Hagatna, Guam, Jun 17, 2019 / 11:01 am (CNA).- Catholics in Guam have organized a prayer rally to protest the territorial governor’s plan to recruit a doctor willing to perform abortions, after the retirement of the island’s last abortion doctor.
“Say no to recruiting doctors who will kill our unborn children! Say yes to recruiting doctors who help us save lives,” read an invitation to the prayer rally sent by Patricia Perry, co-chair of the Catholic Pro-Life Committee, according to the Pacific Daily News, a Hagatna daily.
“We will not stop until all abortion is outlawed and all anti-life laws will be abolished,” Perry stated.
Guam Governor Lou Leon Guerrero, a former nurse who took office in January, recently expressed her wish to expand abortion access in the territory, but no doctors on the island are willing to perform abortions. The territory’s last abortion doctor retired in June 2018.
The island’s government is also offering waivers and discounts for contraception through a public health clinic.
According to the Pacific Daily News, the Archdiocese of Agaña said that “human life begins at conception and the Roman Catholic Church affirms and promotes this truth. There is no other moral or logical place to draw the line.”
Guam is predominantly Catholic, and Leon Guerrero has said that finding a doctor willing to perform abortions there “will take some work.” She said officials are trying to recruit doctors to come to the island and establish clinics.
Elective abortion is legal in Guam up to 13 weeks, and the procedure is legal up to 26 weeks in case of rape or incest; anyone who procures an abortion without help from a doctor can be charged with a felony. Doctors have the legal right to refuse to perform an abortion except in the case of a medical emergency.
Women in Guam seeking abortions fly thousands of miles from the island to seek abortions elsewhere, many in Hawaii.
There have only two or three Guam women given abortions in Hawaii since last year, and none was an elective procedure, an OB-GYN and University of Hawaii professor told the AP.
Guam’s public health department received reports of an average of 246 abortions annually between 2007 and 2017. Since the 2018 retirement of Dr. William Freeman, none have been reported.
The Pacific Daily News reported that the territory is in need of more foster families. It said a recent bill introduced to improve foster care noted that in May, there were 270 children in foster placement, and 37 licensed foster families.
“If you don’t do anything to help these kids, you’re not pro-life. You’re just pro-birth. I’m not saying that you should abort these children to avoid the system but if we’re not going to have an abortion clinic here on Guam, something needs to be fixed,” Kimmi Yee, a 20-year-old Guam resident and abortion rights supporter, told the Pacific Daily News.
U.S. federal law applies in Guam and its people are U.S. citizens; the island is home to about 170,000 residents.