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The Conversation

Local civil rights attorney fears implications of leaked Supreme Court decision on abortion

Mazie Hirono abortion rights supreme court 050322
Jose Luis Magana/AP
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FR159526 AP
Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaiʻi, speaks outside of the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday, May 3, 2022 in Washington. A draft opinion suggests the U.S. Supreme Court could be poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide, according to a Politico report. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Pro-abortion rights rallies are set for this weekend following the U.S. Senate's failed attempt to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would have codified a right to an abortion.

Wednesday’s vote was largely symbolic as all Republican senators and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia opposed it as expected.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said last week the Senate would vote on the bill after a leaked draft opinion from Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito revealed that the court is likely to overturn the 50-year-old protections of abortion rights granted under the 1973 Roe v. Wade case.

Thousands of miles from Washington, Hawaiʻi was the first state to make abortion access legal in 1970.

Local civil rights and discrimination attorney Elizabeth Fujiwara credits then-Gov. John A. Burns and state Sen. Vincent Yano with early passage of the bill allowing abortion in the islands.

Though both men were Catholic, Fujiwara said they were clear about the separation between church and state.

Fujiwara said she strongly opposes the latest efforts to undermine Roe v. Wade and fears what could follow the leaked Supreme Court opinion.

"I was disgusted. (Brett) Kavanaugh had lied. Amy (Coney Barrett) had lied. (Samuel) Alito had lied. They had all said at the confirmation hearings that Roe v. Wade was precedent and clearly they did not mean it," Fujiwara said.

While Hawaiʻi is very unlikely to change its abortion laws if Roe v. Wade is overturned, some are concerned the court might seek to ban abortions across the country in the future.

Some also fear the court might change other federal precedents, such as the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges case that legalized same-sex marriage.

"That's because same-sex marriage, the right to access to abortion, as well as interracial marriages are all based on the 14th Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause," Fujiwara told HPR.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Hawaiʻi since 2013.

The Hawaiʻi Democratic Party said it will join Planned Parenthood and other local organizations on Saturday to protest the expected move to overturn Roe v. Wade, allowing states to decide on the matter.

"What will happen is they'll go to the other states. And then they're going to try and punish the women who go to the other states, and they're going to try and punish the providers," Fujiwara told The Conversation.

Within minutes of the U.S. Senate vote Wednesday, President Joe Biden released a statement that "this failure to act comes at a time when women's constitutional rights are under unprecedented attack – and it runs counter to the will of the majority of American people."

This interview aired on The Conversation on May 12, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

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