Bill targeting faith-based pregnancy clinics sparks fierce debate

Bill targeting faith-based pregnancy clinics sparks fierce debate

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Faith-based groups are fighting to prevent a measure that they say would violate their First Amendment rights.

"This is an attack on Christianity, This is an attack on our religious beliefs and this needs to stop," said Derald Skinner, pastor of Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor.

Pro- and anti-abortion groups clashed at the state Capitol building on Thursday over a bill that would force anti-abortion clinics to tell women where they can get an abortion. Both sides say they are just trying to protect women.

"This is a trying time for any woman and to know that any provider that you see is required to give you information about all your options is really important for all women here in Hawaii," said Hawaii Legislative Director for Planned Parenthood Laurie Field.

Senate Bill 501 would require church-based counseling centers to post a sign clearly in the lobby explaining where women can get an abortion and free family planning services.

Those who oppose the bill said it violates their rights to freedom of speech and religion.

"It appears it's a one way street and all streets will lead these women to Planned Parenthood," one testifier in opposition to the bill said.

Religious freedom attorneys told the Health Committee the requirement would not stand up in court. Some center staff said they would be forced to defy the law.

Supporters of the bill say the centers promise to give women fair advice about pregnancy and health care but are withholding important options including abortion.

State Rep. Della Au Belatti chairs the Health Committee and is part of the women's caucus that introduced the bill.

"Because these centers are putting themselves out there within the community, we need to ensure that there's consumer protections for those women," she said.

There is a $500 fine for the first violation and $1,000 for every one after that.

A committee vote is set for Tuesday.

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