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.
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.
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.
I live to cross-post.