Honolulu, Hawaii (NBC News) If you’re planning to have an abortion, it might be a good idea to hire a local attorney.
In recent years, the Honolulu-based Honolulu District Attorney’s Office has had a number of high-profile cases where abortion providers have been charged with crimes and faced criminal charges, including a murder conviction and charges of violating an emergency protective order.
A bill pending in the state legislature would allow prosecutors to bring felony charges for abortion providers that provide abortions or perform or transport abortions.
The legislation passed the Hawaii State Senate last month and is currently awaiting a vote in the Assembly.
It would allow prosecution of any licensed provider of abortion services in the county where the provider performs or transports the procedure.
“There are times when it might not be practical to hire someone from outside of the state, especially in a high-crime area, and the best way to prevent that is to hire attorneys from outside the state,” said Sarah Gorman, the director of policy studies for the Center for Reproductive Rights, a nonprofit reproductive health advocacy group.
In Hawaii, the attorney general’s office has charged more than 40 abortion providers with misdemeanor offenses since the start of 2016.
The attorney general declined to say how many of those charges were related to the new law.
The attorney general also declined to provide a breakdown of the charges.
The Hawaii State Attorney General’s Office declined to answer questions about the number of cases that resulted in charges.
State Sen. Julie Oehler, who introduced the bill, said the bill would ensure the public is informed about the legal protections that are available in Hawaii, especially for providers who provide abortions.
Oehler said the attorney’s office’s work to protect the right to choose for Hawaii women has been “critical.”
“In recent decades, we’ve seen that our courts have been the first line of defense against laws that have been designed to punish women who have chosen not to have a baby,” Oehlers said.
“The Hawaii Legislature has put an end to those laws and protected Hawaii women from discrimination in the workplace, housing and other areas.”
The attorney for the women charged with abortion violations in Hawaii said she has been shocked by the number and severity of the recent cases, but believes the law is a good first step toward a better legal process.
“I have a lot of compassion for the attorneys,” said Kelly Dube, who is representing one of the women in the case.
“They’re fighting the government, but they are also fighting the will of the people.
I think we can all be grateful that we have that opportunity to be involved in the legal process.”