Torres on abortion: Senators must not decide on behalf of the people of Guam
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Any law dealing with abortion must be consulted with the people of Guam, Sen. Mary Torres said, pointing out that the right to privacy is too big of an issue to be decided by just 15 members of the Guam Legislature.
Torres noted that public hearings on the proposed Bill 291-356, titled the “Guam Heartbeat Act of 2022,” indicated that "a vast majority of people desire choice.”
“My own ideology should not take over the ideology of the masses. I can fight for my position, but ultimately, we have to consider the majority position," said Torres, a Republican.
Sen. Telena Cruz Nelson's Bill 291-36 proposes to restrict abortion for women who are in their fifth or sixth week of pregnancy.
The general voice of the population should be "the impetus for the legislature’s decision," Torres said. "Abortion is beyond 15 people. The legislative body's act must be representative of people’s desire regardless of what position you take."
Abortion is currently legal on Guam.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overruled Roe v. Wade has invigorated pro-life advocates' push for an abortion ban on Guam.
In a legal opinion released last week, Attorney General Leevin Camacho said a 1990 law that sought to criminalize abortion on Guam is unenforceable. The District Court of Guam struck down Public Law 20-134 as unconstitutional.
"There's a criminal element associated with the act for the person who gets an abortion, for the physician and others who facilitate abortion. I don't think that's the law that we want," Torres said of P.L. 20-134.
While describing P.L. 20-134 as a "terrible law," Torres said she was hoping that the "referendum" provision in the law could be carried out.
"What we were most interested in was the referendum part of the law. This whole pro-choice issue is bigger than 15 people," she said. "The island of Guam must determine what the course is with regard to choice."
Although P.L. 20-134 remains in the books, Camacho said Guam's abortion ban had long been declared void.
“With Dobbs, the door is open for the current legislature, if it so chooses, to forge its own path on the ‘profound moral question’ of abortion for these times that may be different than what your predecessors in previous legislatures chose during their respective times in history,” Camacho stated in a legal opinion requested by Torres and Vice Speaker Tina Muna Barnes.
Archbishop Michael Byrnes reiterated his call for the community to support the Guam Heartbeat Act of 2022.
"The church affirms its support of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade," Byrnes said in a letter to the faithful.
"We implore our island leaders and all people to support the humanity of children in the womb who would be otherwise slaughtered by abortion. Abortion is an intrinsic evil that cannot be justified. No one should support this intrinsic evil," said the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Agana.