By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Sen. William Parkinson is seeking to block Attorney General Doug Moylan’s impending attempt to dig up a long-buried law that sought to ban abortion on Guam.
“The law that Doug Moylan wants to revive has extreme consequences, even more so than the Heartbeat bill that was introduced last year,” Parkinson, a Democrat, said in a press conference Thursday morning.
The legislation in question was Public Law 20-134, which criminalized abortion, declaring that “life begins at conception, and that unborn children have protectable interests in life, health and well-being.”
“Public Law 20-134 would make any woman who gets an abortion a criminal, subject to up to one year in prison,” said Parkinson, a first-term legislator. “It injects the government into very private healthcare decisions that should be made family to family and person to person. Public Law 20-134 will put women in jail for making their own personal decisions.”
In 1990, the District Court of Guam issued a permanent injunction on P.L. 20-134 law, striking it down as unconstitutional. The decision was based on a lawsuit filed by the Guam Society of Obstetricians against then-Gov. Joseph Ada.
The law came to light again on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which overturned the once iconic Roe v. Wade.
In an opinion issued in July 2022, Leevin Camacho, then attorney general, said P.L. 20-134 had been voided by the federal court and therefore stricken off the books.
During and after the campaign, Moylan said he was inclined to seek the lifting of court injunction on P.L. 20-134.
The dead law has since lingered in public discourse on Guam, especially in the wake of the defeat of Bill 291-36, also known as the Guam Heartbeat Act, which was dead on arrival in Adelup.
Bill 291-36 would have banned abortion at the stage of fetal heartbeat detection, but the 36th Guam Legislature failed to muster enough votes to override Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero's veto of the bill.
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Parkinson backpedaled on his initial plan to file a bill that would repeal P.L. 20-134. “If it was never in the books, it would be counterproductive to repeal something that is not there,” he said.
After a consultation with the American Civil Liberties Union, the senator said he decided to hold off and await the outcome of any litigation related to P.L 20-134.
Just the same, Parkinson said, ”I, in my position as senator, will do everything I can to not only protect the people’s right to choice, but everything I can to ensure that I do everything in my power to protect our people’s safety and expand access to reproductive healthcare.”
“Under this law, this speech is illegal. Public Law 20-134 makes it illegal to advocate for abortion,” Parkinson said. “This was one of the many reasons it was struck down as unconstitutional. It is a gag order under threat of criminal prosecution to every doctor, nurse, mother, father, sister, brother, family member or friend who supports women and girls when trying to make a very personal choice.”
Parkinson urged Moylan to instead focus on “going after” the rapists, murderers, child molesters and drug dealers.
"If you insist on reviving this law, people will be arrested: pregnant women, young girls, people who exercise their first amendment right to share basic information, innocent people," he added.