Aloha from Honolulu, Hawaii, where big waves are being served up on the north shore and big political moves are being made on the south. The trick is figuring out how to take advantage of both. It may seem all fun in the sun in happy Hawaii, but we’re like any other state in that we need to remain vigilant in protecting the freedoms that we have come to treasure and rely upon.
Hawaii is particularly cautious about safeguarding women’s right to reproductive health care because of our island geography and history. If a woman can’t get health care here, she can’t just hop in a car and drive to the next state – it’s nearly 3,000 miles to the mainland from here. Fortunately for Hawaii’s women, state legislators recognize the need for access to comprehensive health care that includes abortion and, almost 40 years ago, became the first state to legislatively decriminalize abortion. Since then, we have remained on guard in protecting our rights to reproductive freedom over the years and through numerous assaults.
We sometimes feel like we’re a world away from Washington, D.C., and debates on national issues. However, the Stupak-Pitts Amendment is a slap in the face and a big wake-up call for pro-choice supporters in Hawaii to stand up and protect our cherished rights and values from attack. Even in Hawaii, where our Congressional delegation has a 100 percent pro-choice voting record, we’re worried about Stupak and similar anti-abortion amendments.
With that, ACLU of Hawaii and Planned Parenthood of Hawaii got together to rally supporters for a sign waving event in opposition to the Stupak-Pitts Amendment and in support of comprehensive health care for women. Our lively and enthusiastic group met in front of the Prince Kuhio Federal Building in Honolulu on Friday, December 4, to wave signs, chant slogans and pass out leaflets asking people to lobby our senators to oppose amendments to the health care reform that restrict women’s rights to reproductive health care. With signs like, “Women’s health is not a bargaining tool,” and “Abortion = Health Care,” and chants like “hey, hey, ho, ho, stupid Stupak’s got to go,” and “hey, hey, mister mister, keep your laws off my sister,” we were able to get our message to thousands of people driving by on busy Ala Moana Boulevard.
We received an overwhelmingly friendly reception, from simple nods and thumbs-up to “shaka” and honks. The event ended with our group reinvigorated and committed to continuing the fight against Stupak and to remaining vigilant in our protection of reproductive rights.
In typical Hawaii style, I got the news that the Senate defeated the Nelson-Hatch Amendment 54-45 while at Waimea Beach watching the historic 25th Annual Eddie Aikau Memorial surf contest last Tuesday. My friends and I celebrated the Senate victory with high fives and howls while the massive crowd lining the bay cheered on the big wave surfers – everyone happy, gratified and inspired to charge ahead.
As Eddie would go, so would we.
As Stupak is still alive and well in the House, our work is not done yet. Check out http://action.aclu.org/stopstupak and tell your senators and representatives that the final health care reform bill must protect women’s rights to reproductive health care.
Mahalo nui loa to all of you for your work on the front lines in defense of reproductive rights. Now off to the north shore…