Women would be required to be given “accurate and unbiased” information about and access to emergency contraceptives by HB 411, which passed third reading in the House on March 5 and has gone over to the Senate.
“Our focal bill for the last few years has been Compassionate Care–emergency contraception for sexual assault victims who present to an emergency room,” said Catherine A. Betts, executive director of the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women. “In 2010, a group of concerned organizations surveyed hospitals across Hawaii: Some reported no provision of emergency contraception, some offered it ‘sometimes’ and others did not know if they had a policy,” Betts wrote in an email to the Weekly.
The bill has been introduced for the past 16–17 years. It passed in 2005, but was vetoed by former Gov. Linda Lingle. “In the past, this bill has been opposed by religious groups, although emergency contraception is clearly not an abortifacient,” said Betts. This year, Eva Andrade of the Hawaii Family Forum testified, “This bill renews a constant threat against the rights of many Christian and pro-life institutions and individuals regarding their beliefs.”
Betts noted that the bill has generally received more than 100 pieces of testimony in its support. It looked as if the bill might pass last year, but it was never scheduled for a finance hearing despite the fact that it would cost the state less than $10,000, according to Betts.
Another bill, SB 532, would require employers to accommodate breastfeeding mothers by providing a private area other than the restroom for nursing or pumping milk. The bill would establish a fine for noncompliance.