Friday, March 13, 2009

Frank Antenori Speaks

This is a followup to yesterday's post about Arizona's new abortion-restricting bill that passed the state House, and Representative Frank Antenori's (R-not Tucson) memorable contribution to the annals of clueless paternalism.

To his credit, Rep. Antenori did call my co-worker back yesterday afternoon and they ended up talking for about 40 minutes. In a nutshell, our man Frank says he's not opposed to abortion and is simply trying to do the right thing based on the information that is available to him.

First, he discussed the nuts and bolts of HB 2564 and the process leading to Tuesday's vote. The initial House Health and Human Services Committee hearing on the bill in February was boycotted by Democrats, and, according to Rep. Antenori, a contingent of Planned Parenthood reps and other pro-choice allies walked out of the hearing without presenting their testimony. This left all of the testimony to anti-choice activists and pro-conscience-clause doctors and pharmacists, and their positions wound up being strongly reflected in the final language of the bill. House Democrats and, as far as I can tell, Planned Parenthood refused to participate because they view any abortion restrictions as unacceptable.

They (Antenori and my colleague) went back and forth on the proposed waiting period and mandated speech from the doctor. Antenori maintains that he is supporting the bill only because he wants the full range of information on the risks and benefits and availability of abortion, adoption, and social services to be available. As for the waiting period, he pointed out to my colleague that the state of Arizona gives car buyers a 72-hour period to change their minds and return the car, and requires a 72-hour waiting period before a woman who has chosen to give up her newborn for adoption can finalize it (safe haven dropoffs excluded, I suppose).

Antenori countered with an anecdote related at the HHS hearing about a woman who got pregnant and decided on an abortion when her boyfriend told her he did not want either the baby or a continued relationship with her and offered to pay. Because there was no waiting period, she had the abortion right away (she apparently lives in the mythical Republican land where women see the blue line on the stick, get the bad news from the boyfriend, and sprint to a drive-thru clinic for the abortion all in one eight-hour-day), and of course the next day the boyfriend said he'd changed his mind and wanted the baby and wanted to marry her and live happily ever after, so for want of a 24-hour-waiting period, a potential happy family was destroyed.

Some responses from me, after discussing the conversation with my friend... I am torn on Democrats and Planned Parenthood boycotting the HHS hearing. While I fully share their position that none of the proposed restrictions are acceptable (and in fact will only serve as stepping stones to a full ban), the refusal to take any part in the process, even if only to formally lodge our myriad detractions and rebuttals in the record, feels counterproductive to me and certainly felt that way to Rep. Antenori. Would it ultimately have made a difference in the final bill that came out of committee? I can't answer that. Antenori says he was open to and eager for all testimony in order to make informed decisions about the bill's provisions and language. Whether he is lying through his teeth about this is somewhat immaterial--our side can't claim we are being ignored and marginalized on this one if our chosen and self-appointed representatives never offered up anything to be ignored in the first place.

As far as his access to information argument goes, the full range of information is indeed out there and provided by places like Planned Parenthood. If Antenori is truly concerned with full disclosure, he should write a provision into the bill shutting down "crisis pregnancy centers" that pump women with patently false and slanted statements like abortion being riskier than full-term pregnancy and delivery, or abortion causing cancer, or abortion guaranteeing sterility and possibly suicide.

In response to Antenori's protests that Arizona gives you three days to change your mind on giving your baby up for adoption--or on keeping that new Hummer--my friend pointed out that there is a very real difference between a baby you've carried to term, given birth to, and then looked at and probably held in your arms and an 8-week embryo you have no intention of keeping in your body. She let him know that it's pretty disingenuous for a party that decries the nanny state to laud the government for trying to insulate people from the consequences of making decisions, which, as far as she can tell, is a big part of being a grownup in this country.

The best angle on the waiting period is perfectly illustrated by the story of the regretted abortion when the boyfriend changed his mind after the fact. Although it was intended to show why waiting periods are justified, it really demonstrates that waiting period proponents still place the agency for the decision outside the woman and make it contingent on the man's actions. The crux of the matter wasn't that the woman changed her mind--it was that the boyfriend did. And it was his attitude and promise of action/inaction that conditioned the woman's choice.

Finally, when we come to the main reason for my friend's call in the first place, the tidbit that's raised so much ire toward Antenori personally--his statement that the legislature has the duty to protect their wives and daughters from making decisions they may come to regret--he really didn't get it at first. He stated that he does support abortion rights, and in fact would support his wife or his daughter if they felt they needed to end a pregnancy. He just wants to be involved in the decision-making process. He doesn't understand the vitriol directed at his "duty to protect" because...

He thought he was being chivalrous.

His words.

And "I thought I was being chivalrous" perfectly encapsulates one of the fundamental misunderstandings--or at least inadvertent barriers to cooperation--we have with one segment of the voting bloc that would enact restrictions on a procedure that they don't even really disagree with in the first place. Claiming chivalry acknowledges an implicit imbalance of power, a structure in which members of the superior class occasionally deign to be champions of the powerless. Unfortunately, those champions tend to fight those battles on their own terms and toward their own ends, for what they define as their wards' benefit rather than for the ends those wards might have chosen for themselves if they had any say in the matter. Women do not need chivalry and its attendant self-appointed male guardians of female virtue. Simply put, we need equal agency to men and the ability to make decisions without anyone's input unless we request it.

So while I'm not convinced that Antenori actually gets it now, he's clearly open to conversation and possibly even an evolving opinion. If he's your representative, it's time to flood his office not with snark but reasoned arguments, because I think he'll at least think about them. It's also time to ask Planned Parenthood and the Democrats to stick around for the debate next time instead of assuming the opposition is monolithic and choosing theatre over the legislative process. Let's lean on the state senators, since they're our last chance at upending the bill in its current shitty state.


Anonymous said...

This is yet another e-mail I sent to Antenori- who, unfortunately is my representative:

Dear Representative Antenori,

I have written and called you over the last 2 weeks as my duly elected representative in Arizona.

I have received not the courtesy of a reply; however, I will try again.

I have a college degree with honors.
I graduated law school in the top 15 % of my class.
My degrees are from well known and highly rated universities.
I have significant life experiences including a very high profile career handling complicated mergers and acquisitions all over the world. In my career, I have been responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars. Additionally, I have been responsible for a staff of more than 50 people-again scattered all over the world.
I have traveled and read extensively and continue my education in various subjects such as philosophy, religion, history etc.
I am married and have children.
My IQ has tested at very high levels on standardized IQ tests.

Now, it has come to my attention that you believe that you have “a duty to protect either our wives or our daughters from making decisions that may come back to haunt them further down the road in their lives."

I am quite comfortable making my own decisions without your protection. However, since you feel I need protection, I would appreciate knowing what your qualifications are to so protect me. Perhaps you could take an IQ test? Or, perhaps you would be so kind as to send me your school transcripts? Or maybe your work evaluations?

I certainly would appreciate the courtesy of a response- as despite what you may think, women still have the right to vote- without your “protection”.

Rebecca Maxwell

Anonymous said...

I'm here again. I'm sorry I think ole Frank is being disingenuous. I tried to contact him- he is my rep. I tried to contact Gowan- my other rep. I contacted them both by e-mail and by phone, with my reasoned arguments at hand.
Neither bothered replying.
So it seems to me that good ole Frank has put his foot in it (and of course sent the bill on its merry way to the senate) and is trying to cover his ass.

Anonymous said...

There are a few things you folks need to know about Frank Antenori.

He does his homework, more so than most representatives.

He does listen to reasoned arguments.

I know him personally and yet I have trouble getting call backs and responses to emails. The reason is that he is on three committees and between the committees and reviewing and researching everything he votes on - as compared to the federal stimulus bill of $787 billion voted on without being read - he cannot respond to the myriad of people contacting him - he has a staff of one.

He tells the truth. He is a principled individual who will tell you what he thinks and believes, and will not twist what he says just to appease you. What you see is what you get.

I prefer to have someone in office representing me who is this principled, willing to work hard, willing to get into the issues, and willing to listen to arguments, than the current professional politicians who fill the landscape.

Frank does not follow party line and he has the scars to prove it. He is not the Pima County GOP Party poster boy. He is a conservative, but an issues oriented conservative, not a party line conservative.

You could do a lot worse with someone else in office representing you.

He has tentative plans to be at the Rita Ranch Family Fun Day at Purple Heart Park on the Saturday of Memorial weekend to listen to and talk with constituents.

Anonymous said...

I have a question? We adults already have waiting periods of all sorts imposed upon us by local, state, and federal governments for a number of actions we may take, as indicated in another comment. How does a three day delay in getting an abortion cause harm?

Homer said...

I think he is not telling the whole truth. The bill was already written when that hearing was held. The Republicans knew that had enough committee votes to pass it on to the whole house. The "hearing" was phoney, get those people in to testify and then vote on the already prepared bill. This is how legislation typically gets done in Arizona, as far as I can tell. You might want to call Steve Farley's office and get the Democratic side of the story.

Boltgirl said...

The only comparable waiting period I can think of is the 72-hour requirement to give up your newborn for adoption, which I think should be eliminated anyway given the existence of the safe haven dropoff program. The car-buyer's regret period mentioned by Rep. Antenori is in no way analogous, as it does not require a waiting period before a buyer can return an unwanted car.

Mandatory 24-hour waiting periods for abortion can effectively ban the procedure for women in rural areas who may have to drive long distances--say into Flagstaff from the Navajo Nation--and cannot afford an overnight hotel stay or an additional day off from work. And these long drives, by the way, are only exacerbated by increasing restrictions (such as barring NPs and PAs from performing early abortions) that limit the number of providers willing to work in Arizona. Women do not find out they're pregnant and get an abortion in the same day. It's logistically close to impossible. So any woman who finds herself with an unwanted pregnancy in all likelihood has already had at least 24 hours to think about it and come to a decision.

Are there other government-mandated waiting periods that impose similar hardships?

Anonymous said...

Sorry broken government, I disagree with you. He has the duty to listen to his constituents and he has not done that. Principled?? What kind of principle is it to make a woman's decision for her? I read his campaign promises- this violates every one of them- protection of civil rights? Access to fine health care? Protection of our privacy? Protection of our freedom?
Hmmmm, what principle was his YES vote protecting?
Also as Boltgirl kindly points out, the waiting period, the ability of pharmacists to NOT give emergency contraception- ALL works to deny women access to critical health procedures- procedures that are highly personal and often time sensitive.(such as emergency contraceptives) What other medicines can a pharmacist refuse to provide????? Are there any other medicines that a pharmacist may legally not provide? Heart medicine? Thyroid, medicine for depression. Nope- the law only applies to abortion and emergency contraceptives. Antenori's so called principles are discriminatory. And I for one will not accept a representatvive who discriminates against me because I'm a woman.

Melissa said...

I would love to hear your thoughts on a new bill sponsored by Mr. Antenori: HB2148 that gives preference to married couples in the adoption process. I'd like help to get this bill defeated. I'm not sure how to contact you other than here.