Thursday, January 25, 2001
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Posted on: Thursday, January 25, 2001

Legislature may tackle abortion

By Ronna Bolante
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

The heads of the state House and Senate health committees say they will consider hearings this session on two bills aimed at restricting minors’ access to abortions.

Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman David Matsuura said his committee will hear bills that would require minors to obtain parental consent and for physicians to notify parents before the abortion.

"We’re not outlawing abortion at all," said Matsuura, who drafted the bills. "It’s a parents’ rights bill. This should be a family decision."

Matsuura, D-2nd (S. Hilo, Puna), has introduced similar bills before, but they have not been heard. With his new committee chairmanship, he is able to schedule hearings.

House Health Committee Chairman Dennis Arakaki said yesterday that he would be willing to give the bills a hearing if they passed the Senate, or if an expected companion bill was referred to his committee.

Arakaki, who is pro-choice, said he would be more likely to support a bill requiring parental notification rather than consent.

"I think we want to meet the intent, again, of encouraging discussion," said Arakaki, D-28th (Kalihi Valley, Kamehameha Heights). "But you know, we don’t want to hurt anyone in the process."

Typically, bills seen as restricting a woman’s right to an abortion have languished at the Legislature.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Brian Kanno couldn’t say whether his committee would approve the bills or even hold public hearings on them.

"I guess those bills have never really moved in the Legislature before, but you know, we’ll definitely look at them." said Kanno, D-20th (Ewa Beach, Makakilo, Kapolei).

Matsuura said he is mainly concerned with minors’ ability to make informed decisions and cope with the psychological effects of choosing an abortion.

Barry Raff, executive director of Family Planning Centers of Hawaii, said the bills will restrict abortion rights and access to family planning.

Young women already are likely to delay abortions until the second trimester, Raff said, and the bills would further delay the procedure, which is safer in the first trimester.

"The intent of the bill is to mandate family discussion, and how can you legislate family discussion?" Raff wondered.

Arakaki also recognized concerns that the bills’ passage may compel minors to seek abortions illegally.

"The argument is always being made that we may drive some of these teenagers underground to access illegal operations and such, but I think ... the key is communication between parent and child," Arakaki said.

Matsuura, who is also vice chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said the proposal will include a provision to exempt minors from parental consent if a judge deems their family situations abusive.

Correction: Barry Raff, executive director of Family Planning Centers of Hawaii, said young women are likely to delay abortions until their second trimester. Because of a reporter’s error, a previous version of this story gave other information.

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