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Abortion Access in Guam: Contending with Colonialism & its Devastating Consequences post-Dobbs

November 30, 2022

Four years ago, Guam’s last surgical abortion provider retired. Since 2018, no one else has taken their place. People seeking abortions are left with few options: they can receive abortifacients by mail, or, if a medication abortion is impossible, they can travel to Hawai‘i if they have the means to do so. Whatever option they choose, people seeking abortions in Guam must contend with its 13-week abortion ban in almost all situations. Post-Dobbs, abortion access in Guam will almost certainly get even worse.

Cecille Joan Avila argues that this bleak future is largely due to Guam’s status as a U.S. territory. First, Guam’s residents, including those who are pro-choice, have essentially zero meaningful representation of their interests in the government that is holding them and their land captive to its political whims. The U.S. government’s violent colonization of Guam has created a situation where residents are technically on “American soil.” As an unincorporated territory, Guam is subject to the plenary power of Congress, meaning that Congress can legislate directly for Guam or establish a government there, under congressional control. Guam’s residents lack full American citizenship, cannot vote in presidential elections, and their representative to Congress cannot vote at all. The only potential source of protection for abortion would be statutory, and the Center for Reproductive Rights believes such legislation is unlikely. While enduring this profoundly disturbing and ongoing colonial project, Guam’s residents have been fighting for independence or for statehood, but at present remain part of a U.S. territory.

Second, Avila notes that Guam’s residents—who face unique abortion access barriers and who are subjected to a government that does not represent or care for them—are often forgotten in U.S. organizing efforts to support folks in accessing abortions. Specifically, Guam has not received the influx of funds experienced by some abortion providers and reproductive justice groups in the U.S. (It bears mentioning that the funds organizations in Guam can apply for are extremely limited because as a territory, it is not officially part of the U.S., nor is it viewed as an international entity.)

The U.S. colonization of Guam has violated and continues to violate human rights, including interfering with the right to abortion. We at the Woodhull Freedom Foundation proudly join Avila in firmly believing that everyone, no matter where they live, should have access to abortion, which is inextricable from our right to sexual freedom.

Photo of a person at a march

Photo of a young person wearing pink fairy wings, holding a sign that says Abortion is Healthcare. (Photo by Gayatri Malhotra)

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