What happened to “get your laws off my body” and “get the government out of my doctor’s office”? Advocates of governmental intrusion into healthcare have re-introduced a bill from the last session that would force healthcare providers to offer rape victims emergency contraception as standard procedure–at the taxpayer’s expense.

The measure, HB 127, HD 1 (HCSR 209), requires hospitals and providers to provide survivors of sexual assault with “medically and factually accurate and unbiased information regarding emergency contraception, as well as access to emergency contraception.” This requirement is being marketed under the guise of “compassionate care.”

Victims of rape and intimate partner violence deserve compassionate care, however, emergency contraception drugs could actually harm the very women they are intended to help by causing nausea, vomiting, headaches, breast tenderness, dizziness, fluid retention, abdominal pain and irregular bleeding. Depending on when it is taken, emergency contraception can also result in early abortion. The bill does not specifically require that patients be informed of these risks to obtain informed consent. We believe that women deserve better.

We are concerned that among other problems with the bill, the language, which is very broad, could include be interpreted to include pregnancy resource centers. Under the paragraph “Compassionate Care”, it looks like the definition of “hospital” has been expanded to include anyone who helps women who may have had a “sexual encounter.” The bill defines ”sexual assault” as someone who alleges sexual penetration.

Another problem with this bill is that it fails to provide a healthcare right of conscience exception for hospitals or individuals who object to offering emergency contraception for medical, ethical, moral, or religious reasons. Passage of this bill would almost certainly pose a problem to re-opening the two Catholic-owned (now bankrupt) hospitals, Hawaii Medical Centers East and West (see related article).  If this bill is passed, it will trample the conscience rights of individual healthcare providers, including doctors, nurses, and pharmacists. It will also give the imprimatur of governmental authority to those who do not consider EC to be an abortafacient to recommend it to patients, rather that simply offering it as one of multiple options.  (We’ve heard from several women who were told they “had” to take EC by nurses or others in the emergency room, with no effort to explain the pros and cons in a rational way.)

Those who refuse face penalties by state government and could risk discipline from their own employers and would be subject to fines of $1,000 for each separate instance. This sets a dangerous precedent by allowing the government to mandate what healthcare providers must do, violating individuals’ constitutional rights and in effect practicing medicine (see related video). Without a “right of conscience” exception HB 127 is a clear violation of several federal laws including the 2005 Weldon Amendment and  42 USC § 238nwhich reads:

The Federal Government, and any State or local government that receives Federal financial assistance, may not subject any health care entity to discrimination on the basis that—

(1) the entity refuses to undergo training in the performance of induced abortions, to require or provide such training, to perform such abortions, or to provide referrals for such training or such abortions

Violation of these laws may place tens of millions of dollars of federal health funding at risk—exacerbating Hawaii’s budget problems. Moreover, patients will ultimately suffer as healthcare providers set aside their own best judgment and follow governmental requirements or leave the practice of medicine rather than violate their own consciences.

***We urge you to contact the Hawaii House Judiciary Committee members and submit testimony by Monday, January 23 to voice your opposition to the bill. Those also able to attend the hearing and verbally testify are encouraged to do so.***

Persons wishing to offer comments should submit testimony at least 24 hours prior to the hearing with a transmittal cover indicating:
· Testifier’s name with position/title and organization;
· The Committee the comments are directed to;
· The date and time of the hearing;
· Measure number; and
· The number of copies the Committee is requesting.

While every effort will be made to copy, organize, and collate all testimony received, materials received on the day of the hearing or improperly identified or directed to the incorrect office, may be distributed to the Committee after the hearing.

Submit testimony in ONE of the following ways:
PAPER:  3 copies (including an original) to Room 302 in the State Capitol;
FAX:       For comments less than 5 pages in length, transmit to 586-6211(for Oahu) or 1-800-535-3859 (for Neighbor Islanders without a computer to submit testimony through e-mail or the Web);
EMAIL:  For comments less than 5 pages in length, transmit to JUDtestimony@capitol.hawaii.gov; or
WEB:      For comments less than 4MB in size, transmit from the Web page at http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/submittestimony.aspx.

Testimony submitted will be placed on the Legislative Web site after the hearing adjourns. This public posting of testimony on the Web site should be considered when including personal information in your testimony.

If you require special assistance or auxiliary aids and/or services to participate in the House public hearing process (i.e., sign or foreign language interpreter or wheelchair accessibility), please contact the Committee Clerk at 586-6210 or email your request for an interpreter to HouseInterpreter@Capitol.hawaii.gov at least 24 hours prior to the hearing for arrangements.  Prompt requests submitted help to ensure the availability of qualified individuals and appropriate accommodations.

Selected meetings are broadcast live. Check the current legislative broadcast schedule on the “Capitol TV” Web site at www.capitoltv.org OR call 536-2100.


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