Consisting of members from the medical, religious, and legal communities, the Hawaii Abortion Collective is: “a coalition dedicated to protecting abortion rights and reproductive healthcare,” and “a multi-disciplinary, community-based, and BIWOC-centered (Black, Indigenous/Native Hawaiian, Women of Color-centered) formation coordinating all Hawai‘i islands for free, universal abortion access.”
The Hawaii Abortion Collective created and published the Hawaii Abortion guide, providing medical and legal resources for information and financial support for those seeking an abortion in the state of Hawaii. It is the first comprehensive guide to abortion in Hawai’i, which includes information on the legal rights and services for patients and medical providers.
“The Hawai‘i State Commission on the Status of Women initially convened the Hawai’i Abortion Collective as a form of co-governance with the community,” says Khara Jabola-Carolus, a 2015 Richardson Law School graduate and Executive Director of Hawai’i State Commission on the Status of Women.
Jabola-Carolus also emphasized the significance of connecting with the community. “The organized response to the historic loss of federal abortion protections should not be led only by people knighted as experts by education and licensure. To end abortion stigma—the underlying problem—we need people who know how to talk to each community in Hawai’i and to unify their community.”
It was Jabola-Carolus who invited fellow 2015 Richardson grad Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, Councilmember of the Maui County Council, to join the collective and help address issues of access. “We obviously have access issues throughout the pae‘āina (islands), with only O‘ahu and Maui having abortion care. Girls and women on other islands need to primarily fly to O‘ahu for this type of health care.”
Though abortion is legal in the state of Hawaii, information, healthcare services, and support can be difficult to access and vary across the islands; one-third of the state’s population has healthcare coverage through Medicaid. Med-QUEST, a division of the Department of Human Services (DHS), is the largest provider of health insurance coverage in the state of Hawai‘i.
Cathy Betts ‘06, Director of the State of Hawaii Department of Human Services, pointed out that the department needed to ensure there was relevant, factual information available for those they serve. “We sought to ensure the guide shared robust Medicaid coverage information for abortions and reproductive health, so that readers knew how to access services and benefits.”
Faculty Specialist and the Legal Director for the Medical-Legal Partnership for Children (MLPC) at the William S. Richardson School of Law, Dina Shek said, “It has been a great privilege to work alongside these phenomenal Richardson lawyers, including some of my own former students, to fight for critical access to abortion care. This group is working to share legal, medical, and political knowledge and information at a time when women’s rights and autonomy—and basic healthcare access and healthcare privacy—are under attack.”
Richardson Law School alumni were also among local leaders who expressed their support. A press conference announcing the release of the guide included remarks by Representatives Della Au Belatti ’03 and Linda Ichiyama ’10.
Shek also noted the show of support, “While Representatives Della Au Belatti and Linda Ichiyama are not formal members of the Hawai‘i Abortion Collective, they are lifelong champions for women’s health, safety, and autonomy.”
“I am grateful to the many community members who came together to create the Hawaii Abortion Guide, it is a helpful resource for anyone in our State who is seeking reproductive health care. We want to make sure that women are able to get information about cost, insurance, transportation and other important questions to make an informed decision,” said State Representative Linda Ichiyama.
The Hawai’i Abortion Guide is the first project of the Hawai‘i Abortion Collective, which formed about a month prior to the guide’s publication on August 21.
Future plans for the Collective include distributing the guide to communities that may be isolated from access to information and resources by factors such as location, age, gender-based discrimination, language, and immigration status. It will also be a “living guide”—it will continue to be updated and revised with the most current information available.