HONOLULU (AP) — If the Supreme Court overturns the precedent that established the nation’s abortion rights in the United States, women from remote U.S. regions like Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands may have to travel farther than other Americans to terminate their pregnancies.
Hawaii is the closest U.S. state where abortion is legal under local laws. Even so, Honolulu is 3,800 miles (6,100 kilometers) from Los Angeles—about 50 percent more than Boston is from Los Angeles.
“For many people who are seeking abortion care, it’s not as good as being on the moon,” said Vanessa L Williams, an attorney active with People’s Choice Guam.
In Guam, a small Catholic island of about 170,000 people, abortion is already difficult in southern Japan.
The last doctor who performed a surgical abortion there retired in 2018.Two Guam-licensed physicians living in Hawaii pass virtual and mail them medical abortion pills. But this alternative is only available until 11 weeks gestation.
Now, even this limited telehealth option risks disappearing.
Recently leaked draft opinion suggests Supreme Court may overturn Landmark Roe v. Wade verdict And allow individual countries to ban abortion. Abortion rights advocates say about half of them are likely to do so.Oklahoma’s governor signed a measure Wednesday, taking the lead All abortions are banned, with a few exceptions.
All three U.S. territories in the Pacific — Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa — are also likely to adopt a ban, according to a 2019 report from the Center for Reproductive Rights. No one has legal protections for abortion, and they can reinstate the old abortion ban or enact a new one, the report said.
Traveling to the nearest state that allows abortion—Hawaii or the U.S. West Coast—is daunting for many women.
A direct flight from Guam to Honolulu takes nearly eight hours. Only one commercial airline operates this route. A recent online search showed the cheapest round-trip airfare in late May was $1,500.
Many Guam residents need vacation time, hotel rooms and rental cars to get abortions, adding even more costs, Williams said.
Hawaii legalized abortion in 1970, three years before Roy. States today allow abortion until the fetus can survive outside the womb. After that, it is legal if the patient’s life or health is at risk.
It would be quicker to fly to Asian countries that allow abortions, but several reproductive rights advocates in Guam said they had not heard of anyone doing so. First, it needs a passport, which many people don’t have, says Kiana Yabut of Famalao’an Rights.
Without Roy, Guam could revert to its 1990 abortion ban. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled the law unconstitutional in 1992, but it was never repealed.
Guam Deputy Attorney General James Cantor agreed this month, challenged by Guam senators, that existing abortion laws in individual states and territories would “become local law” if Roy was overturned.
But the 9th Circuit’s permanent ban on the 1990 law means Guam’s attorney general will have to ask the local U.S. District Court to lift the ban to begin enforcing it, said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, deputy director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Program.
The 32-year-old statute makes it a felony for a doctor to perform the procedure unless it is to save the woman’s life or prevent a serious danger to her health, certified by two independent doctors, or to end an ectopic pregnancy, which is dangerous in the An abnormal pregnancy that occurs outside the womb.
This makes it a misdemeanor for a woman to have an abortion or for anyone to request or advise her to do so.
The ban was unanimously approved by the 21-member unicameral legislature after then-Archbishop Anthony Apuron Threatened to fire any Catholic senator who voted against in TV interview. All but one senator are Catholic, but most of the senators said they were unaware of the threat.
The Guam legislature has been considering additional measures to restrict abortion.This month, it held hearings on a modelled bill New Texas law Once cardiac activity is detected, abortion is usually banned around six weeks. Texas law, Withstood legal challenges so farleaving enforcement to ordinary citizens through litigation rather than criminal prosecution.
Peter Srgo, a Guam attorney who drafted the measure, said enacting the measure would eliminate speculation about whether Guam would ban abortion if Roe was overturned.
“So you choose. What do you want? Because for me, no matter what, I won. No matter what, the people won. Either way, the anti-abortion movement is going to have a major victory anyway,” he said. .
Abortion in Guam may become less accessible, said Mona McManus, executive director of the Guam Safe Harbor Pregnancy Center, prompting a group of nonprofits to unite to increase support for pregnant women in need.
Her organization opposes abortion, offering free pregnancy tests, prenatal and parenting classes, and information on adoption and abortion. It recently formed an “integrated services group” with other nonprofits that can help secure housing, foster care for teenage mothers, adoption and other services.
Jayne Flores, director of Guam’s government agency Women’s Affairs, believes that if Roy is overthrown, residents could still get medical abortions from off-island. But she wondered if the legislature would also ban it.
“When did you start checking people’s mail?” she said.
In the Atlantic, lawmakers within the United States Puerto Rico is considering legislation This would ban abortions from 22 weeks, or when doctors determine the fetus is viable, with the only exception that the woman’s life is at risk. This is roughly in line with most U.S. state law, though more restrictive than the current status of Puerto Rico, which has no term limits.