Federal Court Allows Medically Unnecessary Abortion Restriction in Guam to Take Effect Again

August 1, 2023 6:00 pm

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HAGÅTÑA, Guam — The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling today that will allow the Guam government to enforce a medically unnecessary and irrational abortion restriction that forces patients obtaining medication abortion by telemedicine to receive certain information in person before they can receive the medications. The ruling will not take effect immediately.

The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union and Guam-based attorney Vanessa L. Williams, filed on behalf of two Guam-licensed physicians, located in Hawai’i, who provide abortion care by telemedicine to patients in Guam.

“The evidence shows this requirement looks nothing like ‘informed consent’ and provides no health benefit for people in Guam,” said Vanessa L. Williams, an attorney in Guam and co-counsel in the case. “A person’s health should guide important medical decisions throughout pregnancy, not politics. We’ll continue fighting with everything in our power to ensure our family members, neighbors, and everyone in Guam can get the care they need, free from government intrusion.”

In 2021, Guam-licensed providers filed the case against two Guam abortion restrictions: A statute requiring abortions be “performed” in a clinic or hospital, and another preventing patients from using telemedicine to obtain certain government-mandated information prior to an abortion. The challenge to the first restriction was resolved when the government agreed that Guam law permits medication abortion to be provided by telemedicine. The second restriction was enjoined in September of 2021 and abortion access was restored to Guam by early 2022.

“We are deeply disappointed that the court is permitting medically unnecessary government mandates to once again be enforced,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Today’s decision imposes unnecessary obstacles on people seeking abortion in Guam, but make no mistake, abortion remains legal in Guam and we will continue to do everything in our power to make sure it stays both legal and accessible.”

Separately, Attorney General Moylan has also requested a court allow him to enforce a total abortion ban passed in 1990, which was invalid at the time it was enacted and quickly struck down after a challenge filed by the ACLU and Anita Arriola, a Guam-based attorney. The federal district court in Guam denied the Attorney General’s request in March, and the AG has since appealed that decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Those proceedings are ongoing.

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