On Bodily Autonomy

There are accidents and incidents
And surgeries and wars—
There’s a constant need for blood, and so,
We’d like to borrow yours.

You can spare a pint or so a month—
We’ll take it from your arm—
And to make the process easier,
I’m setting up a farm:

We’ll keep you while you serve your term,
Three-quarters of a year,
And harvest blood and marrow—
For the greater good, it’s clear

You’ll be saving lives by dozens
So you’ll gladly do your part
Sure, we’re forcing your donation
Still, it’s coming from your heart

You’re in servitude to others
It’s a slavery of sorts
But you’re saving lives, and so we know
You’re good and willing sports

You can put your wishes second
You can put your life on hold
You can meet your obligations
You can do what you are told

You claim rights we cannot trample
Or shout “Freedom!” till you’re hoarse
You have life inside your bloodstream…
If we have to, we’ll use force

To complain’s unpatriotic—
But extremists raise their voice
And they’ll blather “it’s my body”
And the foolish “it’s my choice”

If the state controls your body
Then that argument’s a dud;
For the sake of someone else, then,
We’ll be harvesting your blood.


I doubt I need to put this in context.


  1. Tualha says

    Cuttle, I’m under the impression you have a day job at a university somewhere, and therefore you wouldn’t need to do this. However, if you ever set up a Patreon account, I’d pledge. On the strength of this poem alone.

  2. qwints says

    I’m pro-choice and believe in reproductive freedom, but I’d be fine with coercive blood donation that didn’t require internment. For example, I could imagine a program that required everyone to either donate blood to or be excused by a blood bank in order to renew their vehicle registration. There might be excellent pragmatic reasons against it, but I don’t think it’d be a violation of a fundamental right in the way that forced birth is.

  3. Cuttlefish says

    No lawyer here, but if this wouldn’t be a 4th amendment violation, I’ll eat my laptop.

    4th and 5th, actually.

  4. Cuttlefish says


    My friend Kylie suggested the same thing a while ago, but I honestly have no idea what sort of thing I could reasonably deliver that would be worth pledging for. I’m too prolific for big donations, and too trivial with most of the stuff I write to consider it pledgeworthy.

  5. Tualha says

    Good point. Perhaps on the basis of each week that you publish at least n poems, for some n close to your median weekly output? Don’t know if they’re set up for that sort of metric, though.

    Come to think of it, though, being on Patreon might make it harder for you to maintain your anonymity…

  6. geekgirlsrule says

    Quints at #5 – Would this extend to penalizing people for engaging in behaviors that mean they couldn’t donate blood? Like getting tattoos or piercings? Or having sex with a loved one who might be HIV+ even with safer sex techniques in practice.

    There is soooo much room for abuse there.

  7. qwints says

    Only case I know directly on point is McFall v. Shrimp, 10 Pa. D. & C. 3d 90 (1978) (refusing to order someone to donate bone marrow), which is only a district court order and thus not binding on any court. Compulsory blood tests for marriage, and blood draws for DWI testing are accepted practices, though I don’t know if they’ve been tested in court. Reproductive freedom has much more explicit constitutional protection under the Roe/Casey right to privacy than a general right to bodily integrity.

  8. qwints says


    I’d have a problem with using it as an excuse to ban things people have a right to do like sex or self-expression, but that’s because I believe in an independent right for those things. You may be right that practical concerns preclude any such program from being a possibility. My point is that one doesn’t need to believe in an absolute right to bodily autonomy or integrity to support reproductive freedom.

  9. Chris J says

    Here’s a fun hypothetical.

    Suppose, as is common with some methods of in vitro fertilization, we happen to have a zygote in a petri dish. Ignore for a moment how it got there, all that matters is that it will be viable as long as it’s implanted into a womb within a reasonable amount of time.

    Are we morally obligated to find a someone with a womb and force them to carry this zygote to term? I would say the answer is pretty clearly no, even if you believe the zygote is a full human deserving of rights.

    You might argue that pregnancy is different because it involves removing a zygote rather than putting one in. However, if an abandoned baby were found it would be inhumane not to take them somewhere where they can be cared for, so if balls of cells are children you’d have the same obligation. Perhaps you’d pay people whose job it would be to carry orphaned cells to term. Likewise, for a child that has a parent, we accept that it is morally permissible to give the child up for adoption; we don’t force the parents to care for the child if they are unwilling or unable.

    If you are pro-life but think it would not be moral to force someone to carry the zygote, then you aren’t fully respecting that zygote’s humanity. Thus, to justify forcing a woman to carry a zygote to term that was there through sex, you are using some other justification such as how the zygote got there rather than the idea that the zygote is a full person with rights.

  10. Tualha says

    Well, it seems to me that much of the real reason for banning abortion (as well as not prosecuting rape more effectively) is to punish women for being “sluts,” or independent in other ways, instead of staying home under Daddy’s patriarchal wing until he hands her off to another male keeper; so I wouldn’t expect “pro-lifers” to be too concerned about that in vitro zygote. Might be find to watch them try to justify either position, though.

  11. trollofreason says

    A zygote is a person? Since when?

    There is no mind to warp or hurt. There aren’t even nerves or a cortex to feel pain. No blood to bleed or lungs to rob of breath. No voice or wail, nor stomach to pang. No skin to chill, no muscles to shiver. No feelings to hurt, nor eyes to cry. There is no potential for suffering, true or imagined in that tiny lump of cells until much later, and thus no humanity. None owe it anything, now, and especially no true person who would be hurt in letting it develop.

    On a potentially unrelated note: I need context. There’s some scary crap going on in America and elsewhere right now. Especially in prisons where no one who matters can see. Is this a pro-choice poem, or a prisoners’ rights poem? Both?

  12. Data Jack says

    Cuttlefish, two things:
    1) This is brilliant. Most of your work is, but this rises to the top.
    2) You can (and therefore should) set up a Patreon that is monthly, regardless of output.

  13. naturalcynic says

    Since I am suffering from kidney failure, can I demand a kidney from some healthy tissue matched donor ? Most people only need one and I will gladly return it if the donor needs it.


  1. […] utterly irrelevant to the point. The perfect woman, from the forced-birth point of view. We cannot force anyone to donate a kidney, or even blood, against their wishes, but this woman has no wishes, no will, no corporeal existence. She’s […]

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