Members of the Hawaii state legislature have vowed to fight back against Republican Governor Linda Lingle’s veto of a bill that would have required hospitals to provide emergency contraception (EC) to sexual assault survivors. However, Hawaii Senate President Robert Bunda (D) said this week that an override of the governor’s veto does not seem to have sufficient support in the state Senate, as reported by the Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report. Members of Hawaii’s House Democratic leadership are considering calling a special legislative session to override several of Lingle’s vetoes – including the EC bill and $3.6 million in social service funding cuts that would affect Kahuku Hospital and the state’s sex abuse treatment center.
If Lingle had signed the EC bill last month, it would have imposed a $5,000 fine for each time a hospital denied information about EC. The New York State Legislature recently passed a similar bill for hospitals in New York; New York Governor George Pataki has indicated that he will sign the bill, according to the Associated Press.
However, Hawaii recently became the fifth state to make emergency contraception available from pharmacists without a doctor’s prescription. “This is far from a small regulatory change,” writes Kirsten Moore, president of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project, in The Nation. “It means the next time it’s 2 o’clock on a Friday night and the condom breaks, a woman there won’t have to wait until the following Monday to find a doctor to write a prescription and then wait to get the prescription filled. She can go directly to her neighborhood pharmacist.” EC is most effective when taken within the first 24 hours after unprotected sex, though it can be effective for up to five days.
The Feminist Majority Foundation and other women’s health groups are working to make EC available over the counter so women can access this pill quickly and easily all over the United States. Women’s Capitol Corporation, the makers of Plan B, the progestin-based form of EC, will be submitting paperwork in April to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requesting that Plan B be made available over the counter. The Feminist Majority Foundation is collecting petitions from all over the country advocating for EC over the counter.