Guam governor wants to expand abortion, but local doctors are unwilling

Hagatna, Guam, Jun 9, 2019 / 04:24 am (CNA).- The government of the island of Guam is offering waivers and discounts for contraception through a public health clinic, and the territory’s governor has said she wants to find a doctor willing to perform abortions, after the retirement of the island’s last abortionist.

Governor Lourdes Leon Guerrero, a former nurse who took office in January, recently expressed her wish to expand abortion access in the state, but no doctors on the island are willing to perform abortions.

Though abortion is legal in some cases in Guam, the territory’s last abortion doctor retired in May 2018.

“I’m concerned about [abortion] going underground because then we can’t really control it, we can’t really monitor, we can’t really make sure that the women are doing it in an environment that is conducive to a healthy recovery,” she told the AP last week.

Guam is predominantly Catholic, and Guerrero has said that finding a doctor willing to perform abortions there “will take some work.” She said officials are trying to recruit doctors to come to the island and establish clinics.

Abortion is legal in Guam up to 13 weeks or up to 26 weeks in case of rape or incest, but anyone who terminates a pregnancy without help from a doctor can be charged with a felony, the AP reports. Doctors also have the legal right to refuse to perform an abortion except in the case of a medical emergency.

Women in Guam seeking abortions must fly thousands of miles from the island to seek abortions elsewhere, the AP reports. Many go to Hawaii, as the nearest mainland country, the Philippines, does not allow abortion. U.S. federal law applies in Guam and its people are U.S. citizens; the island is home to about 170,000 residents.

Despite this, there have only two or three Guam women given abortions in Hawaii since last year, and none was an elective procedure, an OB-GYN and University of Hawaii professor told the AP.

The morning after pill, an abortifacient drug, is available in Guam over the counter and by prescription for women over 18.

Pro-life activism on the island, led by the Guam Catholic Pro-Life Committee, saw hundreds of pro-life advocates march in Guam’s first annual Rally for Life in January.

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