Guam governor, attorney general face off over decades-old abortion ban

By Kalvis Golde
May 15, 2024

In the 1990s, a federal district court in Guam blocked a total ban on abortion enacted by the territory’s legislature because it conflicted with Roe v. Wade. After the justices overruled Roe two years ago in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Guam’s attorney general sought to lift the hold on the ban. But the Guam Supreme Court, in response to a request by the territory’s governor, ruled that the ban cannot be revived because more recent abortion laws have effectively wiped it from the books. This week, we highlight petitions that ask the court to consider, among other things, whether the Guam Supreme Court had the authority to wade into the dispute.

When the Supreme Court affirmed the constitutional right to abortion in its 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, it surprised many who doubted that the court was willing to defend Roe after two decades of fighting over abortion. Among the skeptics was the Guam legislature, which in 1990 enacted a total ban on abortion, wagering that the tides would soon shift and states and territories would be allowed to regulate abortion on their own. A federal court quickly put the ban on hold, agreeing with the challengers that it violated Roe. When Casey ultimately upheld Roe, that hold remained in effect.


Guam – Year in Review: 2023 abortion rights, anti-abortion issues

John O'Connor | The Guam Daily Post
Dec 31, 2023

(February 2023-December 2023) The year 2022 was a significant time for both abortion rights and anti-abortion advocates, as that year saw the Supreme Court of the United States overturn a half-century of precedent and declare that the Constitution granted no right to an abortion in the U.S. This decision gave states and other jurisdictions greater latitude to regulate abortion, including the imposition of outright bans.

At the time of the Supreme Court decision, Guam was debating whether to pass an anti-abortion measure modeled after a Texas law - the Guam Heartbeat Act. The bill essentially would have banned abortions at six weeks, earlier than when women may know they're pregnant.


Guam keeps abortion legal but restricts access

13 November 2023
Finau Fonua, RNZ Pacific Journalist

There's elation among pro-choice advocates in Guam following a decision by the US territory's Supreme Court to debunk an old anti-abortion law.

It dashes attempts by pro-life lawmakers on Guam to lift an injunction on Public Law 20-134, a law which imposes a total ban on abortion in all circumstances.


Opposing parties answer AG in case on Guam abortion ban

John O'Connor | The Guam Daily Post
Oct 30, 2023

Parties opposed to the attorney general's attempt at reviving a decades-old abortion ban on Guam argue that the AG is essentially looking to reset the field at this stage because he failed to lay down specific arguments earlier at a lower court. Additional arguments from the opposition bring up free speech issues imposed by the ban, and comment further that recent changes in the U.S. Supreme Court's position on abortion do nothing to change the unconstitutionality of such provisions.

Guam's abortion ban is found in Public Law 20-134. The ban prohibits abortions at all stages of pregnancy with limited exceptions related to medical intervention and ectopic pregnancies. Victims of rape and incest, for example, are not exempt under the ban unless they meet those limited exceptions. The ban also contains a referendum provision, allowing voters to determine if the ban should stay, but the election date has long passed.


Ninth Circuit limits remote abortion access in Guam

The Ninth Circuit ruled that Hawaii doctors may no longer provide the abortion pill to their patients in Guam through telemedicine.

August 1, 2023

(CN) — A Ninth Circuit panel on Wednesday voided an injunction granted in 2021 that allowed Hawaii physicians to prescribe medication abortion to their patients in Guam without an in-person consultation.  

The three-judge panel cited both the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision and Guam’s Women’s Reproductive Health Information Act in its opinion, authored by Judge Kenneth K. Lee.


In Isolated Guam, Abortion Is Legal. And Nearly Impossible to Get.

The tiny U.S. territory in the western Pacific Ocean is thousands of miles from the nearest state, and has no resident doctors who perform abortions. Court decisions could cut access to pills, the only legal option left.

By David W. Chen
Photographs by Noriko Hayashi
June 26, 2023

For decades, the Pregnancy Control Clinic, tucked inside a squat, beige building around the corner from a bowling alley, handled most of the abortions on Guam, a tiny U.S. territory 1,600 miles south of Japan.

But the doctor who ran it retired seven years ago, and the clinic now appears abandoned. An old medical exam table stands near a vanity with a dislodged faucet, and a letter from Dr. Edmund A. Griley is taped to the front door: “My last day of seeing patients is November 18, 2016,” he wrote. “I recommend that you begin looking for a new physician as soon as possible.”


Federal Court Preserves Abortion Access in Guam

Case: Guam Society of OBGYNs v. Guerrero

March 24, 2023

HAGÅTÑA, Guam — A federal district court in Guam today denied Attorney General Douglas Moylan’s request that it lift a decades-old permanent injunction and allow a total abortion ban to take effect. This ruling means essential, life-saving abortion care will remain accessible on the island, and doctors and their patients will not face potential criminal prosecution for providing or accessing care.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and attorneys Anita Arriola and Vanessa Williams filed a brief earlier this month in opposition to reinstating the ban on behalf of three Guam-licensed physicians, including the only two physicians providing abortions to patients in Guam, and Famalao’an Rights, a Guam-based reproductive justice group


The Fight Over Abortion Access In Guam Has Broad Implications For Women In The Pacific

Guam is a hub for medical services in the region, often the first stop for patients seeking care before coming to Hawaii.

By Anita Hofschneider
Dec 23, 2022

This political moment feels familiar to Anita Arriola. Thirty-two years ago, the attorney filed a lawsuit to stop what would have been the most restrictive ban on abortion in the United States from going into effect in her home island of Guam.

It was a bill sponsored by her mother, then a local senator, and unanimously approved by Guam’s unicameral Legislature. Arriola had been a public interest attorney in San Francisco before returning home to the U.S. territory. She took on the case, despite the family tension and the threat of excommunication by Guam’s archbishop.


Guam Legislature passes abortion ban; governor veto expected

Dec. 16, 2022

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.


Abortion access and funding have always been a struggle in U.S. territories

Access to abortion in U.S. territories post-Dobbs is just as difficult as before, and those concerns aren’t even a discussion within the mainstream reproductive rights movement

by Cecille Joan Avila
November 7th, 2022

In June, the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturned Roe v. Wade, effectively eliminating the federal right to abortion, but in Guam, it’s been four years since the last surgical abortion provider retired, leaving the small island territory without anyone who can perform the procedure. Pregnant people seeking an abortion can either receive abortifacients by mail, or, if they are beyond the timeframe where it’s possible to have a medication abortion, they have to travel to Hawai‘i. That is only feasible if they have the means to—and many do not.

For many in U.S. territories, getting an abortion hasn’t just depended on the procedure being legal. People have had to rely on community networks and whatever resources were available to get or pay for an abortion. The common factor is that in U.S. territories, they need to know the right people to ask for assistance, information, and resources, which is ultimately an unsustainable way to access a key component of reproductive health.