The Committee on the Status of Women Discuss Understanding Period Poverty, Abortion Access
July 21, 2022, 4:52 PM HST
The county’s Committee on the Status of Women met this week to discuss the distribution of 140 menstrual kits in the community and the Missing and Murdered Hawaiian Women and Girls Report for the Hawai‘i Commission on the Status of Women.
During the meeting Wednesday, July 20, committee members brainstormed who they could distribute the feminine hygiene products to.
“What if we call the school nurses to see if they need supplies,” suggested member Regina Carvalho. “The state did give schools $2 million to supply girls and women with product, so let’s look into who or where we can deliver to.”
Committee member Deena Fontana Moraes suggested looking into providing the supply to houseless girls and women on the island.
“I could imagine particularly with the whole package complete with the towelettes and such that would be very welcome by our homeless population,” Moraes said. “I know that All Saints church here does an outreach program.”
Ex-officio member Edie Ignacio Neumiller thought the committee’s suggestions were good, noting the need for more recognition of the disparity in supplies and access to health services across the state.
“We’ve been silent for the last two years because of COVID but we need to work together now,” Neumiller said, adding she would like to see a press release drafted at the county level detailing which committee member would be in charge of distributing the 140 menstrual kits.
Historically, the committee has allocated $1,000 each fiscal year to use for duties and responsibilities as deemed necessary. The committee expended $448.56 of their final closing budget last June to ensure as many people as possible — nonprofits or schools — had the supplies they needed, closing the gaps in socio-economic, environmental, and household factors that can sometimes prevent equal access.
The county committee, along with the Hawai‘i State Commission on Status of Women, or HSCSW, works for equality for women and girls across the state by acting as a catalyst for positive change through advocacy, education, collaboration, and program development.
“Along with female menstrual hygiene management, reproductive health has also been a hot topic for the committee,” stated Neumiller, who noted urgent policy attention is needed to promote dignity and gender equality. “Effective and adequate female health management requires women and girls to have access to their materials and products of choice, but also extends to having private, clean, and clinical spaces to take care of themselves.”
The topic of abortion has come front and center after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling last month that ends constitutional protections for abortions in America. The court’s ruling is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.
Roe v. Wade has stood in America for nearly a half-century. Hawai‘i was the first state in the nation to make abortion legal if it is performed by a licensed physician in an accredited hospital, performed before the fetus is viable outside the uterus, and on a woman who has been a resident for 90 days or more immediately prior to the abortion.
“A lot of folks don’t know that in Hawai’i you can get an abortion,” Neumiller said. “There’s been this mad rush for a lot of women and girls to get an abortion, but they don’t know where to go.”
The county committee stood in unison and agreed that an increase in visibility for women’s rights is overdue and Kaua‘i will have a voice on the topics at a national level as Neumiller will be representing the whole state at the National Association of Commissions for Women Conference, July 24-28 in Reno, Nevada.
For more information about the duties and responsibilities of the Committee on the Status of Women, please click here.