APRNs in Hawaii Now Authorized to Provide Abortion Services

Gov. David Ige signed into law April 12, 2021 HB576 or the Equal Access to Abortion Act that expands access by allowing Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) to provide abortion service that previously only physicians were allowed to provide.

The new law is aimed to provide enhanced access to women’s health care, particularly in rural areas and on the Neighbor islands where residents usually need to travel long distances and at high costs in order to get the medical care they need.

The bill only covers abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy and only allows the intentional termination of the pregnancy if it involves a non-viable fetus.

“The legislature finds that Hawaii has many qualified licensed health care providers, including advanced practice registered nurses, who can safely and effectively provide abortion care,” reads the bill HB 576. “However, the legislature also finds that Hawaii’s current laws restrict any health care provider other than physicians from providing medication or aspiration abortion care.

“Consequently, numerous Hawaii residents live on an island without, or with limited access to, an abortion care provider,” it states.

Laura Reichardt, the director of the Hawaii State Center for Nursing, said “This act will enable people who desperately need reproductive health care services to receive health care from very high-quality health care providers, including advanced practice registered nurses, where they need it, when they need it.”

Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates Hawai‘i praised the new law. Laurie Field, Hawaii State Director, said “We are thrilled about the implications this has for the people of Hawaii, especially those on islands who face obstacles of having to travel long distances to reach a physician for reproductive health care. Expanding the number of medical professionals who can provide abortion will lower wait times, reduce the need to travel, and put abortion access within reach for many people.

“Poor access to vital reproductive health care, including abortion, disproportionately affects communities of color, people who live on islands other than Oahu, people with low incomes, underinsured and uninsured individuals, and people who don’t have reliable transportation. COVID-19 has exacerbated already existing barriers to access high-quality reproductive health care, and this new law is a step in the right direction to ensuring everyone in Hawaii has access to care, no matter what.”

Leading medical experts like American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Public Health Association (APGHA) agree that APRNs are qualified to provide abortion services.

Rep. Linda Ichiyama sponsored the bill.

Attending the signing were Sen. Rosalyn Baker, chair, Senate Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection, Rep. Della Au Belatti, House majority leader, Laura Reichardt, director, Hawai‘i State Center for Nursing, Dr. Reni Soon, family planning practitioner and associate professor, John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM).

On March 11, 1970, three years before Roe v. Wade made abortion legal nationwide, Hawaii passed historic legislation making it the first state in the country to allow safe, legal abortion care.

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