The Hawaii state Legislature considered two bills this week that would slap new rules on limited service pregnancy centers (so-called “crisis pregnancy centers”). These operations, though they sound like medical centers, are in fact offices that give anti-abortion information and advice to the women who go to them. For that reason, organizations like Planned Parenthood have denounced them in pretty strong terms.
“Crisis pregnancy centers often pretend to be real health care providers—but many are not,” states Planned Parenthood’s website. “These fake clinics often trick women with false advertising. They may make women think they will be offered unbiased information and a full range of health services. Crisis pregnancy centers also sometimes try to trick women by using names that are similar to the names of real reproductive health centers in the neighborhood. Many times, the crisis pregnancy centers are located very close to real reproductive health centers. This makes it easy for women to go to the crisis pregnancy center by mistake.”
This week, House Bill 663 and Senate Bill 501 came up for hearings (Feb. 2 in the House Committee on Health and Feb. 3 in the Senate Committees on Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health as well as Judiciary and Labor, respectively). Both bills take a hard line towards the centers.
“The purpose of this Act is to ensure that Hawaii women are able to make personal reproductive health decisions with full and accurate information regarding their rights to access the full range of health care services that are available to them,” states the text of HB663 (the companion bill, SB501, is virtually identical). “Because family planning decisions are time sensitive and care early in pregnancy is important, Hawaii must make every possible effort to advise women of all available reproductive health programs.”
Among other provisions, the bills require these centers provide a whole host of health information, including on the legality and availability of abortion, to all women they serve. They also have to post the following notice: “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. To determine whether you qualify, contact the appropriate Med-QUEST division eligibility office.”
Testimony on HB663 is split fairly evenly between supporters and opponents (testimony on SB501 wasn’t available yet online at press time; click here for testimony on HB663). Laurie Field, Planned Parenthood’s Hawaii Legislative Director, offered testimony.
“Anyone seeking health care should receive comprehensive, accurate, unbiased information in a confidential setting,” Field said. “Reproductive health care is no different. When women are fully informed, they are better able to make the best decisions for themselves about their personal health.”
One individual, Ghazaleh Moayedi, a physician at the University of Hawaii, John A. Burns School of Medicine, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Women’s Health, offered particularly strong support for the bill:
As a physician that also provides abortion care, I have many patients who fall victim to these pregnancy centers. I recently had a patient that received an ultrasound at one of these clinics for pregnancy dating. When she asked for the ultrasound report so that she could obtain abortion services, the clinic refused to provide her records to her. Another patient of mine had been raped, became pregnant, and presented to a local limited service pregnancy center for pregnancy options counseling. instead of offering her referrals for sexually transmitted disease testing, emergency contraception, and rape survivor’s counseling, she was subjected to a “counseling session” on why she should not have an abortion. This purported health center re-traumatized my patient.
In opposition to the bills, a variety of Christian organizations, as well as various limited service pregnancy centers in Hawaii (including Malama Pregnancy Center of Maui), submitted testimony on HB663. “[W]e believe all life is sacred,” stated Walter Yoshimitsu, executive director of the Roman Catholic Church in the State of Hawaii. These organizations rejected the view that the bills deal with medical issues, but instead offered that they limit their freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
Here’s an excerpt from the testimony of Joy Wright, executive director of Malama Pregnancy Center of Maui:
The underlying truth of this bill is not difficult to identify. H.B. 663 specifically targets Christian life-affirming nonprofit and privately funded pregnancy centers to; silence their voice and First Amendment right to oppose abortion, encourage potential clients to seek state funded programs that promote abortion, and lastly to force the center and its staff and volunteers to violate their convictions by referring clients for an abortion. It is a bias bill in that abortion providers and primary care clinics are excluded from the mandate. If lawmakers in Hawaii are proposing this bill, shouldn’t abortion providers post a sign notifying their clients of their rights, and alternative programs such as pregnancy centers that would allow them to exercise their reproductive right? Women are smart and deserve the opportunity to be informed regarding pregnancy decisions including the choice carry the preborn to term and to parent. Pregnancy centers do not charge for their services and clearly relay that they do not perform or refer clients for abortions. Thus, the client is not mislead regarding services offered. Many pregnancy centers including the Malama Pregnancy Center of Maui are transitioning to operating under a state licensed Medical Doctor with a licensed nurse on staff. Pregnancy centers are nonprofit life-affirming faith based ministries that care about women holistically, the preborn, men, and the family unit. Pregnancy centers should be afforded their First Amendment rights per the United States Constitution.
At its Feb. 2 hearing, the House Health Committee deferred HB663 until Feb. 7. There’s no word yet as to what the Senate committees decided on SB501.
Photo of the Malama Pregnancy Center of Maui: MauiTime