HONOLULU (KHON2) — Gov. David Ige held a press conference on Monday, April 12, at the Hawaii State Capitol to sign a bill regarding abortion care.

House Bill 576 allows advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) to end a pregnancy by providing medication or aspiration abortion care in the first trimester.

Nurses must have a valid license, prescriptive authority and specialize in the medical practice.

According to the bill, Hawaii’s current laws restrict any health care provider, other than physicians, from providing medication or aspiration abortion care. This impacts residents who live on an island without, or with limited access to, an abortion care provider.

“It really will make life a lot better for folks on the neighbor islands who find that they need abortion services,” said Sen. Rosalyn Baker, Chair of Senate Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection.

Baker said the bill, which is limited to nonviable fetuses, helps women have the control over their bodies that is necessary.

“By enabling the APRNs to practice to the top of their license, I think this is really going to be an important measure for all of us here in our state,” she said.

According to Laura Reichardt, director of Hawai‘i State Center for Nursing, APRNs have more than doubled since 2005 in the state.

“Though they have, by state law, the authority to practice to the fullest extent of their education and training, there are some laws that still provide barriers to accessing care for the people of Hawaii,” Reichardt said.

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted those barriers and challenges of abortion care, including a shortage of providers, unnecessary travel, long wait times, high costs and delays to time-sensitive care and travel that make access extremely difficult, the bill says.

House majority leader Rep. Della Au Belatti and family planning practitioner Dr. Reni Soon also spoke at Monday’s news conference.

Hawaii now joins 12 states that allow nurses to perform abortions.