Editorial | Island Voices Rape victims in Hawaii need access to emergency contraception By Katie Polidoro and Laurie A. Temple March 15, 2012 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. It’s time to rally behind the Compassionate Care Act (Senate Bill 218), for all Hawaii’s women. In honor of Women’s History Month, the bill would help ensure that survivors of rape are able to get the health care they desperately need at the time they need it the most. The bill, which was held over from last year’s legislative session, needs to pass this session. Recently, survivors of rape suffered another indignity: the defeat of House Bill 127, which would have stopped emergency rooms in our state from denying them information on and access to emergency contraception (EC) to prevent pregnancy. The House Finance Committee refused to hear the bill despite 150 pieces of testimony in support of HB 127 and emails and phone calls from more than 300 supporters. Fortunately, the Senate version of the bill, SB 218, is still alive and waiting for action in the House. By allowing Hawaii’s hospitals to continue to deny fundamental care to women, politicians put more women at risk of becoming pregnant by their rapists. In 2009, according to the 2010 Crime In Hawaii report, 377 forcible rapes were reported to law enforcement in Hawaii. Since most rapes aren’t reported, we believe that those 377 rapes are just the tip of the iceberg. EC is an over-the-counter medicine that prevents pregnancy in the form of high-dose birth control. EC is not the abortion pill; it will not end a pregnancy. It allows a rape survivor to take back control of her body and offers her a choice about what happens next in the harrowing aftermath of rape. Since 1995, medical care standards have included the provision of emergency contraception as part of emergency sexual assault care. In fact, even the Catholic Directives for Ethical Health Care specifically state that in cases of sexual assault, the use of contraceptives is allowable. Most people are shocked to find out that survivors of rape in Hawaii do not always have access to EC when they most need it. When pharmacies are closed, emergency contraception can be hard to find. In a 2010 survey of 26 emergency departments in Hawaii, only four reported having a policy that includes providing rape victims with information on and access to EC (three on Oahu and one on Kauai). This problem is exacerbated in rural areas of Hawaii with fewer medical resources and for those islands and areas without 24-hour pharmacies (every island but Oahu, which only has three). House members opposed to HB 127 cited concerns about religious freedom. While every person has the right to religious freedom, no hospital has the right to use religion to discriminate against patients who do not share its beliefs by denying them proper care. Women should not have to fear that a hospital’s religious affiliations will prevent them from receiving critical care after an assault. Every hospital has an obligation to provide quality health care. Survivors of sex assault deserve the highest standard of health care, no matter which emergency room they report to. Women deserve accurate information about their health and the opportunity to make important decisions based on their own needs and beliefs, particularly the opportunity to make the choice about whether to take EC after a sexual assault. To take away a woman’s ability to care for herself after the brutal crime of rape is a second assault. It is time for House leadership to stand up for women and ensure that House committees pass this bill. We cannot allow politics to get in the way of the care and well-being of Hawaii’s women. ——— Katie Polidoro is public affairs director for Planned Parenthood of Hawaii. Laurie A. Temple is an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii. Previous Story Off the News Next Story Roy K. Amemiya Jr.