A new Hawaii law is expanding the pool of abortion providers to include specialized nurses, on the condition they conduct early stage abortions for patients with pregnancies otherwise likely to fail.

Gov. David Ige signed House Bill 576 into law Monday. The law permits advanced practice registered nurses to end pregnancies by medication or aspiration, a minor surgical procedure, on the condition it is during the first trimester and the fetus is “non-viable,” or not capable of developing.

A former version of the bill did not include the “non-viable fetus” distinction.

Gov. David Ige signed a bill into law this week. The bill signing ceremony was televised by video conference. Screenshot

“This bill allows better care, particularly on neighbor islands where there is a shortage of physicians and specialists and people have to travel and incur costs to get the care they need,” Gov. David Ige said at a press conference Monday.

Dr. Reni Soon,  the chair of the Hawaii Section of the American College Of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said she is among the few doctors who fly to neighbor islands to provide reproductive health care to patients.

One of her patients who lived on Maui could not afford to fly to Oahu for care, she said.

“We couldn’t fly for several months and so there was no access to abortion care on Maui for several months during the pandemic,” Soon said. “This would not have happened if there were more abortion providers on Maui and this law will help make that a reality.”

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