I can’t stop laughing.

    Apr 7, 2012 at 9:37 pm
  • Marlo Rocc

    It’s interesting you mention excess males in China due to sex selection. In america, we have the same issue, except the cause are the financial indepence of women. As womens incomes grow, a greater population of males are considered unmarriagable due to having a lower income than the available women, leaving the exact same problem China has.

    Are we going to need is a war to get rid of all the men with low incomes?

    Apr 7, 2012 at 10:43 pm
  • Patrick

    Wow, if that MIssissippi bill goes thought it’ll be a boon for my town, Tuscaloosa, AL. Already the clinic in town services half of Mississippi, now I guess they’ll get the rest of the state and West Alabama, too.

    Apr 7, 2012 at 10:56 pm
  • Patrick

    According to this map of clinics, if the Mississippi clinic is closed there won’t be one between Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Beaumont, TX. Is Louisiana already clinic-less?


    Apr 7, 2012 at 11:01 pm
  • Mark Rosengarten

    Somebody’s kitty is feeling neglected in the background.

    Great show!!!!!

    Apr 8, 2012 at 7:17 am
  • Ashra Bateman

    menstrual cups are awesome! i think they are the best period product! thanks for spreading the word!

    Apr 8, 2012 at 6:00 pm
  • Rilian

    They’re afraid that if abortion is allowed, then it will become forced. It makes just as much sense as how people are afraid to allow children to have jobs because then the children will be forced to have jobs!! Except the weird thing about that is that children just aren’t allowed to have paying jobs… they’re totally allowed to be enslaved by their parents and even work in family-owned businesses. /tangent

    Apr 9, 2012 at 4:45 am
  • Anne C. Hanna

    I haven’t finished listening to the episode yet, but I just want to comment a bit on the statement that one of you (sorry, I’m terrible at keeping track of the voices) made that nobody should ever use anything other than the bodily autonomy argument when arguing for reproductive choice. While I agree with y’all that it’s the most logically solid argument on the subject, what I’ve discovered in arguing with anti-choicers is that it actually tends to fall completely flat at convincing them. My experience has been that it’s a little too abstract and complex to really hit them where it hurts and make them question their dedication to their views.

    I do think it’s a really good argument to help provide an alternate and more consistent ethical grounding to someone who’s recognized that the anti-choice position is problematic. But what I’ve noticed with a lot of the more humane and reachable anti-choicers I’ve talked to is that for many of them it’s really just all about a gut instinct that children are adorable little vessels of innocence and so protecting them is the most important thing that anyone can ever possibly do. They haven’t really thought very hard about the logical implications of their views, because for them the issue doesn’t even exist on that level, and they don’t have any interest in becoming logical about it either, because the idea of logicking your way into killing a child (their view of the matter) strikes them as monstrous. So you’ve got to hit them with some extremely strong cognitive dissonance before they’ll even begin to attempt to process the issue rationally, which means you’ve got to use something that taps into their everyday emotional intuitions a bit more effectively than the bodily autonomy argument usually does (in my experience).

    The question of whether it’s appropriate for anti-choice activists to murder abortion providers is one that I think has at least some hope on this front. You start by asking them how they feel about the people who kill abortion providers. If they approve of that, there’s really just no point in going further, even to play to the crowd. They’re already lost to humanity, and every decent person in the room is going to recognize that, so you’ve won as much as you’re going to simply by getting that out in the open. But if they’re reasonably humane, they’ll say that they don’t condone murder, so then you ask them, “If somebody was about to kill a child right here in front of me and I shot that person to death in order to save the child, would you consider me a hero or a villain?”

    Again, most ordinary people would consider it to be heroic for someone to kill a murderer in order to save a kid’s life. If you’re talking to someone who’s so pacifist as to not even approve of violence in self/other-defense there’s probably not much you can say that’s going to make a difference. But I don’t think most people’s emotional intuitions run that way (and, again, I’m seeing this as an argument to make to ordinary anti-choicers, who in my experience are guided more by their innate moral intuitions than by any consistent logic). Even the Catholic Church is realistic enough to accept the notion of justified killing under certain circumstances, such as their Just War theology and the doctrine of double effect (i.e. it’s okay to take action to save an innocent person’s life even if that action has the side effect of ending their attacker’s life).

    And then once you’ve established that they respond differently to killing in these two different cases, the question is, what’s the difference? Why is it okay to kill someone who’s about to murder a kid right in front of you, but not okay to do the same to an avowed abortion doctor, who (by anti-choicers’ lights) murders children on a regular basis? I still haven’t seen anybody come up with an answer to that that supports the anti-choice view (although I’ve heard an awful lot of pointless waffling which is pretty easy to expose as such), and the cognitive dissonance this dilemma induces might just possibly be enough to open your interlocutor up to serious contemplation of the foundations of their worldview.

    Of course, none of this does any good against the dickweeds who treat pregnancy as a deserved punishment for worthless sluts who are so depraved as to enjoy sex, but that’s a whole ‘nother discussion, and I don’t think the bodily autonomy argument has much of an impact there either. I think the best you can do against asshats like that is just to expose their asshattery in exquisite detail for all the world to see and let decent folks make their own judgments on the matter.

    Anyway, that’s my one sort of disagreement with y’all so far in the podcast. Other than that, it’s been great to listen to as usual, and I’m looking forward to my next interval of housework so I can hear the rest.

    I’d be curious to know what you think of all this.

    Apr 9, 2012 at 7:41 am
  • Anne C. Hanna

    Argh, one important thing I forgot in typing all of that…

    The other thing I don’t like about the bodily autonomy argument, purely on the level of convincing anti-choicers, is that I don’t feel like it’s a good idea, rhetorically, to grant them any more ground than absolutely necessary by letting them slide on the question of fetal personhood, just as I don’t really like to give religious folks even the temporary benefit of supposing that their god does exist and arguing from there. The bottom line is, scientifically it’s undeniable that a fetus, and even a newborn baby, has far less in the way of conscious experience than even the least intelligent of my cats, and yet people who are completely indifferent to the fate of millions of shelter cats every year (not to mention the fates of the millions of fully-formed and sentient humans who die or experience terrible suffering during that same year because of resource maldistribution) rank the right to self-determination of a fully-sentient adult woman as less than the “right” of something that might eventually someday a long time from now become a person to make use of her body against her will.

    The problem, I think, is that they don’t recognize that they’re doing that. Consciously they represent fetuses as simply the most innocent possible people, and so they try to not think very hard about or to rationalize away the implications for the women involved. So it seems to me that the most important thing to do is to attack that belief that a fetus is the same as a fully-developed person, and the most effective way to do that is to show them that their intuitions actually *already* run counter to that belief at some level. Otherwise, why would they applaud someone who kills to save a child, but feel obligated to condemn those who murder abortion doctors? I think people’s conflicting reactions to these two cases reveal that at some level they do realize that, however uncomfortable they may be about abortion, it’s not the same thing as murdering a child, because a fetus isn’t a child. Once you force them to become consciously aware of that, the whole edifice starts to disintegrate and you have a chance of getting them to rebuild their worldview in a more reasonable way.

    Apr 9, 2012 at 8:01 am
  • Curt Cameron

    I’m with Anne C. Hanna on this one, and it’s one of the few issues that I’ve strongly disagreed with the GBs. Besides what Anne said, another major problem with the bodily autonomy argument is that of guilt. The way it is now, the anti-choice people use their idea that the fetus is a person, to guilt the woman into not aborting the pregnancy. Then they use the guilt of women who’ve had abortions, to argue that abortions are harmful to the woman, when it’s the anti-choicers who are responsible for the guilt in the first place!

    If you’re tacitly granting that the fetus is a person, and then arguing that the law doesn’t compel any person to lift a finger to save another person, that doesn’t address the guilt that a person SHOULD feel who let another die because of a little inconvenience. Sure, the law doesn’t compel Tracie’s own mother to donate even one drop of blood to save Tracie’s life, but if Tracie’s mom didn’t do that, she would feel guilty, and she should.

    Maybe there are situations where the bodily autonomy argument should be brought up, but on this podcast the GBs were saying that it should be the first and only argument necessary. The first argument should be the real issue: a fetus is not a person.

    Apr 9, 2012 at 9:29 am
  • Lulu

    Mmmmm ‘’manufactured product'’ I’ll take 1 in every colour!

    Apr 9, 2012 at 9:41 am
  • fenchurch

    @ Marlo Rocc - what is that I don’t even… Your false analogy between population shifts of the ratio of boys to girls in male-preferenced China due to sex selection has nothing in common with women earning wages in North America… this hasn’t affected populations whatsoever, and the very idea that marriageable men are less so due to women making “more” is bogus.

    Don’t worry– women are still underpaid and underrepresented for the work they do in Western cultures, plus having their income pale in comparison to a man’s after a divorce esp. if there are children to rear. No one’s asking for dowries yet to beef up the value of these worthless men. And, for whom would it be a problem that a woman makes more than a man in a relationship? An independent modern woman with progressive values, or a backwards, traditional male trying to preserve an archaic dichotomy of sex differences with man as breadwinner? Hmm.

    Be sure to ask gay male couples how they handle who makes more. Maybe it’ll spark the same kind of war you seek, as in the Celtic epic The Tain, where a couple compared fortunes, and then had a series of clan wars because one of the spouses owned one more bull than then other did.

    Apr 9, 2012 at 9:58 am
  • Anne C. Hanna

    Curt, thanks for stating more explicitly another point that was floating around in the background of my thoughts but that somehow didn’t quite come out of my keyboard. I think you’re right about why the bodily autonomy argument doesn’t have the desired emotional impact — while it’s true that it’s wrong to forcibly interfere with someone’s bodily autonomy to save another person, it also strikes most people’s moral intuitions as monstrous for a “mother” to be so cold towards her “child” as to be unwilling to sacrifice a few months of her own freedom to save its life.

    If you accept the mother/child framing of the issue, abortion seems like a violation of the most fundamental emotional contract that humans can ever make, and for Catholics in particular that emotional contract is very nearly deified in the person of Mary, and is considered the highest role that an ordinary woman can ever aspire to. The only thing that’s technically ranked higher is joining a celibate religious order and getting married to Jesus, but most of the time that isn’t pushed nearly as strongly as something for ordinary people to do as the motherhood thing is.

    So if abortion is about “mothers” killing their “children” (or even denying them the comforts of a full term in the womb), it’s hard to get anti-choicers to identify emotionally with women who seek abortions. All they can think is, “*I* would never be so heartless as to deny my beloved child anything xe needed in the world, so clearly these women are morally defective or deeply misguided and it’s the job of all decent folks to save them from themselves before they do the worst thing they can possibly do.” Arguments about whether women have the *right* to choose to abandon or kill their “children” can seem like hollow legalisms when you’re in that mental framework.

    I still think that bodily autonomy is the key foundational principle of an ethical stance on reproductive rights, but as long as people are thinking of it in terms of a child’s needs versus an adult’s rights they’re going to find the pro-choice position too alien and morally repugnant to consider the issue logically and be able to accept that it can be both a “child” *and* a choice.


    On a completely unrelated note, I’ve been having a bit of a problem with the CAPTCHA here. I don’t know if it’s just me, but twice now I’ve been given a word where it refused to accept the characters I entered even though they were obviously correct. I don’t know if it’s putting hidden spaces in the word, or using an odd character set or what, but since there’s no option to ask for a new CAPTCHA, the only thing I can do is copy my comment off to a text editor, refresh the page to get a new CAPTCHA, and then repaste it. I dunno if this is anything you can do anything about, but I just wanted to be sure that you’re aware.

    (My second CAPTCHA word on this post after doing that dance just now was “gynaecea”, which almost seems like it should mean something.)

    Apr 9, 2012 at 2:04 pm
  • Anne C. Hanna

    On the subject of Mary, another thing that Catholics tend to see as giving moral force to their position is their tale of teenaged Mary’s joyful obedience when she was told she was going to be the mother of Jesus. But I always ask them to imagine, what if Mary didn’t want the job but was forced to take it anyway? What if she fell down on the floor sobbing and screaming and crying and begging her god not to do this to her? What if she was so distraught the archangel Gabriel had to forcibly restrain her to keep her from harming herself in her efforts to be rid of a burden she wasn’t prepared to handle? What if she somehow managed to get free anyway and irreversibly harmed herself with a poison that some ignorant quack told her would end the pregnancy? What would they think of a god who forced her through such desperate suffering instead of finding a more willing participant for his little melodrama?

    Anti-choicers need to recognize that the role of such a cruel and capricious god is what they’re taking on when they remove women’s right to say “yes” or “no”. The story of Mary and Jesus only strikes people as beautiful because of that “yes”. In the face of a “no”, it would be a monstrosity instead. However beautiful and wonderful a wanted pregnancy may be, anti-choice laws don’t magically turn unwanted pregnancies into perfect Nativity scenes. They just shatter women’s lives.

    Apr 9, 2012 at 2:27 pm
  • Anne C. Hanna

    (Okay, I guess that *is* a form of the bodily autonomy argument, but structured in a way that I think has a bit more emotional impact than the more coldly logical and legalistic version that we normally see.)

    Apr 9, 2012 at 2:30 pm
  • Anne C. Hanna

    Okay, sorry I keep just replying to myself over and over, but every time I reread what I’ve written I get more clarity the issue. I should probably just write my own blog post about this instead of filling up your comments section with my maunderings, so I’m just going to mention one last thought and then I’m done for now.

    I think in dealing with anti-choicers (and fence-sitters) the key question is generally how to present one’s arguments in a way that increases their emotional identification with the women seeking reproductive choice and that helps chip away at their misguided emotional attachment to arbitrary fetuses(*). There are probably different formulations of the arguments that will be more effective for different people, but I think these are really the central issues for most anti-choicers, so it’s important to keep them at the forefront of any strategizing. So I think that’s the motivation underlying my arguments here. Perhaps there’s another angle on this that I’m missing, but that’s where I’ve come to on this so far.

    ——— (*) I’ve got nothing against getting emotionally attached to one’s own wanted fetus, just as I wouldn’t condemn an author for having an emotional attachment to a book xe was writing. The thing that I think is foolish is the insistence that every single conceptus should be held sacred and brought to term if at all possible, in the same way I’d laugh at someone who demanded that everyone preserve and venerate every single stupid thing they’ve ever written down, just because they were dumb enough to put it the words on a page.

    Apr 9, 2012 at 3:00 pm
  • Beth Presswood


    I don’t think the goal is to get anti-choicers to emotionally identify with “sluts.” That may not be possible. I think the idea is to get them to realize that LEGAL action to force women to carry to term has implications for a totalitarian government that they wouldn’t like.


    Apr 9, 2012 at 5:44 pm
  • Rilian

    Soooo Does anyone think that a … human becomes a person the instant their head is out of the vagina? Or their whole body? Or when they take a breath? I guess it would be *possible* that one’s consciousness could somehow get turned on at one instant, but it doesn’t seem very likely.

    Apr 10, 2012 at 5:28 am
  • Anne C. Hanna

    Beth, the problem I see with that is that for people who see this as a deep moral issue, their feeling is that first you stop all of the baby-killing and *then* you sort out all of the rest of that. So I don’t think it’s enough to present somewhat abstract hypotheticals like forced kidney donation that haven’t ever actually taken place anywhere ever (as far as I know, and I think as far as most people know). It’s just too unreal to them to really impact their stance on the subject.

    This isn’t armchair philosophizing. I’ve gone out and presented the bodily autonomy argument to people, genuinely thinking of it as a pretty killer argument, and I think I presented it fairly competently, but the people I talked to just looked at me like I was crazy, because *obviously* nobody’s ever going to force you to donate blood or donate a kidney, so what the hell does that have to do with anything. It doesn’t horrify them because they simply don’t believe it can happen. (In the same way, I don’t think fictional dystopian anti-choice regimes are very convincing to people who aren’t already committed to reproductive rights either.) My conclusion from this has been that you need to offer something that you can show them actually does too really happen as a consequence of anti-choice views. Only then, I think, do you really have a chance of hitting them where they live.

    Apr 10, 2012 at 8:44 am
  • Jack Johnson

    Anybody who meets a man who says he never masturbates has met a liar! Well said Tracie!

    Apr 11, 2012 at 8:13 am
  • Jack Johnson

    The Bible devalues Porn - Brilliant!!

    Apr 11, 2012 at 9:39 am
  • Jack Johnson

    I live in GB and felt I knew all three of you from TAE. This is the first GB I have listened to. I have never heard three American women talk so much sense in my life. That probably sounds condescending and sexist, I apologize if it does, it was not meant that way. Your nation does not do it’s women justice. The one’s we normally see over here aren’t usually worth listening to. I shall listen again and will spread the word to my friends. Won’t do you a lot of good they live all over Europe, but have broad minds! Well done, keep it up! Jack

    Apr 11, 2012 at 10:30 am
  • Geoff

    In regards to the China sex ratio imbalance: I have heard of a growing market for kidnapped girls and women from other Asian countries so that Chinese men can have ‘wives’. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bride_kidnapping#China

    Apr 11, 2012 at 10:52 am
  • Katie Melbourne

    I just wanted to know what the song was on this episode. You sure have a great selection of music going on, but don’t always mention the song title and artist.

    Apr 11, 2012 at 8:40 pm
  • Anne C. Hanna

    Katie, I think it’s called “Funstix Party”, by a group called “Those Darlins”. I had a lot of trouble finding it, because the lyrics don’t seem to be available anywhere online, but there are some YouTube videos that come up when you google the title.

    Apr 12, 2012 at 6:15 pm
  • Anne C. Hanna

    Oh, another comment on the episode… When I listened to the rest of it, I was also a little bugged by the idea that anti-choicers are morally culpable simply because they won’t sit down and accept they’re beaten once they’ve lost in court, or in the legislature, or whereever else they may have lost, but instead do everything they can to continue to fight the issue on every possible front.

    The problem I have with this is that we (rightly, in my opinion) celebrate those who have fought against laws that we agree are immoral (e.g. laws favoring slavery or discrimination) with every tool in their arsenals. Plessy v. Ferguson and Dred Scott and male-only suffrage were once settled law too, and yet the people who risked their safety to subvert, overturn, or straight-up disobey these decisions are now heros. Similarly, if a horrible dystopian anti-choice regime ever did come to dominate the United States, I’d like to hope that most of us here would do everything we could to oppose it, by our votes, through the courts, or via direct disobedience of the law.

    In my opinion, anti-choicers are wrong for three reasons:

    1) because they’re trying to change the laws in a way that harms women and takes away our freedoms 2) because they’re doing this out of a completely distorted and contra-evidentiary notion of what makes a person a person, and 3) because they’ve created a double standard in which women’s bodily autonomy is legally less well protected in that of men, by the trick of portraying undesired pregnancy as a fait accompli of violation that we have no right to attempt to mitigate or undo.

    I find their actions outrageous because I’m outraged by the fact that they think it’s acceptable to try to take away my basic right to bodily autonomy, and so anything done in service of that strikes me as straight-up evil. However, while it can be hard to separate my feelings about their intentions from my feelings about their tactics, I can’t really think of anything that they do (up to and including murdering abortion doctors) that I wouldn’t have at least some sympathy for if I agreed with their stated cause. Remember, even John Brown and others who took non-state-sanctioned violent action against past injustices now have somewhat of a positive image amongst those of us who agree that their causes were just, because we recognize that human rights aren’t a game in which the most important consideration is that you have to play nice even when the other side is doing something monstrously evil.

    So I just don’t think it’s a good argument to say that anti-choicers are bad folks because they’re poor sports. Making arguments like that turns us into hypocrites when we condemn them for doing something that we’d probably applaud, or at least tacitly accept, if it was being done by our own allies. Better to just stick to the more honestly defensible position that they’re bad because what they’re trying to do is, in and of itself, straight-up bad, no matter how nicely and fairly they might try to do it.

    Apr 12, 2012 at 6:48 pm
  • Beth Presswood


    I don’t applaud the use of violence or “dirty” tactics by the pro-choice side.

    Apr 13, 2012 at 7:27 am
  • Anne C. Hanna

    Okay, fine, but can you really say that *if* we were living in some kind of brutal anti-choice dystopia, you would be opposed to pro-choicers using tactics similar to the ones that you decried in the podcast? Most of the stuff you were criticizing was in the nature of legislative and procedural workarounds of pro-choice laws by the anti-choicers. You seemed to consider these to be dirty tricks, but if the laws were definitively anti-choice and pro-choicers crammed in as many workarounds as they could to protect the rights of as many women as possible despite the overall anti-choice tenor of the system, I’d think that you (and anyone with any sense of decency) would be in favor of that.

    I think it’s a really poor choice to stand on “it’s the law and they should just accept it” — that’s a tactic that only works for folks whose views are currently legally empowered, and it can very easily be turned against you if your opponents gain the upper hand. Right now in Texas, forcible ultrasounds for women seeking abortions are the law, and surely you wouldn’t say we should just sit down and shut up and accept that? Or do you really think this author is as terrible a person as the anti-choicers because he’s advocating subverting a law he opposes:


    I should note that I mentioned violence only to point out that the legislative jiggery-pokery you describe is actually pretty mild in terms of the things that even many progressives are willing to applaud, or at least excuse, in the name of defending civil rights, so please don’t get side-tracked by that. The point here is, this is about what they’re trying to do, not how they’re trying to do it, and complaints that the other side isn’t playing fair aren’t necessarily going to work in our favor.

    Apr 13, 2012 at 2:51 pm
  • Anne C. Hanna

    Argh, my link broke. Let me retry:


    Apr 13, 2012 at 2:52 pm
  • Heejb

    I could not believe what you guys were saying about the Violinist analogy. It’s the first time I’ve heard of it and it’s honestly one of the most ridiculous things I’ve heard. But more galling was your tone of voice that suggested you couldn’t possibly imagine of a counter argument to that.

    I gave the pro-choice people the benefit of the doubt because of course the fundies are on the other side and make dumb arguments but if that’s your best argument I think I have to reconsider.

    I’ve listened to only a few Godless Bitches so maybe you’ve already done this, but yI’d like to request that you have a pro-life (a skilled debater not just a lightweight) come on your show and do a full on debate like Atheist Experience. Not because I’m personally pro-life but I just need to see if your Violinist analogy holds up against vigorous cross examination if you think it is so ironclad.

    Apr 14, 2012 at 10:38 pm
  • Heejb

    Sorry to post back to back, I’m not trying to spam or whatever but just on Wikipedia alone there is a good rundown on this.


    “Critics of this argument generally agree that unplugging the violinist is permissible, but claim there are morally relevant disanalogies between the violinist scenario and typical cases of abortion. The most common objection is that the violinist scenario, involving a kidnapping, is analogous only to abortion after rape. In most cases of abortion, it is said, the pregnant woman was not raped but had intercourse voluntarily, and thus has either tacitly consented to allowing the embryo to use her body (the tacit consent objection[41]), or else has a duty to sustain the embryo because the woman herself caused it to stand in need of her body (the responsibility objection[42]). Other common objections turn on the claim that the embryo is the pregnant woman’s child whereas the violinist is a stranger (the stranger versus offspring objection[43]); that abortion kills the embryo whereas unplugging the violinist merely lets him die (the killing versus letting die objection[44]); or, similarly, that abortion intentionally causes the embryo’s death whereas unplugging the violinist merely causes death as a foreseen but unintended side-effect (the intending versus foreseeing objection;[45] cf the doctrine of double effect).”

    I mean just on Wikipedia there’s a counterargument and I don’t think that’s unreasonable or crazy. So I’m saying the Violinist argument isn’t the silver bullet you seem to think it is. All it has is shock value.

    Apr 14, 2012 at 11:03 pm
  • Sibylle

    That’s amazing !

    I have always been pro-choice (and an atheist, for that matter), and I had never thought of this argument before (the comparison to giving organs). It’s always amazing to learn new things. Congratulations for the podcast, I love it !

    Apr 15, 2012 at 1:25 pm
  • Richard Harvey

    After spending over two hours the other night arguing with a Muslim and listening to the nonsensical arguments from the anti-choicers on the BBC this morning (yes, we have them in the UK as well) it’s great to listen to some common sense. Keep up the brilliant work. I find the actions of the fundamentals, christian right, moral majority, or whatever they’re calling themselves this week, quite encouraging, I think they know they are being beaten and trying to get their views imposed before they disappear from history.

    BTW what was the song used in the intro and outro and need to get hold of it.

    Apr 15, 2012 at 2:46 pm
  • Richard Harvey

    Ooops ignore my last comment hadn’t comment 29 when i posted. Have just downloaded it from iTunes. Cheers.

    Apr 15, 2012 at 2:52 pm
  • Beth Presswood


    The Violinist argument is not the entire Bodily Rights argument. Listen to some more shows where we destroy the responsibility and consent objections. Also, I’m pretty damn sure we covered the “parental” objection as well on this particular show.

    Matt will be debating a secular anti-choicer sometime this summer. I am very confident that they have NOTHING to offer since all I have ever heard them say are those crappy objections and naturalistic fallacies. Beth

    Apr 15, 2012 at 4:45 pm
  • Anne C. Hanna

    Heejb, all of the objections you list are absurd.

    Consent to sex is not the same as consent to pregnancy. In fact, when I have sex I very carefully use birth control because I do *not* consent to having my body used to create another human being at this stage of my life. But birth control fails sometimes, or is forgotten. Does you seriously think that everyone who screws up or forgets their birth control has consented to pregnancy? Most people fuck because they want to fuck, not because they want to become parents. Why on earth would one assume that every pair of dumb horny kids getting it on are tacitly accepting the possibility that they might become parents, rather than just being overcome by lust? And, even if a woman *did* initially go into sex wanting to have a child, what happens if she changes her mind? In any living organ donation, donors have the right to revoke their consent at any point in the process, right up until the organ no longer part of their body. Why in the world would the same level of protections not apply in the case of pregnancy?

    The “duty to sustain” is also bullshit. I don’t have a duty to give the hypothetical violinist my kidney even if the reason he needs one is that I drove my car drunk and caused the horrible accident that destroyed his own kidneys. Under no other circumstances is one obligated to give up one’s bodily autonomy, even when one is responsible for another person’s need to abrogate that autonomy, so why should pregnancy be any different?

    The “it’s her child” argument is no better. We don’t obligate parents to give up their bodily autonomy for their children under any other circumstances. People might think I’m an awful person if I refuse to give a kidney (or even blood) to save my dying child, but the state cannot compel me to do so.

    The distinction between “letting someone die” and “killing” them is also dumb. For one thing, it causes untold end-of-life suffering for people whose doctors are only permitted to “let them die” rather than to assist them with suicide when their suffering becomes unbearable. In the case of abortions, if an embryo is before the point of viability, it doesn’t matter if you simply cut it free of the woman it’s parasitizing, or if you kill it and then cut it free. It dies either way. Given that the embryo is going to die, and given that it’s a marginal creature with essentially no neurological capacity to suffer pain at that point, and certainly has no capacity to comprehend or fear death, the interests of the woman who will live take precedence, and killing the embryo before extracting it from the woman is often the best thing for her. But even if this was a real problem, it still would not prohibit abortion, just some methods of abortion. It would still be perfectly acceptable to disconnect the umbilical cord, extract the fetus, and “let” it die. Problem solved.

    Furthermore, the (Catholic) “doctrine of double effect” is basically just hypocrisy anyway. If you unplug the violinist knowing that he will die, you have killed him by your actions, and no amount of talking around it changes what has happened. The only relevant question is whether, given a difficult decision between two goods (the principle of life and the principle of bodily autonomy) you have chosen the greater one. In my opinion, we as a society have long concluded that bodily autonomy comes first in almost every other area of life. The only place where people somehow can’t get their heads around it is when the body in question belongs to a woman of reproductive age, and it’s hard to see how this stance can possibly be justified in any way that doesn’t fundamentally denigrate the humanity of women.

    Apr 15, 2012 at 4:50 pm
  • Anne C. Hanna

    I should note here that reactions like Heejb’s are exactly why I don’t find the violinist argument to be very rhetorically useful in a lot of circumstances. People don’t automatically identify with it and so you have to really get down in the philosophical weeds to convince them that it’s solid.

    As I’ve demonstrated above, I do think that it’s logically sound and should be pretty much decisive, but it takes a lot of work to overcome people’s emotional resistance to it, which makes it hard to use in many everyday circumstances or in political debates. That’s why it’s no longer the first tool in my arsenal when I’m trying to convince reproductive rights skeptics, unless I know that I’ll have a lot of one-on-one time to walk them through it.

    Apr 15, 2012 at 11:10 pm
  • Beth Presswood


    I find no other argument useful. If you start going down the personhood/brain development road, the anti-choicer will drag you down the slippery slope of killing people with disabilities.

    Apr 16, 2012 at 6:00 pm
  • Anne C. Hanna

    Beth, I lean towards the Peter Singer camp on that one, so I’m comfortable on that slope. Creatures have rights according to their capacity to suffer. A pre-viability fetus has essentially no capacity to suffer, thus no relevant rights in the abortion situation. Fully developed people with mental disabilities (as well as many types of non-human animals) are in an entirely different situation and thus have different types of rights.

    And even if you don’t like Singer, that still doesn’t address the difficulties with the violinist argument, so I think it’s still important to take those seriously and try to reformulate the argument in a way that makes it less vulnerable to reactions like Heejb’s.

    Apr 16, 2012 at 10:44 pm
  • Beth Presswood


    Peter Singer gives me the willies. I have a hard time finding accurate information on him since 90% of it comes from anti-choice sites. Do you have a recommendation?


    Apr 17, 2012 at 8:15 am
  • Ann

    Beth, I haven’t read everything he’s written, but the one that really changed my thinking on the subject was _Animal Liberation_. Some of the factual information in it is a little dated now, since it first came out in 1975, and he goes farther than I would on a lot of subjects, but he is very consistently logical and it’s hard not to see his point to some degree if you actually read what he says. However, he gets a bad rap in a lot of places because if you *do* actually work to follow a consistent logic on a lot of these issues you get to conclusions that are currently very controversial, and people just read the conclusions without following the logic behind them and get upset.

    Again, I don’t agree with him on everything or go as far as he does for the most part, but I think a lot of his points are very relevant to the subject of reproductive choice, and _Animal Liberation_, or perhaps some of his more recent works (maybe _Practical Ethics_?) are worth a read.

    Apr 17, 2012 at 11:53 am
  • Anne C. Hanna

    Oops, don’t know how my name got messed up there. That was me, in case it wasn’t clear.

    Apr 17, 2012 at 11:54 am
  • Anne C. Hanna

    Also, I don’t know why I just called _Practical Ethics_ recent. The first edition is very nearly as old as _Animal Liberation_, but he just came out with a new, massively revised edition, which is what I was thinking of. Because of all the revisions, it’s probably a fairly good reflection of his current thinking if you get that newest edition.

    Apr 17, 2012 at 11:58 am
  • Andrew DeFaria

    At 1:00:58 Jen, I believe, said - “I’m happy with my tax dollars going to fun, for example, homeless shelters. I would be thrilled. Like where do I sign to extend our homeless shelters”. It’s simple! Sign at the bottom your check!!! Do you really need daddy government to take the money from you? Are you that incompetent that you are not capable of getting out your checkbook and writing a check from time to time to your favorite charities?!?

    I, OTOH, do not wish to fund your homeless shelters. I don’t believe in those programs or perhaps I feel my money is best donated to the Make a Wish foundation? You, however, will not allow me to make that choice. You advocate for the government to steal from you (willingly) and me (unwillingly) to fund that program. This is where you are immoral.

    You do the same thing with many of your feminist issues. I have no problems with feminism. Indeed I see women as equals. But birth control for women is the woman’s responsibility, not the governments! You first grant that free birth control for women is a given and then start on your moral arguments with that assumption. Check your premises. Birth control for women is not my responsibility nor is it my liability.

    Apr 18, 2012 at 7:19 pm
  • Anne C. Hanna

    Andrew, if you’re going to get all tetchy about the government providing social services that you don’t personally directly benefit from right this moment, despite the fact that having these social services available demonstrably makes a society a better place for everyone in it, you’re welcome to stop parasitizing the relatively humane community us decent folks are working so hard to maintain here in the U.S. and go off and live in one of the countries that actually practices the nastiness you preach. You will find that pretty much every single country with fewer social services than the U.S. is actually a worse place to live than here, even for the very wealthy; you might want to think about whether there’s a reason for that.

    If you think that’s not true, I challenge you to find a single country that manages to be even remotely comparable in freedom and standard of living to the U.S. while providing fewer social services in the particular way that you’re advocating. I have yet to have a conservative successfully answer this challenge; for the most part they just dance around it and ignore it. Can you do any better than your brethren, or are you going to join them in their denial?

    Apr 18, 2012 at 10:52 pm
  • Kathryn K.

    I just wanted to say, if you’re worried about tampons because of the mold thing or the TSS risk and, like me, find that menstrual cups aren’t quite your style, you might try some of the cloth pads over at Party in my Pants (I believe it’s www.partypantspads.com). They have a deal where you can get your first one free to see if you like them and I have to say, they are waaay more comfortable than anything else I’ve found (especially the flannel ones!). I’ve had mine for something like a year and a half now, and I haven’t run into any issues machine washing and drying them (they don’t require any special care, you just toss them in with your regular load), and I’ve never had them leak or anything like that. You should definitely check them out.

    Apr 19, 2012 at 11:52 am
  • tracieh

    >Creatures have rights according to their capacity to suffer.

    Within their own societies. I do not, for example, have any “rights” within a wolf pack, as a human. And I have no “rights” among a pack of chimpanzees. They have their own social contract, in which I am unable to participate, because I am another species. Social animals socialize with other members of their own species. Society endows rights and with those rights come obligations. I could have a pet, for example, but it would be unable to contract with me as far as rights and obligations exist in a society. We can pass laws obligating me to them or protecting them from harm, but we lack the capacity to give them anything within human society that could reasonably be compared to a “right”–because they can’t grasp the contract. The reason we accept humans who lack this capacity is, quite literally, that we, as social creatures, extend it to others within our species–just as the other social species noted above. They will, as they can, protect even a member that requires help; however, they are not often capable of providing it the ability to live in the way humans can do for other humans. But social groups rely on recognition of “the other” as “myself.” We are biologically driven to recognize other humans (even more than other animal faces, if tests on infants can be trusted). By all indication, the delineation, for providing rights to another, appears to be “are you the same species as me?” Social species demonstrate this again and again when drawing lines for societies and social contracts. You don’t see wolves hunting with bears in a cooperative way or offering up part of their kill to a bear mother and cubs as a nice social gesture, just as an example.

    Ted Bundy was capable of suffering, but was stripped of all his rights by the state the day he was executed. He was judged to have forfeited those rights by going out and indiscriminately and repeatedly raping and killing the other members of his society. I see no indication that suffering is related to rights. It may be related to other things–such as legal protections; but that’s very different than a right. One should not confuse a law, for example, that protects a dog from inhumane treatment as being a “right” to humane treatment. The dog has no right in human society. Again, that is not to say it cannot be afforded protections. My car is afforded protection under the law from a stranger keying it. But my car has no “right” to not be keyed by a nonowner–to suggest that is what that protection implies would be nuts. And yet it’s protected from molestation by almost every human being in society (with the exception of the owner) under penalty of law.

    Apr 19, 2012 at 6:19 pm
  • Muzz

    From “taxation is theft” to “feminists! check your premises!” in but a few short lines.

    Apr 20, 2012 at 5:22 am
  • Anne C. Hanna

    Sorry this response is so delayed. There’s only so much energy I can devote to arguing on the internet before I have to let real life take over for a while.

    In any case…

    Wolves don’t have rights with respect to a wolf pack any more than humans do, because wolf packs don’t work in terms of “rights” and “obligations”. They do have social structures, and they will sometimes partially incorporate a human or a dog into their social structure and give them roughly comparable treatment to what other wolves receive to within the limits of the human’s or dog’s capacity to conform to their social structure (and in fact this is roughly what I’m suggesting humans should do for wolves). But none of this involves “rights” or “obligations”, because that’s not how wolf packs work.

    So it doesn’t make much sense to say that because you don’t have any rights with respect to a wolf pack, wolves shouldn’t be seen to have rights with respect to a human society. A wolf pack is a situation where rights simply don’t exist at all, so it’s meaningless to make the comparison (not to mention that it seems rather like a naturalistic fallacy to say that because wolves don’t grant rights as such to members of other species, we shouldn’t do so either). Moreover, you yourself have already admitted, by including children and mentally incapacitated adults as rights-bearing individuals, that we already do not base possession of rights on the creature’s capacity to recognize or socially contract for those rights. So why, then, should we base rights-possession on species?

    On its face, it seems like a pretty arbitrary distinction, and you’ve made no significant defense of it. What if we lived side-by-side with neanderthals or denisovans? Would you deprive them of rights because they’re not human? What about homo erectus, or homo floresiensis, or homo habilis? Where’s the cutoff where we decide that they shouldn’t have rights? Hell, for that matter, what about modern humans who live in hunter-gatherer societies which may not have complex legal constructions of rights like our own does? An American going to visit one of those societies might not have “rights” with respect to that society either, but surely you wouldn’t say that that justifies saying that the members of that society can have no rights with respect to our own. For that matter, what if we meet sentients from another world? Should we deny them rights because they are non-human? This whole notion of rights as being something that only humans can have in a human society just doesn’t wash once you start looking at it more closely.

    In my opinion, since we humans are the only ones we know of who go around defining what rights are and who has them, we can define them in whatever way we decide works best, and we ought to define them without making arbitrary distinctions between “us” and “others”. Distinctions should be based on capacities and needs, not on some insecure need to find a way to put (modern, western, white, male, hetero, cis, etc.) humanity on a pedestal. “This is the way we’ve always construed rights,” is no excuse. We need to consider this rationally from the ground up, and I think Singer is at least making a decent start at that, even though I don’t agree with everything he says. I really think you should give his writings a chance (assuming you haven’t done so yet) before you dismiss the whole notion.

    May 12, 2012 at 4:57 pm
  • ptittle

    Check out Christopher Taffen’s novella What Happened to Tom. It’s about a guy who wakes up to find his body’s been hijacked — he’s been turned into a human kidney dialysis machine. But it’s actually an allegory for forced pregnancy. (He has to stay connected for nine months or the other guy dies.) And it brings home, in step-by-step detail, what happens when you don’t have access to contraception and/or abortion. A must-read. (for everyone who just doesn’t get it.)

    Jun 13, 2012 at 12:41 am

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