U.S. Supreme Court rulings in the last year that overturned a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion and limited states’ abilities to restrict firearms outside the home are spurring Hawaii lawmakers to draft measures that would shield residents from some of the effects in a state where abortion is protected and guns have been strictly limited for decades.

Hawaii lawmakers will consider several bills this session that would limit where people could carry concealed firearms and protect out-of-state residents and doctors who perform abortions from criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits elsewhere.

Hawaii has granted women the constitutional right to abortion since the 1970s. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Organization opened the door for states to independently restrict abortions.

So far, 14 have done so. Others have passed laws seeking criminal or civil liability for women who cross state lines to get abortion services as well as the doctors who perform them.

Deputy Attorney General Kaliko Fernandes spoke at an abortion rally on Friday. David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023

Former Gov. David Ige issued an executive order last year that protects those women and physicians from extradition and other penalties in their home states.

Sen. Joy San Buenaventura said she plans to introduce a bill this session that would put provisions of Ige’s executive order into law, which would prevent those protections from being overturned by a future governor.

Under the executive order, state departments were told to not provide medical and other information to states going after abortion service providers for practices that would be legal in Hawaii but illegal in other states.

Gov. Josh Green signaled support for those provisions last year. And during a rally at the Capitol on Friday, Deputy Attorney General Kaliko Fernandes said that the AG’s office would continue to “even further strengthen our state’s legal framework so that Dobbs and all the devastating changes occurring at the federal level do not interfere with our ability to obtain safe, timely and lawful health care services within our borders.”

Rep. Della Au Belatti, who chairs the House Health Committee, said reproductive rights, including the right to an abortion, are something the Legislature “will continue to fight for.”

Eva Andrade, president of the Christian group Hawaii Family Forum, which opposes abortion, declined to comment directly on San Buenaventura’s proposal, which wasn’t yet filed as of Friday afternoon. Andrade said that the governor’s executive order wasn’t necessary because of the state’s protections for abortion.

But San Buenaventura says the state needs to do more to protect its residents.

“I am for keeping status quo as far as reproductive rights for our residents here in the state of Hawaii and not have them subject to arrest just because another state says they are now illegal,” San Buenaventura, who is chair of the Senate Health Committee, said.

San Buenaventura also plans to introduce constitutional amendments that protect the rights to contraception and abortions necessary to protect health of the mother or of nonviable fetuses. A separate proposed constitutional amendment would protect a patient’s right to have information remain  confidential. If those measures pass the Legislature, they will go before voters in 2024.

While Hawaii has protected abortion rights, it’s also had some of the strictest gun laws in the nation.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in a New York case seemed to pry open Hawaii’s de facto ban on concealed carry. It’s also spurring new legislative proposals.

The Honolulu Police Department is asking lawmakers to create a new misdemeanor offense for negligent concealment of a firearm.

Hawaii lawmakers are also figuring out how to contend with a U.S. Supreme Court decision that cleared the way for concealed carry in Hawaii. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

“Having an improperly concealed firearm can cause alarm to people in the area and will result in 911 calls, burdening first responder resources,” the department wrote in the preamble to House Bill 119.

Hawaii County passed an ordinance limiting where a firearm can be carried. Honolulu is considering a similar measure. But the Legislature could enact a “sensitive places” bill that would cover the whole state.

“We never really had to worry about sensitive places because there were so few permits given to carry outside the home if you weren’t hunting,” Senate Judiciary Chair Karl Rhoads said.

Six hundred concealed gun permits were pending in Honolulu as of November. Just a few dozen concealed permits were issued on other islands, KHON2 reported.

Senate Bill 121, introduced by Sen. Glenn Wakai, would create statewide limitations on where people can carry concealed weapons. Under the bill, guns would be banned in the following areas:

• Government controlled buildings, excluding firing ranges, dwelling units and areas in buildings being used for gun shows.
• Hospitals, medical facilities, medical offices and medical clinics.
• Churches or religious assemblies.
• Public parks or recreational grounds.
• Child care facilities.
• Schools.
• Shelters, including those for homeless or juveniles.
• Universities.
• Public transportation and transit terminals.
• And “any gathering of individuals to collectively express their constitutional rights to protest or assemble.”

The House is also considering measures to limit where people would be allowed to carry concealed guns, including areas like public schools and public buildings, House Majority Leader Nadine Nakamura said during a recent appearance on “Insights” on PBS Hawaii.

Todd Yukutake, director of the Hawaii Firearms Coalition, said that the state should limit firearms in “obvious places,” like courts, government buildings and schools. But he takes issue with broad bans in places like parks and public spaces.

“Our main concern is that legal gun owners go through background checks, need to have a clean criminal record, have mental health checks, no history of substance abuse – but they seem to think we’re the criminals,” he said.

The concept of “sensitive places” where guns can’t be brought is being challenged now in another New York case, Antonyuk v. Bruen.

In November, New York District Judge Glenn Suddaby preliminarily stopped the state of New York from enforcing provisions on sensitive places, including behavioral health centers, places of worship, public parks and zoos, airports, places that serve alcohol, theaters, banquet halls, conference centers, assemblies and protests.

Rhoads, who co-sponsored the statewide sensitive places bill, plans to introduce one of his own that also includes provisions that generally ban guns in private places unless authorized by the property owner. Leaving the decision up to a land owner is something Yukutake also agrees with.

Yukutake said that parents dropping their kids off at school and teachers should be able to carry guns on school campuses.

House Minority Leader Lauren Matsumoto said that if Hawaii is going to create bans on where guns can be carried, those rules should be statewide. But she also questioned how far recent proposals have been going and said more stakeholders need to be brought to the table to determine where, if anyplace, bans make the most sense.

She’s also hoping for a more nuanced dialogue surrounding abortion, which — like guns — has become polarized in recent years.

“I think so often we’re pitted pro-choice, pro-life and there’s so much more too it than that,” Matsumoto said.

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