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Guam's church leader says referendum bill a 'one-sided campaign for abortion'



By Mar-Vic Cagurangan



The proposed referendum to let Guam voters decide on the island’s reproductive policy is a misleading proposition, according to the apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Agaña, who described the legislation as “one big ‘commercial’ for abortion.”


Testifying against Bill 106-37, Father Romeo D. Convocar said while it “masquerades” as a neutral motion, the proposal actually endorses abortion.


Introduced by Sen. Thomas Fisher, Bill 106-37 seeks to put the abortion question on the ballot in the next general election “to provide Guam voters the power to decide on reproductive rights.”


If Bill 106-37 is signed into law, voters would be asked: "Shall the Reproductive Health Protection Act of 2023, as recited herein and below, be enacted into Guam law?"


If approved by the majority of voters, the accompanying measure would automatically become law.


The “Reproductive Health Protection Act of 2023” would “allow health care providers to provide abortion services without limitations.”


The proposed law would lift any “requirements that single out abortion services for restrictions that are more burdensome than those restrictions imposed on medically comparable procedures and do not significantly advance reproductive health or the safety of abortion services and make abortion services more difficult to access.”


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But Convocar said Bill 106-37 attempts to hide its real purpose.


“In its title and introduction, it dangles the idea of a referendum as a tool for people to decide. However, this is but a small piece of the proposed legislation,” Convocar said in his written testimony. “The rest of the bill is a one-sided campaign promoting unrestricted abortion on Guam. It’s like one big “commercial” for abortion.”


Instead of inserting an abortion proposal into the legislation, the church leader said the bill should discuss both sides of the debate.


Convocar said Bill 106-37 is a duplicate of Sen. Will Parkinson’s Bill 111-137, which seeks to expand abortion services on Guam by removing current prerequisites and requirements such as in-person consultation with a physician prior to obtaining an abortion.


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“As we stated in a message to our faithful last August, in contrast to telemedicine and the prescribing of abortion pills, in-person contact is important because it helps women who are under distress and are in need of face-to-face consultation with vital, complete information about such a procedure that is extremely life-altering, often disastrous for them, aside from the devastation of the fetus,” Convocar said.


“This face-to-face consultation can often save women and girls from a lifetime of regret. We care not only for the unborn but for the mother, as well,” he added.


While the church is typically expected to oppose abortion, Convocar said advocating for “the protection of unborn children” is not exclusively a religious position.


“Each time the Catholic Church or other churches publicly speak up for innocent babies in the womb, we are criticized by some who argue that we should not try to impose our religious beliefs upon others,” he said.


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“There are many people who are not religious, not members of a church or do not even believe in God who fully understand and passionately defend the right of the unborn to live,” Convocar said.


“They understand this truth: That all human beings have an inalienable right to live, grow and pursue their full potential as members of our society. Like Christian pro-lifers, secular or atheist pro-lifers are horrified about the taking of the lives of viable children in the womb,” he added.


Pointing out that “moral law overrules man-made laws,” Convocar said he was “saddened” by the senators’ bid to rewrite existing abortion laws on Guam “to make access to abortion more wide-sweeping and free of restrictions, limitations and important requirements.


“What is naturally and morally wrong, remains so despite some people’s attempts to rationalize or justify otherwise,” he said.


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