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Posted: Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013 9:12 AM HST

New Hawaii law helps rape victims avert pregnancy

By Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie has signed a new law requiring hospital emergency rooms to offer emergency contraception to female victims of sexual assault.

Abercrombie signed the law on Monday at the state Capitol in a room packed with advocates, lawmakers and reporters.

The governor says the bill ensures that hospitals provide a compassionate standard of care. He says he can't think of any other bill that has meant more to him than this measure.

Advocates of the proposal say it 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.

The Hawaii attorney general says there were 350 reported cases of forcible rape in 2011.

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