Sen. Hirono Visits Complex Family Planning Clinic/Fellowship

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For decades, Sen. Mazie Hirono has fought for women’s reproductive rights. This week, she visited JABSOM's Complex Family Planning Clinic/Fellowship to meet the students, residents, and fellows who will ensure abortion care remains accessible in our state. 

"We've been fighting this battle for a long, long time. What keeps me going are you guys," Hirono said, speaking to the fellows, residents, students, and staff. "You are the people who will become providers and provide the care that people in our communities need."

First established as the Options Center in 2006, the Complex Family Planning Clinic has provided abortion and complex contraception care to people across the state, Guam, and other areas of the Pacific. On the educational side, JABSOM’s Complex Family Planning Fellowship started in 2012. It provides comprehensive family planning education, research, policy, and clinical care in Hawaiʻi. After completing the fellowship, about half of the trainees practice in Hawaiʻi.

“Another aspect of what we do is train the future generation," said Dr. Reni Soon, co-director of the Complex Family Planning Fellowship Program. "We have medical students and residents from JABSOM and other states coming to do rotations with us. We've also had healthcare providers in other professions, like nursing and social work, come in and do some rotations with us. We want to connect with everyone who can impact this type of care that is so very needed."

In March, Sen. Hirono introduced the Abortion Care Capacity Enhancement and Support Services (ACCESS) Act, which would establish a federal grant program for healthcare organizations to expand their capacity to provide abortion services and other reproductive care in states where it remains legal. Hawaiʻi, the first state to decriminalize abortions in 1970, remains one of the states where procedures are still legal. Operating out of the Queen’s Physicians Building 1, the Complex Family Planning Clinic is a resource women turn to when making decisions about reproductive care.

"Senator Hirono has been an amazing champion for abortion access and reproductive rights. To have her come here and see what we're doing, I felt a real strong sense of pride in letting her know that we are not only providing that much-needed basic health care that pregnant people deserve, but we showed her that we're training the future generation," Soon said. 

Sen. Hirono spoke to a little more than a dozen people in the Complex Family Planning Clinic/Fellowship and heard the journeys of those in the program, like Dr. Olivia Manayan, the Chief Resident at JABSOM's OB-GYN Program. 

"Having lived in other parts of the country and being ethnically diverse myself, it's such a nice, comfortable feeling when I'm with patients and other providers in Hawaiʻi. Whereas, in other areas of the country, it can be uncomfortable," Dr. Manayan said. "We're so grateful to have Senator Hirono as our ally and partner in working together to preserve reproductive freedom, not only here but also in the rest of the country."

While care and training are two pillars of the Complex Family Planning Clinic/Fellowship, research is another integral aspect. It's conducted at the Options Center through the Family Planning Research Center. 

"Research to improve abortion care and abortion access has been critical for the FDA and that’s especially true in the last several U.S. Supreme Court cases," Soon said. "One of our fellow's research projects was cited by the FDA in one of their recent decisions to lift restrictions on mifepristone access a couple of years ago. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court justices discussed the scientific papers proving the safety of mifepristone. We are proud that the research we do is impacting people's lives and making a positive difference."

Hirono's visit comes at a pivotal point in women’s reproductive rights in America, and Hawaiʻi’s senior Senator repeatedly urged the fellows, residents, and students to practice "eternal vigilance."

"I’m glad that Hawaiʻi provides those kinds of services, but I think that we should really concern ourselves with what's going on with the rest of the country. We have an obligation, as far as I'm concerned, to be as aware and helpful as we can," Hirono said. 

The message is not lost on leaders like Dr. Soon. 

"We have to be paying attention to the laws and policies being passed because those are directly affecting what we're able to provide our patients," Dr. Soon said. "Knowing that she’s coming here to listen to what we have to say and to our concerns is incredibly inspiring for these trainees because our med students and residents carry the voices of our patients. Knowing that their voices are heard and matter to the Senator is inspiring."