HONOLULU (ChurchMilitant.com) - Hawaii's pregnancy resource centers are fighting to block a law that would require them to refer clients for birth control and abortions. Failure to comply would result in hefty fines.
Submitted by the state's Women's Legislative Caucus and signed into law by Gov. David Ige, and backed by Planned Parenthood, SB 501 mandates that "limited service" pregnancy centers notify women that Hawaii offers public programs providing "immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services, including, but not limited to, all FDA-approved methods of contraception and pregnancy-related services for eligible women."
The measure also compels pregnancy centers to notify women of a website offering information on these "family planning" services. And while the disclaimer does not explicitly mention abortion, Hawaii's Medicaid program lists it as one of its services.
Noncompliant centers can be fined $500 for a first-time violation and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.
According to Hawaii state representative Della Au Belatti, the measure was introduced out of concern that women seeking help from pregnancy resource centers were not being told about the full range of health service options on offer. She applauded SB 501 for guaranteeing information on "comprehensive family services."
An earlier version of the bill included "abortion services" in its definition of "comprehensive family services," but after pro-life pushback, "abortion services" was replaced with "pregnancy-related services."
In response, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has filed a lawsuit on behalf of six pregnancy resources centers associated with the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA).
"It appears that this law directly targets Hawaii's pro-life pregnancy centers," ADF notes. SB 501 specifies that "limited service" facilities must comply, but it exempts facilities offering "comprehensive health care" from the mandate, i.e., centers already offering contraception or abortion.
ADF argues that SB 501 is unconstitutional because it violates the centers' rights to free speech and exercise of religion, and the right of due process because the law provides no appeal process for centers slapped with a noncompliance penalty.
Hawaii's pregnancy resource centers exist "to care for the women who walk through the door and their unborn babies, not to promote a procedure that threatens psychological and physical harm to the mother and ends the baby's life," ADF said in a statement on its website.
"For pregnancy centers dedicated to promoting life, this completely undermines their mission. And it violates their right not to be compelled to speak a message that contradicts their faith," it added.
NIFLA has strongly condemned SB 501. In April, it issued a statement, lamenting
State sponsored anti-life activists are so in love with abortion that they want to suppress the free speech rights of pro-life pregnancy centers in Hawaii and force them to become abortion referral agencies. They cannot tolerate the existence of life-affirming pregnancy centers that give mothers contemplating abortion hope and support as they are empowered to choose life.
SB 501 is backed by Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, and opposed by the Catholic Church in the State of Hawaii and the Hawaii Family Forum.