February 1998 Home   Newsletters

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April 1998

Rail Transit
President's Message (Grace Furukawa)
Testimony on SB 2665, Relating to Environmental Impact...
Violence Prevention (Suzanne Meisenzahl)
Governor Revises Tax Proposals (Astrid Monson)
Proposed Budget FY 1998-1999
State Council
1998 Elections
National Convention
Annual Meeting

President's Message

Prior to and during the Legislative Session, the League office is constantly busy. All bills in the legislature are brought to the office daily and reviewed. Those pertaining to any of our current positions are particularly scanned and testimony prepared in support or in opposition of the bill. This is then given when the bills are scheduled for a hearing. Those of you who have gone thru this process know what a time consuming effort it is. One sometimes spends half days there, or prepares for testimony, only to have it canceled or postponed for another time. But this is the way it is.

This year our focus has been on the crucial areas of taxation, campaign finance reform, violence prevention, gambling and always, education. Our other positions are usually pushed to the side because of lack of time, lack of persons to follow them up and because we feel they will or won't get passed anyway, without our intervention. Sometimes we miss on these guesses.

An example of one of our positions dear to the hears of every Leaguer is that of freedom of choice, the right of privacy of a woman, in consultation with her doctor to terminate her pregnancy. Every year, bills enter the Legislature, with the express purpose of eroding these rights. The League, from the national down to all states has consistently opposed all such attempts. Sometimes we win, such as when President Clinton signed an executive order overturning the gag rule and other restrictive anti-choice policies. Favorable court decisions thwarted attempts by Health and Human Services to implement regulations requiring parental notification by federally funded family planning centers that provide prescription contraceptives to teenagers.

In 1987 the League unsuccessfully opposed proposed regulations governing Title X of the Public Health Service Act. The League reaffirmed that individuals have the right to make their own reproductive choices, consistent with the constitutional right to privacy, stating that the proposed rule violated this right by prohibiting counseling and referral for abortion services by any clinic receiving Title X funds. This was the threat to revoke the tax exempt status of any organization that performs, finances or provides facilities for any abortion, not necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman.

In all these efforts the League has been consistent in arguing that "constitutional rights, once recognized, should not be snatched away." Today, we see the results of this constant erosion. Our Hawaii Planned Parenthood organization is in difficult straits financially and has had to curb its work drastically. While it is still working thru its difficulties in this area it has been disaffiliated by the parent organization. In these circumstances it is incumbent on other interested groups like the League to make a diligent effort to protect reproductive rights. Locally, the bills in the Legislature continue to surface to limit a woman's right to choice. Five bills were entered prohibiting what they call partial birth abortion. Surely, anyone not wanting a baby could have had an abortion during the first 3 months, so one can assume that anyone leaving a baby in place up until the 6-9 month period wants that child. Any condition warranting such a procedure must be heartbreaking and gut-wrenching. but surely such a decision should be a matter between the woman and her doctor. The reasons vary from case to case. It disturbs me that the Legislature (the State) is now practicing medicine without a license. Who knows what other measures the government may see fit to regulate or outlaw that belongs in the province of medical practice.

Another three bills were introduced requiring parental notification before a minor could receive an abortion. I can't imagine not counseling a minor to consult with her parents in such a situation, but there can be many reasons why, including incest and abuse when the young woman would be in jeopardy. And referring such cases to a judge could be even more threatening - all of these situations could and usually does delay the girl's seeking medical help and an early abortion, if such is indicated.

One bill was introduced prohibiting abortion counseling and referrals by school based health services. This directly violates the "gag" rule prohibition.

As Leaguers we must be constantly aware of these attempts against our civil rights. Even if we prevail and none of these bills pass, you can be sure that next year another crop of them will emerge.

Grace Furukawa

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