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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, August 8, 2005

1916-2005: Joan Hayes fought to make abortion legal

By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer


Joan Hayes championed a woman's right to choose, helping Hawai'i become the first state to legalize abortion, and other significant causes such as noise control and mandatory leasehold conversion in her 25 years here as a lobbyist and politician.

Hayes, who died Saturday at her San Francisco home at age 89, is remembered by her son, Bay Area-based attorney Anthony "Tony" David, as "a real hero."

In San Francisco, Hayes remained active in civic affairs as part of the 16,000-member Commonwealth Club of California, the nation's oldest and largest public affairs forum, said Bob Hewett, her husband of 22 years. "She was a great advocate for women's rights," said Hewett, retired director of the East-West Center's Institute of Culture & Communication, who moved from Hawai'i to San Francisco with his wife in 1993.

David described his mother as "a woman of great dignity, very quiet and greatly obstinate. When she believed in something, she was very persistent in an elegant way."

His mother came to Hawai'i in January 1968 with her second husband, the late John N. Hayes, who had been assigned by the U.S. State Department to its reception center here.

A Cincinnati native who grew up around Boston, Joan Hayes earned a scholarship to Radcliffe College and graduated in three years with honors in sociology and economics, accumulating a straight-A record. She married but by 1949, David said his mother was a single parent who had written for Flying magazine; done research and copy writing for legendary broadcast newsmen Edward R. Murrow and Eric Severid; authored a book, "Inside the State Department"; and was managing editor of "Foreign Service Journal."

It was then that she became involved in congressional lobbying.

"It was a male occupation and she became one of the first, if not the first, registered women lobbyists," said David, who noted that his mother was working for mail-order houses as a lobbyist to keep postal rates down. She worked in Washington, D.C., for six years.

"When she came to Hawai'i, she was deciding what to do and got into citizen lobbying," David said. "I don't know how or why, but right-to-choose became important to her. She was going around talking about the danger to women by keeping abortion illegal."

Hayes represented the Hawai'i chapter of the American Association of University Women in successfully lobbying the 1970 Legislature to repeal the state law making abortion a crime. In so doing Hawai'i became the first state to allow abortion on demand.

Hayes was interested in running for political office in 1970 but could not because Hawai'i had a three-year residency requirement at the time.

On behalf of his mother, David challenged the residency law in Hayes v. Gill but the Hawai'i Supreme Court upheld the statute on a 4-1 decision.

But in 1972 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down such residency requirements as unconstitutional, David said.

Hayes also challenged the policy of trucks collecting garbage in Waikiki at 4 a.m. as a violation of the noise code. The challenge was expanded to air-conditioning units on the roofs of high-rises and she collected evidence by using sound meters.

The founding of Citizens Against Noise in 1970 led to noise-control legislation.

Hayes served the Ala Wai-Waikiki district of the state House for three terms, winning elections in 1982, 1986 and 1988.

Hayes supported leasehold conversion when it was a hot issue in the 1990 election.

"She always had a cause; it was a big part of her life," Hayes' longtime friend Helen Puhl said. "Joan was a strong-willed person, but she was always fighting for what she believed was good for the people.

"She was a big advocate for the fight against breast cancer," Puhl said. "That's because her mom had it and her daughter had it."

Another friend, Helga Frankel, recalled that "in a quiet way, she managed to achieve so many things. She made people aware about concerns, such as noise, she felt they shouldn't just accept."

Hayes was recognized with a Thomas Jefferson Award in 1977, a National Volunteer Activist Award in 1977 and a Hawai'i Women's Political Caucus Award in 1989.

The Advertiser once described Hayes as a "political miracle worker."

Her family scheduled a private service today in San Francisco and celebration of life Aug. 20 in San Francisco.

Hayes is also survived by son Steven David of San Francisco and four grandchildren.

Reach Rod Ohira at 535-8181 or rohira@honoluluadvertiser.com.