The governor also signed a new law that will make it easier for prosecutors to bring felony charges.

Hawaii doubled down on its defense of abortion rights on Wednesday as Gov. Josh Green signed a new law that codifies and expands protections for providers and permits the practice outside of licensed hospitals in the state.

With the overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022 by the U.S. Supreme Court, abortion rights are now up to the discretion of each individual state.

The approval of Senate Bill 1 wasn’t surprising given Hawaii’s overwhelmingly Democratic politics. During House floor sessions, Republicans who stood in opposition were quickly rebutted by their Democratic colleagues.

Gov. Josh Green signed into law a bill that provide more abortion protections. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

Rep. Diamond Garcia, a first-term legislator and chair of the Republican Party, denounced the bill as virtue signaling on the floor.

“This bill is not needed,” he said during the second of three House-wide votes, arguing that abortion access in Hawaii was realistically never threatened. 

But the bill does more than solidify existing protections. It amends language to permit abortion outside of licensed hospitals, physicians’ offices, and clinics, in a nod to modern abortion pill technology and telehealth; changes the definition of “medical care and services” to include surgical abortions, to more explicitly clarify that minors do not need to obtain parental consent; and legally protects recipients and providers who may be coming to Hawaii from states where abortion is more heavily restricted.

The measure codified into law former Gov. David Ige’s executive order from October 2022.

Several Democratic representatives stood to voice their support of the bill, including Rep. Della Au Bellati, chair of the House Committee on Health and Homelessness, who gave an impassioned floor speech.

“Access to reproductive health care and reproductive health care itself is under attack by politicians who should not – should not – be interfering in the private health care decisions of patients and their health care providers,” she said on the floor.

Hawaii became the first state in America to legalize abortion in 1970, almost three years before the U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade provided nationwide abortion protection.

The act, which became effective immediately upon signing, was one of two signed Wednesday — the first two laws enacted under Green’s administration, a point the governor highlighted during the press conference.

Also signed was Senate Bill 36, clarifying that prosecutors can in fact introduce felony charges via complaint. This became an issue in 2022, culminating in the state Supreme Court case State v. Obrero.

The high court decided in September that felony charges must go through grand juries, upending decades of practice.

“Here we are in March, and we’re signing a piece of legislation – it’s that important,” Green said about S.B. 36, referencing the fact that the legislative session doesn’t end until May. This same sentiment also applies to the abortion bill, he added.

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