The rights of female sexual assault victims were strengthened today as Gov. Neil Abercrombie enacted legislation to ensure that they are provided accurate, unbiased information about and access to emergency contraception when receiving emergency medical care at Hawaii's hospitals.
House Bill 411, relating to "Hospital Emergency Compassionate Care for Sexual Assault Victims," was enacted as Act 27, thereby establishing provisions that require any hospital in Hawaii to provide information about, offer and, if accepted or requested, dispense emergency contraception to a female sexual assault victim arriving for emergency services. Such services must be provided even if a female refuses to undergo a forensic examination or refuses to report the alleged sexual assault to law enforcement. Penalties are established for non-compliance.
"It is our duty as a society to ensure that any individual who has been traumatized by a sexual assault receives compassionate care, and this legislation underscores a woman's right to choose contraception when faced with the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy resulting from a sexual assault," Gov. Abercrombie said. "Due to the commitment and persistence of many local advocates and legislators -- some whose efforts extend back more than a decade -- this legislation will protect the health and safety of Hawaii's sexual assault victims and guarantee that they receive the medically accepted standard of care."
Similar to a measure proposed by the Abercrombie Administration (HB878/SB1109), HB411 was introduced by the House Women's Caucus, which includes Reps. Della Au Belatti, Rida T.R. Cabanilla, Mele Carroll, Faye P. Hanohano, Linda Ichiyama, Jo Jordan, Nicole E. Lowen, Sylvia Luke, Dee Morikawa, Cynthia Thielen, and Jessica Wooley.
A companion measure was also introduced in the Senate by Sens. Rosalyn Baker, Josh Green, Michelle Kidani, Donna Mercado Kim, Suzanne Chun Oakland, Maile Shimabukuro, Jill Tokuda, and Laura Thielen.
Former legislators who have championed the legislation for many years are Annelle Amaral, Marilyn Lee, Barbara Marumoto, and Hermina Morita (current chairperson of the Public Utilities Commission).
The state Attorney General's office reported that there were 350 reported cases of forcible rape in Hawaii in 2011. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, more than half of all rapes are not reported to the police. The average rate of pregnancy resulting from rape is between 5 and 8 percent with an estimated 32,000 rape-related pregnancies occurring every year in the United States. Emergency contraception is considered a safe and effective means of preventing pregnancy after a sexual assault and is recognized as the standard of care for sexual assault patients.
Other bills recently signed by the Governor include:
Senate Bill 409, relating to "Mahina "Olelo Hawai'i" -- Enacted today as Act 28, the measure was proposed by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to designate February "Olelo Hawai'i Month in Hawaii to celebrate and encourage the use of the Hawaiian language, an official language of the State of Hawaii. The bill was written in Hawaiian and translated into English. In February, Gov. Abercrombie proclaimed the month "Olelo Hawai'i Month through an executive proclamation. The measure makes the observation an official annual occurrence.
House Bill 868, relating to "Eliminating the Asset Limit Eligibility Requirement for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program" -- Enacted April 18 as Act 18, the measure was proposed by the Abercrombie Administration to remove asset limit requirements that were required for recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Previously, the law allowed a total of $5,000 in assets and the value of one motor vehicle in determining eligibility for financial assistance. Households must still meet income eligibility requirements. This measure encourages families to save money and build assets to enable self-sufficiency. The legislation is aligned with the Governor's New Day objective of developing asset-building programs that fight poverty, help families move toward self-sufficiency, and support the growth of the middle class.