Atheist Sexuality And More Health Care Reform

Health care reform, round two. Can it happen this time? Also, 90s rock music and feminism, and an old and new pop star join forces to fight HIV.

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Links in this episode:

Limbaugh on health care reform

Fox News on health care summit

Mitch McConnell agrees to go

White House plan

Bob Marshall thinks disability is punishment for abortion

On this episode of Reality Cast, more movement on health care reform is spotted.  But will it amount to anything?  Also, a discussion with Greta Christina on an atheist view of sexuality, and a segment on NOW on PBS’s take on abortion and anti-choice Democrats.

Jessica Valenti posted a trailer for a show called “The Roe Effect” that looks interesting.  I’ll see if I can watch it soon, and if it merits a report on the podcast. 

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I’m guessing it’s a dystopian story, but it also seems very sad and very personal.  Which is the best way to tell these kinds of stories. 


Health care reform!  For those of us hoping for an Obama offensive, there is some hope on the horizon.  The White House released an 11 page document creating a path towards reconciling the House and Senate bills, and arranged a summit on Thursday with the expressed desire to hear Republican ideas, but mainly to show that for Republicans, ideas are something they prefer to keep an abstraction, and not move on.  Because of this, the conservative media machine was screaming one word over and over: Trap! 

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That was Rush Limbaugh, and what he says goes, apparently, because the conservative media started to echo the accusation all over. 

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That was Peter Johnson on Fox News.  I have a ton of examples of this, but I won’t beleaguer the point.  What I find baffling is that to cry “trap” is to claim the mantle of weakness and stupidity. The official line from Republicans filibustering the health care bill is that they want to pass health care reform, but can’t because Democrats didn’t listen to their super excellent, super secret ideas.  To say that an invitation to share those ideas is a “trap” is to basically admit that you don’t actually have ideas and were bluffing because coming straight out and saying that the 46 million uninsured in this country can kiss off and die is a bad political move.  That is 15% of Americans, after all. 

The outrage then, is at having the bluff called.  I’ve been a political junkie my whole life, and I wasn’t aware that there was some deep moral obligation, when your opponent is bluffing and engaging in deep dishonesty, to play along and allow them to win the argument by cheating.  Even if we are playing by poker rules, and bluffing is allowed, then since the game has reached an impasse and no more bets are on the table, then it’s time for Republicans to show their cards.

The funny thing is that no matter how much Limbaugh whines about this, and no matter how much Fox News echoes his whine, the actual politicians in this case know that refusing to show up would indeed send the signal that they’re weak and have no ideas.  So, even if this is true, they can’t miss it.  Mitch McConnell admitted as much. 

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Okay, that’s enough horse race watching.  What are the actual policy issues at stake in all this shifting and debate?  Well, despite the overwhelming popularity of the public option with the American people, that was not in the White House plans.  The whole point of the public option is to control costs through competition, especially now that insurance companies are just pushing through rate hikes left and right for no other reason than they want to have even more record-breaking profits.  Here, let the President explain. 

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However, as Susie Madrak at the link offered on the notes page pointed out, the Obama administration’s response doesn’t make a lot of political sense.  They’re wanting a federal board to control rate hikes for insurance companies.  This is instead of offering more competition.  Being the cynic that I am, I can’t help but think the choice is due to some lobbying by insurance companies.  Perhaps they fear competition more than regulation, because regulators can be lobbied but competitors not so much?  Maybe I’m wrong.  I hope so.


Insert interview


NOW on PBS did a program on the new influx of anti-choice Democrats, and how this badly damaged the health care bill and the process.  It was an excellent segment, interviewing providers, patients, and politicians like Howard Dean and Bart Stupak.  As usual, Stupak was a maddening blowhard who spoke mostly from ignorance about an issue he claims to feel deeply about.  But before I get to his comments, I thought I’d talk a little bit about the anti-choice taxonomy of women.   I developed this taxonomy after years of observing anti-choicers, and I’ve determined that they put women into three basic categories—the feminists, good women, and the dupes.

The feminists are the jezebels of this taxonomy.  We’re assumed to have no goodness in us, but to be motivated strictly for mercenary reasons, such as making money and wanting sex and other motivations that aren’t considered so evil if they motivate men. Call us unwomen in this taxonomy.

Then there are the dupes, who antis appear to believe are most American women.  They assumed to be stupid, and duped by feminist stories about liberation and independence.  But, according to antis, they don’t know what they really want and so they do things like get abortions because they’re too dumb to know that they really want to have the baby.  So they’ll have to be forced, for their own good.

Then there are the good women.  These are women that accept they’re too stupid to think for themselves, and instead follow the rules of a patriarchal church and submit to men’s direction and care.

I bring this up for context for one of Bart Stupak’s comments.

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Yeah, he all but patted us on the head, called us “little ladies” and accused us of crying as blackmail.  The complete disregard for women’s well-being is second in offensiveness only to the assumption that feminists are in this strictly for the money.  I can’t tell if Stupak thinks the anger is faked or if he just thinks the little ladies are hysterical, but either way, it’s clear that he thinks we’re full of it.  Which I would argue stems from a larger framework where women’s opinions and beliefs are considered illegitimate, at least when they differ from patriarchal instructions on how to behave.

Take Stupak’s image of pro-choicers as being sleazy jezebels who only care about money and don’t really care about other people and contrast that image with this interview with a clinic worker in Pennsylvania.

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Oh, but in Stupak’s world, she’s just some sleazeball who tricks stupid women into having abortions for money.  Look, there’s a lot of professions where these folks could make a lot more money if they had no moral stake.  They could be plastic surgeons or other specialists in narrow, super profitable fields.  Ones where their home address wasn’t being marketed to terrorists.  That they persist is due to their sincere belief, one I share, that women are full human beings who have a right to make their own decisions, and that women are not simply walking wombs. 

Stupak’s obliviousness and stereotyping extends far beyond that.  He dismisses concerns that women who want abortions won’t be able to pay for them, suggesting that there’s more than enough private funds for them.  I guess it’s because he thinks feminists are swimming in cash from selling out our femininity to the devil or something.  But in reality, the situation is quite dire.

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The simple-minded view of women that propels the anti-choice movement is all over this story, and is in my mind the most under-covered aspect of the debate.  If anti-choicers embraced the view pro-choicers have of women, as full human beings fully capable of making their own decisions, then their entire worldview would fall apart.  Instead you get folks like Bart Stupak, who spend a lot of time thinking about abortion without ever wasting a moment asking themselves if it is even possible that women are capable enough of thinking for ourselves that we can ask ourselves hard questions and come to different answers than the ones Bart Stupak demands of us.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, the Bob Marshall is a punishment for the state of Virginia edition.  Virginia State Delegate Bob Marshall, in making a speech trying to defund Planned Parenthood, said this: 

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Let me summarize, in case his point wasn’t clear: God makes disabled children to punish women for having abortions.  It’s hard to count his staggering number of false assumptions.  But let me make it clear, disabled people are people, not punishments.  And most abortions are not a woman’s first pregnancy; 60% of women getting abortions are mothers already.


Follow Amanda Marcotte on twitter: @amandamarcotte

  • writeoutloud

    I’m a little late commenting on this; I’m a bit behind on my podcasts. But, I was disappointed enough I felt it was worth showing up a bit late to the party to express my concerns.

    I was very interested to hear what Greta Christina had to say about the experience of being atheist in the progressive movement. However, I was turned off almost immediately by her belittling remarks about the Midwest. How long are East and West Coast liberals going to continue acting like everyone living in the Midwest is an uneducated, sexually repressed rube? I have lived in the Midwest for most of my life and I understand where the stereotype comes from, believe me I do, but as one of many well-educated, liberal Midwesterners it gets annoying to have to listen to the Coasters express surprise at discovering there are actually people in the Midwest (at universities, no less!) who are not freaked out by homosexuality.

    My daughter attended her high school prom with her girlfriend–along with many other same sex couples–without incident. She was never harrassed at school or around town for her sexual orientation. Additionally, one of the homecoming queen candidates at her high school was a lesbian (and butch, at that). She was escorted onto the football field by her girlfriend–without incident (to loud applase, actually). I know that our experience is not the experience of everyone living in the Midwest, but I highly doubt *all* of the coastal high schools are that progressive, either. So, knock it off!