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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, June 10, 2005

Vincent Hisaki Yano, 83, former state senator

Advertiser Staff

Vincent Hisaki Yano, a former state senator, one-time candidate for lieutenant governor and a retired attorney, has died. He was 83.

Vincent Yano

Born in Honolulu, Yano was a graduate of Harvard Law School and a prominent Catholic who served two terms in the state Senate from 1962 to 1970. He lost to George Ariyoshi in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor in 1970.

The father of 10 children with his first wife, Eloise Takiguchi, Yano was president of Rubber Stamp House. He was the first attorney for the Legal Aid Society in Hawai'i and a civilian Army attorney in Japan. He was also a longtime advocate for mentally disabled children after one of his daughters had a disability.

Yano was a graduate of Saint Louis School and the University of Dayton in Ohio, both Catholic Marianist schools. He was appointed a Knight of St. Sylvester by Pope Paul VI.

His faith played a role in the toughest public policy issue of his Senate career, a bill that ended a century-old law that allowed abortion only to save the life of the mother. The bill, which made abortion a decision between a woman and her doctor, gained national attention since it was thought at the time to be the most permissive in the country.

Yano, as chairman of the Senate Public Health Committee, initially held up progress on liberalizing the abortion law but eventually supported an outright repeal. "After much reading and soul-searching, I am personally moving strongly towards the position that the present law should be repealed and abortion should not be a matter of legislation but a question of conscience between mother and doctor," he said.

Gov. John A. Burns, also a devout Catholic, let the bill become law without his signature in 1970. Tom Coffman, an author of books on Hawai'i politics, said Yano was under considerable pressure from the Catholic community. "He made the painful conclusion that the law should not impose moral and religious values on people's practices," Coffman said.

Yano died on May 11. His family held a private service.

Yano is survived by his second wife, Maureen; sons, Francis, Vincent, Michael, Thomas, Gregory and Robert; and daughters, Therese Yano, Katherine Aries, Clare Omid-Zohoor and JoanMarie Hughes. He is also survived by brothers, Edward, Gus, Kenneth, James, Paul, William and Brian, and sisters, Dorothy Nakahara and Mary Haruno. He had 19 grandchildren.