HONOLULU (AP) - Gov. Neil Abercrombie has signed a new law requiring all hospital emergency rooms in Hawaii to offer emergency contraception to female victims of sexual assault.
The Democrat signed the law Monday at the state Capitol. It requires hospitals to provide sexual assault victims with medically accurate, unbiased information about emergency contraception and to let them know that it's available if they choose.
"This is a standard of care that should be available to anyone," Abercrombie said. He said the law fulfills an obligation to respect human dignity and show compassion to people who have been violated through sexual assaults. He added that he cannot think of any other bill that has meant more to him than this measure.
Advocates of the proposal say the law is a step forward for women's reproductive rights and addressing violence against women.
Critics say the law would infringe on hospital employees' right to freedom of religion. Critics have also compared emergency contraception to abortion.
Republican members of the state House and the Senate have opposed the bill. They failed to get amendments added to the measure that would have allowed institutions and individuals to claim religious exemptions.
The governor signed the bill before a room packed with advocates, lawmakers and reporters. Abercrombie noted that he hadn't seen so many people packed in the executive office since December 2010, and he attributed that to the consensus behind the measure, which was introduced by the House Women's Caucus.
The state attorney general says there were 350 reported cases of forcible rape in Hawaii in 2011.