Updated: Jun 11
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Archbishop Michael Byrnes has renewed his call for the Catholic faithful to rally behind a bill that would further restrict access to abortion on Guam
“Last April, as the archbishop of Agaña, I declared my support of the ‘The Guam Heartbeat Act of 202,'” the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Agana said in a pastoral letter released Friday. “The church welcomes this powerful pro-life legislation.”
Modeled after stateside anti-abortion laws, Sen. Telena Cruz Nelson’s Guam Heartbeat Act of 2022 prohibits doctors from performing abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. It provides exceptions for medical emergencies “where a pregnant woman would lose her life or her health would be severely impaired.”
Bill 291-36 authorizes private citizens the right to file a civil lawsuit, minimum of $10,000, against anyone who performs or induces an abortion after a heartbeat has been detected.
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“Hearts are changing, eyes are opening, and hope is rising across our country that the scourge of abortion will be significantly curtailed,” Byrnes said in anticipation of the impending reversal of Roe v. Wade.
“Today, we are at the intersection of major, historical changes in the acceptance and legalization of abortion in Guam and our nation. At this writing, we join multitudes of people in the nation and worldwide who, with tremendous trust and prayers in our Lord, are awaiting an historic ruling by the justices of the United States Supreme Court that will overturn Roe v Wade, the tragic decision that legalized abortion in 1973,” Byrnes said.
A draft copy of the decision was leaked last month. The justices have been deliberating on a specific case for more than half a year and their ruling is expected to be announced this month.
“On the local front, our archdiocese has joined thousands in Guam in expressing tremendous joy and support for a bill that has been introduced by members of the 36th Guam Legislature that would place landmark restrictions on the procurement of abortion on our island,” Byrnes said.
"They have no means to speak or cry out against those who threaten their lives. We must speak for them. As we defend the lives of the unborn in all our words and actions, we must be firm in our convictions that abortion is an absolute evil," he added.
Access to abortion is limited on Guam, where the only doctor who provided such service retired in 2018. Some women seeking to terminate their unwanted pregnancy resort to abortion bills.
The Heartbeat Act has been publicly heard but it was not included in the legislature's May agenda.
While abortion is a mainstay topic during elections on Guam, several politicians typically avoid taking a categorical position on the issue.
While the church does not openly intefere with Guam politics, many recognize its clout on conservative voters.
"Abortion is a murder of the most innocent among us considering that the one willfully eliminated is a defenseless human being at the beginning of life. Unborn children have no voice," Byrnes added.