As states move to restrict abortion and access to it, women in the US territory of Guam already face a greater burden than crossing state lines for the procedure.
They must fly a long way, with Hawaii – more than seven hours away by plane – the closest US destination where they can get the Constitutionally protected medical service.
Guam allows abortion in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy or up to 26 weeks in a case of rape or incest, a grave fetal anomaly, or to protect the woman’s life, said Jayne Flores, director of the Bureau of Women’s Affairs.
“It is just that we no longer have an abortion provider,” Flores said. “Women on Guam now have to fly to Hawaii or the mainland US to have an abortion, as abortion is no longer available here.”
The last doctor to perform abortions in Guam retired in May 2018, the Department of Public Health and Social Services’ Office of Vital Statistics says. Abortion is generally not allowed in the nearby Northern Mariana Islands, a US commonwealth; it’s illegal in the Philippines.
In the mainland US, Missouri soon could become the first state without an abortion clinic. Five other states have just one each.
Alabama, Georgia and other states have passed new restrictions on abortion in recent weeks.
The island has its first female governor
US federal laws apply in Guam, and Guamanians are US citizens. About 170,000 people live on the island, which covers 210 square miles. East of the Philippines and north of Australia, Guam is key to the US military in the Pacific, and bases there are the main economic driver.
Guam’s first female governor, Lourdes Leon Guerrero, took office in January.
White abortion services aren’t available, a public health clinic waives and discounts fees for people who cannot afford birth control, STD testing, Pap smears and more, Flores said. The clinic also provides education about birth control and reproductive health.
Finding an abortion provider “will take some work” in the predominantly Catholic territory, she said.
Until then, women have the option of the emergency medication known as the “morning-after pill,” which is available over the counter and via prescription at pharmacies to people over 18. The pills are meant for use within 72 hours after sex and are most effective within 24 hours.
“Our best avenue right now is to arm girls and young women with information about how their bodies work, so that they are knowledgeable about menstruation, pregnancy, STDs and how to prevent them,” Flores said.