By Jennifer Springer
HONOLULU, Hawaii: Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed a new law on April 22nd requiring all hospital emergency rooms in Hawaii to offer emergency contraception to female victims of sexual assault.
The new law requires hospitals to provide sexual assault victims with medically accurate, unbiased information about emergency contraception and to let them know that it's available if they choose. According to a press-release from the Office of the Governor, House Bill 411 establishes 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.
The state Attorney General’s office reported that there were 350 reported cases of forcible rape in Hawaii in 2011.
The bill, which aims to prevent pregnancies as a result of rape, has been a point of contention among lawmakers for nearly two decades, and many gathered to cheer on the governor as he signed it into law.
House Bill 411 was amended by the House Health and Judiciary committees before sailing through the Senate unamended. It was sent to the governor for signing on April 11.
Advocates of the proposal say the law is a step forward for women's reproductive rights and addressing violence against women. Critics argue that the law would infringe on hospital employees' right to freedom of religion. Critics have also equated emergency contraception to abortion.