HONOLULU, HAWAII – The House Committee on Judiciary today passed out a measure (House Bill 127 House Draft 1) that would require hospitals and health care providers to provide information about emergency contraception to women who have been sexually assaulted, and to dispense the medication when requested.
“Our committee decided to side with the victims on this bill,” said Rep. Gilbert Keith-Agaran, chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary. “When these victims of sexual abuse arrive in any hospital or emergency room, they should be entitled to the recognized standard of care and the opportunity to take advantage of all medically approved treatments and services.”
Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have already passed similar legislation.
House Bill 127 House Draft 2 will include the recommendation by Rep. Bob Herkes to list mobile units under the definition of “providers”. Several testifiers during the hearing noted that access to emergency contraceptives for sexual assault victims is more problematic on the neighbor islands because of limited emergency room choices and 24-hour pharmacies. The effective date of the measure was changed from July 1, 2050 to July 1, 2012.
Although not present at the hearing, the Department of Health opposed the bill, citing high costs in implementing an emergency contraceptive system.
Representatives Joe Souki and George Fontaine voted no on the bill. Reps. Mele Carroll and Rida Cabanilla were excused. The measure will now go to the House Finance Committee for consideration. If the bill is given a hearing in Finance, the concerns of the Department of Health will most likely be discussed.
Submitted by Rep. Gilbert Keith-Agaran