Abortion law change dropped
Opponents warned the state would legalize late-term procedures
State representatives turned away a change in the law yesterday that opponents said would have expanded abortion rights to make the procedure available up until birth.
Rep. Blake Oshiro, vice chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the bill was never envisioned as an expansion of abortion rights.
"We don't want to go down the road of dealing with partial-birth abortions," Oshiro said yesterday during a hearing. "That was a problem of drafting, and it was not the intent of this bill."
The bill had proposed crossing out the part of the law that defined abortion as applying only to nonviable fetuses.
Oshiro promised that before a vote is taken on the bill, a revised version will be prepared that will not change the definition of abortion in state law. The bill would then reconcile Hawaii state law with U.S. Supreme Court decisions to allow second-term outpatient abortions and remove residency requirements.
Concerned about the language in the bill, dozens of abortion supporters and opponents flooded the Judiciary Committee meeting to offer testimony. Most of them wanted to give opinions on the portion of the proposal that would have redefined abortion.
"I'm very alarmed that the bill would change Hawaii law to allow late-term abortions of viable fetuses at any time, for any reason, up until birth," said Kelly Rosati, executive director of the Hawaii Catholic Conference, before the committee meeting.
She later said she was relieved when Oshiro gave his word not to change state law with that part of the bill.
The changes in state law are particularly important now that there are two new justices on the U.S. Supreme Court who could overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision legalizing abortion, said Annelle Amaral, vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood of Hawaii.
If Roe v. Wade were revoked, abortion rights would be determined by the states, she said.
"There was no intent to expand this definition to late-term abortions," she said.
Some testimony objected to the bill's provision to allow women to get second-term abortions from doctors or clinics, in addition to hospitals.
"I think we're going to reduce a lot of the protection granted to women by expanding this to M.D.s and clinics," said Jackie Mishler, a nurse representing the Maui chapter of Hawaii Right to Life.