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There is no such thing as 'pro-abortion'

From the Publisher's Desk By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

People who are “pro-life” are “anti-abortion.” But “pro-choice” advocates are not necessarily “pro-abortion” or “anti-life.” Several women on Guam who push for the right to privacy are mothers. Some doctors who endorse reproductive rights help mothers give birth.

But we’re trapped in these judgmental categorizations, ignoring details and reducing our discourse to hysterical condemnation. Pro-lifers scream, “Murderers!”

No pregnant woman wakes up and makes a whimsical decision to get an abortion. No woman gets an abortion and leaves the clinic with glee. “Yay! The baby is gone!”

It’s an emotionally abounding decision pressed by a whole host of problems including trauma from sexual abuse, the health of the pregnant person and the fetus, age of the pregnant person, financial hardships and other circumstances that matter to the person who has to make such a heart-wrenching decision. It’s not an easy predicament to deal with, especially when the choice is taken away from you.

I have two children. The first one I conceived when I was fresh out of college and just starting my career in journalism. I made a personal choice. It was liberating because it was a personal decision.

The abortion debate never ends. Now the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision that overruled the five-decade-old Roe v. Wade sends us back to the streets, marching and shouting.

While abortion is still legal on Guam, the court’s ruling that leaves policy decisions to individual jurisdictions causes us to panic.

The Guam legislature has a history of conservatism when it comes to abortion. In 1990, the Guam legislature attempted to impose a complete ban on abortion through Public Law 20-134 that would send the “guilty” to jail. The law was voided by the District Court of Guam by virtue of the now-eliminated Roe v. Wade. The ruling was based on a lawsuit filed by the Guam Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Guam Nurses Association.

Currently pending in the 36th Guam Legislature is Sen. Telena Nelson’s Guam Heartbeat Act of 2022, which proposes to prohibit abortion for women who are in their fifth to sixth week of pregnancy.

Despite the legality of abortion on Guam, the service is not currently available due to the lack of doctors to perform the procedure. Layers of legal restrictions discourage doctors from offering the service.

Women who need an abortion have to spend thousands of dollars to get it done offshore. Those who cannot afford the travel expenses are left with no choice but to carry on with their unwanted pregnancy. Hence, infants are left abandoned at Guam Memorial Hospital.

Let’s face it: ideological imposition will not resolve one’s dilemma. Women will do what they have to do. If abortion is completely banned and the safe option is out of the picture, women will resort to the back alley.

I understand that the Guam community is deeply divided on this issue. But it cannot be resolved by a frenzied debate or a legislative dictate.

As Sen. Mary Torres pointed out, the right to privacy is too big of an issue to be decided by just 15 members of the Guam Legislature.

At the Guam Medical Association’s July 27 debate, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, an advocate of pro-choice, and Congressman Michael San Nicolas, who is on the pro-life side, agreed to have the question posed to the people of Guam through a referendum.

None of my own arguments are new. But in a democratic society, making the people decide is the best way to settle a fierce disagreement.

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