Kansas legislature proposes the Slut Tax!

That’s effectively what this bill is – a bill that would levy a sales tax on women who have abortions, with no exceptions for rape or medical necessity (emphasis mine):

Buried in the 69-page bill being considered by the House Federal and State Affairs Committee are several provisions, in fact, that opponents say would increase taxes on those who seek abortions. The tax sections do not include any exemptions for women who want an abortion after a sexual assault, to end a dangerous ectopic pregnancy or to remove the remains of a fetus following a miscarriage — the latter of which is defined as an abortion under Kansas law, according to Sarah Gillooly from Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.

[…]Among other provisions in the proposed legislation are measures allowing doctors to withhold from patients medical information that might encourage them to seek an abortion and prohibiting malpractice suits if the woman or the child suffers a health complication as a result of information being withheld. A wrongful death lawsuit could be filed if the mother dies. The bill also would require doctors to tell women that abortion causes breast cancer and would prohibit state employees from performing abortions on the job.

Kind of sad that I’m spending International Women’s Day reading stories about my rights being stripped away and wishing I had been born a man.

Pfft, the Hippocratic Oath doesn’t apply to women!

At least, that’s what Arizona state Senators must think. They just passed a law allowing doctors to not inform women of prenatal issues in order to prevent abortions.

Some prenatal issues are somewhat or fully treatable during pregnancy or immediately after birth, through certain medication, surgery, or diet modifications. But I guess these Republicans are just so pro-life that they rather have a fetus or newborn with treatable conditions die, so that other fetuses won’t be aborted. Those fetuses typically being ones who will not make it to birth, die shortly after birth, die after a couple of years of severe agony and medical complications, or be so severely handicapped as to lower their quality of life and the quality of life of their family. Because it’s morally superior to force a woman to give birth to such a child.

No, I guess not just to force a woman to give birth to such a child – to force a woman to give birth to such a child AND to give her absolutely no warning. Because Republicans love the idea of doctors going “Surprise, your baby just died and we knew it was going to happen all along but didn’t want you to abort it!”

The bill still has to pass the House, but I hope the American Medical Association takes a public stance against it. Withholding such medical information from a patient is an egregious violation of the Hippocratic Oath.

Yet this is just yet another example of how fucked up the religious right’s War on Women is in the US. They force women to have medically unneccessary invasive ultrasounds on the grounds of “providing information,” and then just as easily hide medically necessary information. Because lawmakers totally know what’s best for women’s health. Not women. Not doctors. Fundamentalist Christian Republican lawmakers. Curious how “what’s best” always turns out to be “not having an abortion,” isn’t it?

How dare you say that, MRAs!

I’m offended. You probably remember Sandra Fluke, the law student who received Rush Limbaugh’s slut shaming vitriol because she wanted to testify in front of Congress about the medical benefits of birth control. It’s hard to forget her, since assholes keep coming out of the woodwork to trash her and other women. Well, MRAs are now asserting that she’s an aggressive lesbian pirate because in a photograph it vaguely appears that her ring finger is longer than her pointer finger.

I’m offended. My pointer finger is slightly longer than my ring finger, but I’m totally an aggressive Kinsey 1 pirate. How dare they deny my identity on the basis on finger ratios alone!


Prepare to rage

More in the vein of “keep your legs closed, ladies”:

Rush Limbaugh weighed in on the contraception hearings taking place in the House of Representatives, taking particular aim at Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke who testified about the importance of contraception coverage for the women at religiously affiliated organizations — like law students at Jesuit schools such as herself. Limbaugh’s take on the issue:

“What does it say….that she essentially says that she must be paid to have sex. What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right?It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex, she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the tax payers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? The pimps.”

In her testimony, Fluke was talking about hormonal contraception, and specifically about the medical reasons for having hormonal contraception beyond preventing pregnancies.

Audio here. I’ve got nothin’, folks. Just remember thousands millions of people agree with this misogynist asshole, and they vote.

Only in Indiana are Girl Scouts “radical”

Indiana was attempting to pass a resolution celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts. But State Rep. Bob Morris (R, of course) took issue with the resolution (emphasis mine):

State Rep. Bob Morris (R) wants to kill a resolution honoring the Girl Scouts because they are a “radicalized organization” that promotes “homosexual lifestyles” and funds Planned Parenthood.

In a letter to his fellow Republicans on Saturday, Morris said he would refuse to support a resolution celebrating 100 years of the organization because “after talking to some well-informed constituents, I did a small amount of web-based research, and what I found is disturbing.”

The letter, obtained by the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, says that the Girl Scouts of America and the World Association of Girl Guides “have entered into a close strategic affiliation with Planned Parenthood,” though “you will not find evidence of this on the GSA/WAGGGS website—in fact, the websites of these two organizations explicitly deny funding Planned Parenthood.”

“Nonetheless, abundant evidence proves that the agenda of Planned Parenthood includes sexualizing young girls through the Girl Scouts, which is quickly becoming a tactical arm of Planned Parenthood,” Morris wrote. “Planned Parenthood instructional series and pamphlets are part of the core curriculum at GSA training seminars.”

He continues that the Girl Scouts also let in boys “who decide to claim a ‘transgender’ or cross-dressing life-style” and, in general, promote being gay. “Many parents are abandoning the Girl Scouts because they promote homosexual lifestyles,” Morris said. “In fact, the Girl Scouts education seminar girls are directed to study the example of role models. Of the fifty role models listed, only three have a briefly-mentioned religious background – all the rest are feminists, lesbians, or Communists.”

Yes, all that cookie selling and camping is really a front for the Insidious Feminazi Agenda. I wasn’t a girl scout, so I had to go through elaborate rituals when I was older to prove that I was worthy. You should have seen the amount of women I had to turn into lesbians and all of those abortions I performed. So worth it.

On a high note, not all of Indiana representatives are totally bonkers. Morris was the only representative against the resolution. Obviously all of the other reps are easily bribed with Tagalongs (the best Girl Scout cookie by far).

Women should just keep their legs shut, amirite?

Republicans have gone a long time attempting to hide their motivations for being against contraceptives and abortion. But as the debates ramp up, their true colors are becoming more and more obvious. For example, take the discussion surrounding Virginia’s disgusting ultrasound bill (emphasis mine):

This week, the Virginia state Legislature passed a bill that would require women to have an ultrasound before they may have an abortion. Because the great majority of abortions occur during the first 12 weeks, that means most women will be forced to have a transvaginal procedure, in which a probe is inserted into the vagina, and then moved around until an ultrasound image is produced. Since a proposed amendment to the bill—a provision that would have had the patient consent to this bodily intrusion or allowed the physician to opt not to do the vaginal ultrasound—failed on 64-34 vote, the law provides that women seeking an abortion in Virginia will be forcibly penetrated for no medical reason. I am not the first person to note that under any other set of facts, that would constitute rape under state law.

[…]During the floor debate on Tuesday, Del. C. Todd Gilbert announced that “in the vast majority of these cases, these [abortions] are matters of lifestyle convenience.” (He has since apologized.) Virginia Democrat Rep. David Englin, who opposes the bill, has said Gilbert’s statement “is in line with previous Republican comments on the issue,” recalling one conversation with a GOP lawmaker who told him that women had already made the decision to be “vaginally penetrated when they got pregnant.” (I confirmed with Englin that this quote was accurate.)

That’s the same logic that animates the bill’s sponsor in the House of Delegates, Del. Kathy J. Byron, who insisted this week that, “if we want to talk about invasiveness, there’s nothing more invasive than the procedure that she is about to have.” Decoded, that means that if you are willing to submit to sex and/or an abortion, the state should be allowed to penetrate your body as well.

Santorum’s main donor puts it a little more crassly:

Appearing of MSNBC with Andrea Mitchell today, Foster Friess, the main donor to the Super PAC backing Rick Santorum’s presidential bid, dismissed the controversy surrounding President Obama’s new birth control rule by suggesting that women should just keep their legs shut. Asked if he worried that Santorum’s Puritanical views on sex and social issues could hurt the candidate in the general election, Friess offered a more home-spun family planning scheme:

FRIESS: On this contraceptive thing, my gosh, it’s so inexpensive. You know, back in my days, they used Baer Aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.

That’s the real reason Republicans care about restricting access to birth control and abortions. It has nothing to do with religious beliefs or concerns about the lives of cute little babies. It’s about punishing sluts.

How else can you reconcile the platforms of anti-choicers? If you truly were against abortion, you would be fighting desperately for comprehensive sex education and easy access to contraceptives – things that actually reduce abortions. If you truly thought abortion was murder, you would never make exceptions for cases of rape or incest. If you truly were concerned with women’s health, you wouldn’t use HPV statistics to scaremonger young girls about sex while simultaneously fighting against a vaccine. If you truly were pro-life, you’d want improved child care, education, and family leave instead of losing interest in someone once they pop out of the womb.

It’s simple. These people want you to catch STDs and have unwanted children, because you’re a dirty slut who deserves punishment. And they love babies so much that the punishment is babies.

Blogging makes a difference

Blogging can be frustrating. A lot of the time it feels like we’re beating our heads against the wall, replying to the same misconceptions over, and over, and over again. I occasionally have a low day where I wonder why I’m spending my time doing this if no one is “getting it.” It also doesn’t help that a lot of people like to poo-poo blogs as being wastes of time or circle jerks (though I never quite understood why circle jerks get such a bad rap). I think this opinion exists because you don’t see the feedback that we get in personal emails or buried in giant comment threads. And that feedback is what keeps me motivated, know I’m changing minds about issues I’m passionate about.

I got such an email from a reader named Matt the other day, which I think many of you may relate to, and he gave me permission to share it:

This email is something that I’ve meant to write, lingering in the back of my mind for a few years. I’ve finally been spurred to action by writing my “why I am an atheist” email for Pharyngula, and by telling an idiot friend on Google+ why “he” is not a valid gender-neutral pronoun. I want to give you sincere thanks, from the very bottom of my heart. You are singlehandedly the reason I consider myself a feminist instead of a men’s rights activist.

I know that’s kind of an odd divide. Let me explain.

I grew up in an environment one might reasonably say had a Republican/libertarian bent to it. When I was growing up, and even now, my mom was the type who–repeatedly!–claimed that the young, upper-middle-class, white male is the most put-upon ethnic group in modern America (I wish I were exaggerating). Suffice it to say I was led to believe I was in an “oppressed” group. The fact that I went to an all-boys’ catholic high school, overflowing with its male bravado, did not help. Add to all that my complicated relationship with my mom, which would go from amicable to adversarial in a matter of hours, and the result was potentially dangerous.

By nature I am kind of a shy, awkward guy, so when I got to college, it was a challenge to engage with women. Rather than try talking to girls, making mistakes, learning, and growing as a human being, I basically withdrew from the real world into forums and the internet. Obviously this made engaging with women (and eventually even men) seemingly impossible. It was a textbook catch-22. However, just being out of my parents’ house did get me exposed to other viewpoints, and it did make me realize there was more to the world than libertarianism. I began to understand how I wasn’t the oppressed prole I was led to believe. I still had a low opinion of women, though. My feelings aped the same depressingly common comments seen on MRA and PUA forums: “Why are all these women hooking up with guys who are not me (and are therefore assholes)?! I’m such a Nice Guy ™! My inability to interact with women couldn’t possibly be my fault! It must be them, not me! Me me me!”

There are two events which brought about the turning point in this story. First, in May 2009 I reconnected with a friend from high school who sent me a PDF copy of the PUA book by Neil Strauss, The Game. This was the first exposure I had to actual, someone-paid-money-for-this-crap pick-up artist stuff. I finished the book in a week, hoping for a clue to what I was “doing wrong.” Instead, I learned about the sleazy world of pick-up-artistry. Eventually, I decided to try using pick-up techniques. In what is hopefully a surprise to no one, I failed spectacularly, since PUA is about preying on people with insecurities and low self-esteem, and I tried using the techniques on normal, even confident, women. I didn’t want to date or hook up with someone with low self-esteem. Rather than ask myself, “am I doing it wrong?”, I found myself asking, “is this PUA stuff wrong?”

Around that time was the second event: I started reading your blog. I was using Google Reader to follow a few blogs and a bunch of dumb webcomics, and I searched for “atheism,” hoping to find the blog of some biology professor from Minnesota whose website name I couldn’t remember. Instead I found Blag Hag. Reading your blog was crucial in stopping me from a Mad Max-style nightmare future only with PUA/MRA forums. It made me realize a simple truth: “This woman isn’t some unassailable mystery, or some video game that responds to a proper combination of insult, backhanded compliment, quarter-circle-forward-fierce-punch… She’s like me. She’s a normal human being.”

As embarrassing as it is to type now, back then that seemed like a revolutionary thought. By the way you write, you made me pick-up artists as the manipulative shits they really are. You made me see men’s rights activists as the misogynist sociopaths they really are. Most importantly, you made me see feminism as something approachable, understandable, and ultimately, the only logical choice there really is.

Never stop what you do. Ever.

And it’s not just feminism. I got this sweet comment the other day from Timid Atheist:


Your blog and Skepchick were the reason I finally admitted to myself that I’m an atheist. I enjoy reading what you and other ladies in the community have to say and the majority of Freethoughts Blogs as well.

When I see this kind of mindless hate and scorn for people come from someone who calls themselves an Atheist, it makes me not want to call myself that anymore and that really upsets me because I thought I’d finally found a place where I could be who I am and enjoy discussing things with like minded people.

I hope that anyone who defends TJ comes to their senses. But I most assuredly will never endorse someone like that. TJ and anyone who agrees with him has no place in any part of society.

Thank you for continuing to do what you do best. And perhaps someday, because of people like you, I won’t have to hide that I’m an Atheist from my family and friends in order to keep custody of my child.

To all the Matts and Timid Atheists out there who send me lovely things like this – and I do get them quite a lot – thank you. I try to reply though I occasionally get busy and forget, but know that I do read and cherish every one.

The Catholic contraception kerfuffle

The Obama administration mandated that health insurers cover birth control, and the ongoing drama is being framed in respect of the repression of poor, poor Catholics. How dare the government infringe on their freedom to police women’s bodies through their religion, blah blah blah. The next time someone brings up the Catholic aspect, obliterate it with the following three points:

1. There’s no legal basis:

“At a more fundamental level, though, the HHS rule simply doesn’t violate a cognizable free exercise right. In 1990, the Supreme Court decided a case called Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990). Two men, members of the Native American Church, used peyote in their rituals. They were employed in Oregon as counselors at a private rehab clinic. Oregon outlawed peyote, with no exception for religious use. The men were subsequently fired once their drug use was discovered, and applied for unemployment benefits. The state of Oregon denied them benefits because – guess what? – they were fired for committing a crime under state law, and had committed work-related misconduct.

The case found its way to the Supreme Court, where the court set down a new rule. The standard for determining if a regulation burdened the free exercise of a religious adherent or organization was whether the law was neutral toward religion and generally applicable, lacking any pretext designed to obscure a hostility toward religious practice. The court even stated that to permit otherwise under the First Amendment “would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.”

The author of this religion-destroying opinion? Noted Catholic Antonin Scalia.”

2. It’s not even about religion, it’s about gender:

The polling data backs this up; Catholics and non-Catholics support requiring all employers to cover insurance in roughly equal numbers. In fact, Catholics are slightly more likely to do so than the general public, mainly because evangelical Christians are suppressing the overall support numbers; only 38% of them want the mandate. What we’re seeing here is fundamentalist evangelicals and fundamentalist Catholics using ordinary Catholics as cover to push a misogynist agenda. I know, shocking, right?

But there’s another aspect to this story I want to talk about. The polling data makes this clear that there’s no conflict between Catholics and everyone else. But there are two groups that show huge divergences in the polling data on this: men and women.

“However, women were significantly more likely to favor free contraception through employee healthcare plans at 62 percent versus 47 percent of men, while 54 percent of women agreed religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals should provide this coverage versus 43 percent of men.”

The religious arguments have no real effect on men’s support or non-support of it; they either think it’s a benefit or they don’t. And the majority don’t. The spread between men and women on whether or not contraception should be a covered benefit is 15 points. The non-existent spread between Catholics and non is drawing a bunch of attention, but here is the real story. The only reason this is controversial is that a majority of men oppose it.

3. Catholics freak out about birth control because it prevents pregnancy, but most women use it for other reasons:

I’m sure every religious person will change their mind about the situation after being confronted with evidence. Right?

Scratch the Amazing Atheist off your list too

EDIT: Ironically, I forgot to include a trigger warning. So…trigger warning!

The Amazing Atheist is a fairly popular YouTuber. I admit I’m not all that familiar with his stuff, just because I’m really not into watching YouTube videos in general – I much rather read something than watch it. But now I definitely won’t be checking him out, after this disgusting diatribe he launched at a rape victim on reddit:

“I will make you a rape victim if you don’t fuck off.”

“Yeah. Well, you deserved it. So, fuck you. I hope it happens again soon. I’m tired of being treated like shit by you mean little cunts and then you using your rape as an excuse. Fuck you. I think we should give the guy who raped you a medal. I hope you fucking drown in rape semen, you ugly, mean-spirited cow. Actually, I don’t believe you were ever raped! What man would be tasteless enough to stick his dick into a human cesspool like you? Nice gif of a turd going into my mouth. Is that kind of like the way that rapists dick went in your pussy? Or did he use your asshole? Or was it both? Maybe you should think about it really hard for the next few hours. Relive it as much as possible. You know? Try to recall: was it my pussy or my ass?”

“I’m going to rape you with my fist.”

“BTW, you have to admit, when I told you that I hope you drown in rape semen, you got a little wet, didn’t you? It’s okay. We’re friends now. You can share.”

“Fuck you, liar. All night you douches have tried to shit on me and tear me down. Then when I do the same it’s like, “Whoa man! That’s too far. Calm down.” No. Fuck you. Go get raped in whatever orifice you have to get fucking raped in. I am sick of your shit. I regret nothing.”

What caused this filth to flow forth from his fingetips? A male feminist (Lorrdernie) commented that they were surprised someone was against trigger warnings. Wow.

PZ has a thorough takedown already. You know, in case you needed it spelled out why threatening to rape someone is bad. But also if you wanted a little history about this Amazing Atheist character, including his latest YouTube rant which can be summarized as “feminists are castrating bitches.” He got me! The sex-positivity thing is all an elaborate ruse in order to draw men into our clutches for the sole purpose of castration. Or something along those lines. I haven’t read the Grand Feminazi Takeover Manifesto recently.

And I swear, if someone trots out a “Yes, but…” or tries to say that this is worse so what Penn did was fine… Well, I won’t threaten you like the Amazing Atheist did, but I will be cranky.

Update: The Amazing Atheist has responded to PZ, somehow trying to defend his behavior. What a toad.