In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, people in Guam who need an abortion can no longer access one. Due to a 1990 abortion ban that is still present in Guam’s legal code, it is now a third-degree felony offense for a doctor in Guam to perform an abortion. This includes medication abortion pills prescribed by a doctor off-island through telemedicine. The only exception is when the life of the pregnant person is endangered. It can be a misdemeanor offense to encourage a woman to have an abortion. There are no doctors on the island who perform surgical abortions. Surgical abortion is an abortion performed by means other than solely the administration of medication where the fetus and placenta are removed from the womb. Without access to safe and legal abortion, individuals in Guam who need an abortion will suffer severe physical and mental harm. Abortion should be safe and legal in Guam.
Under Guam’s abortion ban, having an abortion makes a person guilty of a misdemeanor. A lack of legal and medically safe abortion care often leads to unsafe and illegal abortions. In countries where abortion is illegal, there is a higher rate of abortions than in countries where abortion is legal without many restrictions. The only abortion Guam residents can get on the island may be unsafe and could lead to jail time. The illegality of abortion in Guam will lead to an increase in unsafe abortions with harmful medical consequences.
There is a clause in the 1990 abortion ban that puts the issue up for a referendum. The people of Guam would vote on whether the ban should be repealed in its entirety. Voting to repeal would allow a doctor to provide abortion in Guam for up to 13 weeks. The Guam Legislature could choose to pass a law that would protect abortion access, although it is unclear if it will do so.While abortion care is available off-island, the nearest places are Hawaii and Japan. Abortion is legal in Japan until 22 weeks if there is a medical, physical, or economic hardship on the individual or if the pregnancy is a result of rape. But, a flight to Japan from Guam costs at least $500 and requires time off work and potentially childcare. Many Guamanians do not have the passport necessary to do so. Traveling to Hawaii costs over a thousand dollars. Even though a clinic in Honolulu, Hawaii provides abortions, the individual would have to pay for a hotel room and other expenses. This is an undue burden for people seeking an abortion. Many are already low-income, and people experiencing intimate partner violence would not be able to leave the island without their partner’s knowledge. Carrying the pregnancy to term presents a whole host of physical and financial burdens that many people are simply not ready for. Legalizing abortion would simplify the process and ensure that abortions are safe.