Denby Fawcett: Protecting Hawaii’s ‘fragile’ abortion rights after Roe

Like many women, I was stunned to read Associate Justice Samuel Alito’s leaked draft opinion calling on the Supreme Court to strike down Roe vs. Wade.

I was outraged by the possibility that five men and one woman could take away nearly half a century of federally protected women’s abortion rights, now recognized by women as a much broader freedom – the right to control their future and possible economic well-being. being from their family.

I felt sad about this giant step backwards, remembering how far women have come since my youthful days in the 1950s, when abortions were illegal in Hawaii and women were held back by dozens of ‘other restrictive laws, including a ban on having bank accounts, credit cards and mortgages in their own name.

At an abortion rights rally in Waikiki on Saturday, many speakers echoed the refrain: “We’re not going back.”

I love the forceful way New York Times opinion writer Maureen Dowd protested the power of five and possibly six judges to overturn women’s rights in the Dark Ages.

“It is outrageous that five unelected, irresponsible and relatively unknown political operatives posing as impartial jurists can so profoundly alter our lives,” Dowd writes.

Former President Donald Trump, who knew evangelical Christians would never accept his sinful ways, made a deal with the religious right promising he would provide them with a Supreme Court that would abolish Roe vs. Wade. And that’s where we are today. Waiting for that to happen.

Yes deer is annulled, the legality of abortion will be left to the discretion of the States.

Protesters gather at the entrance near the Honolulu Zoo in a rally and march to defend abortion rights.
Protesters gather near the entrance to the Honolulu Zoo in a rally and march to defend abortion rights. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

In an interview Friday, State Senator Rosalyn Baker said women in Hawaii can rest easy they will continue to have legal access to abortions no matter what happens in the High Court.

The right to abortion has been protected on the islands since Hawaii became the first state in the country to legalize abortion in 1970, three years before the Supreme Court ruling. Roe vs. Wade decision.

Hawaii’s Governor at the time, John A. Burns, refused to veto the bill; instead, he let abortion rights become law without his signature, even though he was adamantly opposed to abortions.

In a letter to the people of Hawaii, he wrote that a governor “must never allow his private political and religious beliefs to unduly influence his judgment as governor of all the people.” Burns believed that making abortions legal was the will of the people of Hawaii.

It’s important to remember that this happened even though Burns, a devout Roman Catholic, was adamantly opposed to medical terminations.

When his wife Beatrice, who has polio, was pregnant with their youngest son, her doctor told her she had to have an abortion to save her life. But neither she nor Burns would agree with that.

James Seishiro Burns was born, weighing a healthy eight pounds. If you’re wondering why the former Chief Justice of the Intermediate Court of Appeals had a Japanese middle name: the Governor and Mrs. Burns gave him that name to honor Professor Henry Seishiro Okazaki of Nikko Sanatorium, whose massages and treatments, according to the Burns family, helped Beatrice. survive her pregnancy.

It was a different time when more and more politicians seemed determined to make life better in Hawaii for everyone rather than trying to advance personal opinions or pander to special interests to benefit only others. some.

Anti-abortion advocates are now expected to try to curtail reproductive freedom, even in blue states like Hawaii.

Eva Andrade, president of the Hawaii Family Forum, said the pro-life Christian group is awaiting a final court ruling before deciding on a course of action. But, she said, “until then we will do what we have always done, which is to take care of women facing unplanned pregnancies and guide them to the services that will help them.” .

Senator Baker says, “We’ve had attacks on abortion rights before, but we’ve always held them back.

She remembers failed attempts by the Legislature to block grants to Planned Parenthood clinics and other bills lawmakers shelved that would have limited access to abortions.

“Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate have introduced bills almost every year to weaken our abortion, reproductive health, or education laws. Luckily they never got anywhere,” Laurie Field wrote in a text. Field is the former director of legislative affairs for Planned Parenthood in Hawaii.

But the forces against abortion are now emboldened. If the High Court rejects deer, 13 states are about to trigger laws banning abortions; other states already severely restrict access to abortion.

According to longtime Planned Parenthood volunteer Marjorie Au, despite the longstanding legality of abortion in Hawaii, the law has always been fragile and its future will always be subject to the whims of political change.

Planned Parenthood board member Cu Ri Lee says the right to abortion is currently the law of the land and well established in Hawaii state law, but its future cannot be held. for granted.

She called “terrifying” the possibility Republicans have raised in Congress to approve a national ban on abortion, even if such a national ban would face legal challenges.

People gather near the entrance to the Honolulu Zoo for a rally and march in support of abortion rights.
Although Hawaii was the first state to legalize abortion, women in neighboring islands still face the issue of access. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Lee says a key issue in Hawaii is the lack of access to abortion services, especially for women living on nearby islands where the only Planned Parenthood clinics are in Maui and Kailua-Kona on the island. from Hawaii.

For women who must pay for airfare and accommodation to access abortions away from their home islands, the expense can be financially daunting. And at the height of the pandemic, there were additional obstacles to travel between islands, such as quarantine and Covid testing restrictions.

Lee is a member of the Board of Directors of Planned Parenthood’s six-state alliance, including Hawaii.

Planned Parenthood says the organization is now focused on improving access to abortions on neighboring islands and is pushing for legislation to ensure abortion and reproductive health are available free to everyone in Hawaii.

As this fight rages on, you must be wondering why it has to be so. I respect the deeply held religious views of abortion opponents, but at the same time I wish they could resolve to back down and respect the rights of all women to decide their own destiny, especially when almost all states already limit how late a woman can have an abortion.

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