Guam Legislature passes abortion ban; governor veto expected

HAGATNA, Guam (AP) — Guam’s Legislature on Friday passed a bill prohibiting most abortions, a measure modeled after a new Texas law that leaves enforcement up to private citizen lawsuits instead of criminal prosecution.

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, who favors abortion rights, is expected to veto the measure.

The Guam Heartbeat Act of 2022 passed the U.S. territory’s unicameral legislature with eight senators in favor and seven opposed, the Pacific Daily News reported. Supporters would need 10 votes to override any veto.

The measure would ban abortion in Guam once cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks. That’s before many people know they are pregnant.

It would allow any private citizen to sue Guam abortion providers who violate the law, as well as anyone who helps someone get the procedure. It doesn’t allow lawsuits against abortion patients.

Abortion is already difficult to obtain on Guam, a small, heavily Catholic island of about 170,000 people south of Japan.

The last physician who performed surgical abortions there retired in 2018. Two Guam-licensed doctors who live in Hawaii see patients virtually and mail them pills for medication abortions. But this alternative is available only until 11 weeks gestation.

Hawaii is the nearest U.S. state where abortion is legal, but it is 3,800 miles (6,100 kilometers) away. The flight to Honolulu takes nearly eight hours and is expensive.

Many states adopted tight restrictions on abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court in June overturned Roe v. Wade, the ruling that had guaranteed a federal right to abortion for 49 years. Other states, like California, have bolstered abortion access.

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This article corrects the spelling of the governor’s last name to Guerrero, not Guerro.

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