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Hawaii Legislature

A new bill passed by the Hawaii legislature, now requires pro-life pregnancy assistance centers to notify clients that the state does do free abortions if they choose.

The pro-life community in Hawaii was dealt a hard blow Tuesday night, when Gov. David Ige allowed a new bill to be passed making pro-life centers advertise abortions. The bill now requires all pro-life pregnancy assistance centers to notify each client that the state does offer abortions for free, and a link to find out how to schedule one. Further, each of the centers must ask also have a sign with the statements:

“This clinic does not provide abortion services or abortion referrals. Only ultrasounds performed by qualified healthcare professionals and read by licensed clinicians should be considered medically accurate.

Hawaii has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services including all FDA-approved methods of contraception, prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women.

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To apply for medical insurance coverage that will cover the full range of family planning and prenatal care services, apply on-line at mybenefits.hawaii.gov.”

Not only that, the state does not provide any money to any of the five pregnancy centers, although, abortion clinics do get tax grants.

Further, pregnancy centers found to be in noncompliance with the law, will be assessed a $500 citation for the first offense, and a $1,000 fine for each additional offense. The law was mirrored after a California law that went into effect January 2016.

Under the Reproductive Fact Act in California, all 75 pro-life pregnancy centers that do ultrasounds, must post or distribute a legal disclaimer stating that Medi-Cal insurance does cover abortion in some cases. They must also give out the phone number to county services where they can arrange to have an abortion. The California law was deeply contested, and was mirrored after a Baltimore law in 2009 that was ultimately considered unconstitutional. In the end, the California law was challenged, and upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last October.

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Hawaii operates under the same appeals court, so it is unlikely that an appeal would overturn it. However, all of pregnancy centers are Christian based and funded, with one of them even operating out of a church.

Religious rights advocates groups, such as Alliance Defending Freedom, Family and Life Advocates, and the American Center for Law and Justice are working to appeal the law anyway on religious grounds.

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Aloha Pregnancy Care and Counseling Centers is one of the state’s five pro-life centers. They will now have to advertise that the state offers free abortions, and provide contact information if asked.

“Like the California law, this law violates the fundamental constitutional rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion,” National Institute of Family and Life Advocates President Tom Glessner wrote to supporters Tuesday.

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They group considers the 9th Circuit just a stepping stone to the Supreme Court, where they see the case needs to go. They have also taken on the challenge to the California law in a separate case, and believe that they could be in the Supreme Court as early as the fall.

“The matter is clear—if we win our case against California at the Supreme Court, then we will also win the Hawaii case. Failure is not an option for us,” Glessner continued.

Then, there is Illinois that has passed a somewhat similar bill. The Illinois Healthcare Right of Conscience Act of 2016 said that all pro-life medical professionals, must provide counsel on the “benefits,” of abortion. They must also refer patients directly to abortion providers if the patient chooses.  Failure to do so, can open them up to a civil lawsuit.

McDermott

State Republican Representative Bob McDermott argued that if a Christian organization believed it was wrong to have an abortion, then they shouldn’t have to advertise it. But the whole case, he said, was about Planned Parenthood losing money.

The Alliance Defending Freedom and the Thomas Moore Society are challenging the Illinois law, and they expect to see victory in that state.

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These are not the first to try such tactics. Other local authorities have tried to pass similar laws and failed—such as in New York City, Austin, and a lengthy case in Montgomery, Maryland ended with a taxpayer payout of over $300,000 in attorney fees.

The Hawaii litigators are hopeful because the notoriously liberal 9th Circuit Court has seen about 80% of its decisions revered by the Supreme court.

During the committee hearing for the Hawaii bill, pro-life communities were certain it was politically motivated. The pregnancy assistance centers even found themselves excluded from testifying before the Senate Committee, as the state voted to dismantle their ministries.

“The fact that we did not have a voice in that decision is very concerning,” Joy Wright, executive director at Malama Pregnancy Center, told the Daily Signal. “Even if they’re for the bill, it’s very important that we have a voice. We are abiding by the process put together by the state Legislature, and so if it’s not followed through on the other side, then we have a problem that needs to be addressed.”

Although Representative Bob McDermott hit the nail on the head with his testimony before the Committee.

“Ultimately, what was the whole point of this whole thing? Where did it come from? Why is it even before us? It’s before us because there’s Christian centers that offer alternatives to abortion,” McDermott said. “They don’t believe in abortion. So, a woman comes in there and they’re encouraging, they offer alternatives but they don’t do abortions. And that’s what this is about.These pregnancy centers offer the ultrasound … the young lady will not have the abortion—she won’t—and Planned Parenthood loses money.”

Yep. That’s what this is all about. Money. If Planned Parenthood is being defunding by Congress, the pro-choice rally is not going to go quietly. The bill, as it stands, goes into effect Wednesday.