House approval reaffirms Hawaii's support of privacy
State lawmakers have advanced a bill to repeal a residency requirement for women seeking abortions.
THE state House's passage of a bill to remove an equivocal residency requirement in Hawaii's abortion law
takes care of a technical issue, but also serves to reaffirm the state's support of an individual's right to privacy and a woman's right to make profoundly personal decisions without interference from government.
The Senate should not hesitate to approve the measure despite unwarranted and alarmist claims by opponents of abortion that the state will be flooded with women seeking to terminate pregnancies.
The bill seeks to reconcile state law -- which decriminalized abortion in 1970, three years before the landmark Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court ruling -- before possible constitutional challenges of the residency requirement. Such requirements have proven problematic; most recently a federal judge rejected the state's ban on hiring nonresidents for state and city jobs.
Hawaii's actions to sustain its law is in marked contrast to what other states are doing as anti-abortion activists across the country push to eliminate or erode privacy rights.
The most prominent assault on Roe v. Wade has come from South Dakota, where earlier this week its governor signed an expansive abortion ban that denies the procedure to women who have been raped or who have been victims of incest. It allows an abortion if a woman's life is at risk, but not if her health is endangered, an ambiguous line for doctors to tread.
The South Dakota ban was passed as a provocation for overturning Roe v. Wade. Anti-abortion advocates hope that the high court's newest members, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, will scrap the 1973 ruling.
Other states that want abortion law changes have taken less confrontational tacks, mostly through creating restrictions like parental notification and regulating clinics. Some fear a direct challenge like South Dakota's will backfire since five of the nine justices are on record as supporting Roe v. Wade and a reaffirmation of the ruling would firmly embed the precept.
The bill before Hawaii legislators would allow the procedure to be performed in clinics and doctor's offices, which abortions critics say is unsafe even though many doctors already do so.
That such a matter would breed opposition speaks to the polarizing nature of the abortion issue. However, Hawaii residents have overwhelming favored a woman's right to privacy, as acknowledged by its pro-choice Republican governor despite her party's national position. Like her constituents, Governor Lingle recognizes that Roe v. Wade represents a foundation of Americans' right to privacy and individual liberty.
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