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Hawaii Democrat ‘Pushing Back’ Against Trump by Bolstering Abortion Access

Nicole Knight

"Hawaii, of course, has long been a bastion of reproductive rights and I’d like to see it stay that way," state Sen. Karl Rhoads wrote. "I expect the Trump administration to push hard on reproductive issues (well, more accurately the [Vice President]) and viewed this as pushing back."

Hawaii is among 38 states where licensed doctors are the only medical professionals legally allowed to perform abortions, but an Aloha State Democrat aims to change that.

A bill introduced by state Sen. Karl Rhoads permits registered nurses with an “advanced practice” designation to perform aspiration abortion care, the most common first-trimester procedure.

The legislation could be a boon to abortion access in Hawaii, a state with 1,430 licensed advanced-practice registered nurses along with more than 8,000 licensed physicians, according to January figures from the state Vocational and Professional Licensing Division.

“Hawaii, of course, has long been a bastion of reproductive rights and I’d like to see it stay that way,” Rhoads said in an email to Rewire. “I expect the Trump administration to push hard on reproductive issues (well, more accurately the [Vice President]) and viewed this as pushing back.”

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2013 study in the American Journal of Public Health found it’s equally safe for nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and physician assistants to perform aspiration abortions. The study looked at 11,487 aspiration abortion procedures in California, and found the complication rates were equally low when doctors performed the procedures compared to nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and physician assistants.

Rhoads said he introduced the bill at the request of the Public Leadership Institute, a progressive nonprofit that advises lawmakers on abortion rights. The pro-choice measure is based on the organization’s model legislation.

Hawaii, unlike many states, doesn’t restrict abortion access by tying up providers with red tape, imposing state-mandated delays, or requiring parental involvement. Hawaii’s Democratic-led legislature last year passed a sweeping law requiring public and private health insurance to cover a 12-month supply of birth control, which research suggests can lower the rate of unintended pregnancies.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated the numbers of physicians in Hawaii.

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