Providers: Abortion remains legal in Hawaii, but access to care is a growing concern

Abortions are legal in Hawaii, but access is challenging
Published: Jun. 24, 2022 at 6:53 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 25, 2022 at 1:35 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii has protected a woman’s reproductive rights for half a century, but some doctors and patients want more public education and access to affordable abortion care.

They say the end of Roe v. Wade is creating some confusion about abortion rights in Hawaii.

Their message: Abortions are still legal here, but the real challenge is sometimes accessing them.

Dr. Reni Soon has provided reproductive healthcare services in Hawaii for more than 20 years and was devastated by the Supreme Court decision allowing states to ban abortion.

“The patients seeking abortions are our neighbors. They’re the folks at the grocery store at the bank, or the firefighters, the teachers in our communities,” Soon said.

“Most of them are already parents, and they know what it takes to raise a child. And they’re making the most loving decisions for them and their families. And who are we to tell our neighbors how to live their lives?”

Soon worries about a future generation of doctors that will not be trained adequately for pregnancy complications because they’re in states that ban or highly restrict abortions.

She expects to see more pregnancy-related mortality.

“The procedures to manage someone having a miscarriage are the exact same procedures to provide ... intentional abortions,” she said.

Access is also an issue in Hawaii, where abortion clinics are limited.

“We’re fortunate in that our state doesn’t have many restrictive laws around abortion care,” said obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Shandhini Raidoo.

“But the abortion providers in Hawaii are largely located here in Honolulu, on Maui, and on the Hilo side of the Big Island. For people anywhere else in our state, they have to be able to travel or to access abortion care via telehealth.”

University of Hawaii student Maggie Cipriano terminated her pregnancy earlier this year. Having that choice with her husband was critical to their family planning.

“It’s just a human right? My brain can’t wrap around how you can take that right away from someone when it’s their body,” she said.

The hard part she says was getting access to services. Costs and access to abortion care vary depending on a patient’s insurance. She has military insurance, which does not cover abortions.

“It’s a battle of getting a spot to get an abortion at Planned Parenthood. And even then it’s not always covered.”

Cipriano was able to get the abortion pills, mifepristone and misoprostol, through a telehealth service. Companies such as Aid Access, Plan C and Abortion on Demand can mail the medication to patients in Hawaii.

And with more states banning clinic abortions, doctors say that may be the future for affordable abortion care.

Soon says she’s already seeing patients from Texas and other states with strict laws, and if so-called abortion travel grows, it could put a strain on our limited resources here.

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