Hawaii's law on abortion eases
Gone are restrictions relating to hospitals and state residency
Gov. Linda Lingle has signed a bill modifying several rules under Hawaii's abortion laws.
The new law has drawn national attention on both sides of the issue, from proponents who say it is simply a much-needed update for state statutes, and opponents who say it is an unwelcome expansion.
Lingle, a Republican, announced her signing of the bill yesterday in a list of approved legislation, with a brief description of its provisions and no further comment.
The law removes the 90-day residential requirement for women seeking an abortion in Hawaii and a requirement that all abortions be performed only in a hospital.
Those changes are in keeping with U.S. Supreme Court rulings dating to the early 1970s and 1980s that found such rules to be unconstitutional, according to the Senate's committee reports on the legislation.
The measure also inserts into Hawaii law a paragraph clarifying a woman's right to abort a "nonviable" fetus or obtain the operation if it is necessary to save her life or health.
Six other states have adopted similar provisions, mostly during the 1990s, according to Elizabeth Nash, public policy associate for the Washington, D.C.-based, pro-choice think tank Guttmacher Institute.
Sen. Sam Slom (R, Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai) had previously called the bill that became law yesterday "an expansion and an enlargement of opportunities for abortion" in Hawaii.
Slom said that while abortions might have long been provided to nonresidents and outside hospitals in Hawaii, those abortions were not done with specific legal backing.
Kelly Rosati, spokeswoman of the Hawaii Catholic Conference, has said the conference was particularly concerned about the language removing the hospital requirement.
The Supreme Court ruling refers to allowing abortions in clinics and doctors offices only in the first trimester and the beginning of the second trimester -- but the new Hawaii bill does not include those limits, potentially endangering women's health, she said.
However, Annelle Amaral, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Hawaii, said beyond 15 weeks an abortion would generally require anesthesia and equipment clinics are not licensed to operate.