Gov. Joseph Ada today signed into law one of the strictest abortion statutes in the United States or its territories, setting up a potential direct challenge to the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe vs. Wade ruling.
The law, banning abortions on the U.S. South Pacific island except when the woman’s life is in jeopardy, faces a certain legal challenge in court.
The statute goes into force immediately, but also sets up a referendum on the issue Nov. 6, when Guam’s voters can rescind or affirm the measure.
Guam Atty. Gen. Elizabeth Barrett Anderson has said she believes the law is unconstitutional. She noted that the Supreme Court’s so-called Webster decision last July, allowing states to regulate abortion, did not go so far as to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling, which created a constitutional right to abortion.
Some abortion opponents believe that the current Supreme Court, however, might eventually overturn the 1973 decision.
Under the Guam measure, those performing an abortion could be charged with a felony, while women obtaining an abortion could be charged with a misdemeanor. The law did not specify possible sentences upon conviction.
The bill signed by Ada passed the Guam Legislature on March 9 before a gallery full of anti-abortion advocates, led by Catholic Archbishop Anthony Apuron, head of the Archdiocese of Guam and the Northern Marianas. Apuron had warned that he would seek excommunication for any Catholic senator who voted against the measure.
Janet Benshoof of the American Civil Liberties Union arrived today in Guam and is expected to announce a legal challenge to the law Tuesday.