Guam – The Unborn Victims of Violence Act failed to pass the Legislature during Monday afternoon’s vote. Opponents of Bill #409 say it contradicts current law and could hamper women’s rights, but proponents say it simply gives a woman the right to protect her unborn child.
The Bll was voted down with 7 Sentors opposing it and just 6 supporting it. It was what pro-life advocate Tim Rohr had expected.
Last week Rohr raised concerns about the Bill 409’s fate when it was moved to the voting file without any discussion.
The bill was introduced by Republican Sen. Frank Blas Jr. and was intended to recognize two victims when a person injures or kills a pregnant woman, both the mother and her unborn child.
Both Rohr and Blas say they are disturbed with the way the bill went down Monday.
Before voting on the bill, some senators received a message from the Attorney General’s office that seemed to discourage passage of the legislation because of inconsistencies with current Guam law. The timing of the email, Senator Blas says, is also suspect because the AG’s Office had previously worked on improving the language in the bill.
“If there were issues you had the bill–they had with the bill, they worked on the bill–why didn’t they clear it? If there were issues as they stated why didn’t they clear it, why didn’t they work on it? They sent the bill back they knew the bill was gonna be back on why didn’t they say anything then?” Blas laments. “You worked on the bill, now all of the sudden you say that you weren’t satisfied with your own product?”
Senator Blas also responded to callers on the K-57 Breakfast Show this morning who criticized him for a portion in his bill that defined an unborn child as a human being; language he says is already Guam law.
“The definition of an unborn child is already defined in our local statute. And all I did was basically affirmed what that definition was in this bill. I wasn’t making up a new one. It’s already there. That unborn child is already recognized as a person,” Blas says.
Rohr was also disappointed with the misinformation being circulated in the public about the measure. While it’s easy to link the bill to abortion, Rohr says it really has nothing to do with abortion other than a section in the bill that clearly separates abortion from murder.
“This is just simply, does a woman have a right to press charges against somebody who attacks her and harms or kills her child? Guam’s legislature said no. Seven people in Guam’s legislature said no to the woman. ‘Too bad your child is dead. Go away,'” says Rohr.
He also refutes statements that the bill is just an attempt for pro-life supporters to overturn Roe vs. Wade. Rohr says that many states have already adopted the bill into law, including the federal government without overturning Roe v Wade.
“Perhaps someday that may occur but there is nothing that we can do here. The fact is the federal government itself has already passed this law and it hasn’t touched Roe v Wade. There’s already a federal precedent. There are 36 states who have this law,” he notes.
Rohr says the attention should be taken away from the subject of abortion and instead directed toward the real intent of the bill, which is to give women more rights to protect her child from unwanted harm.
“Of course in Guam we don’t have to hardly open up the paper every day and there’s some boyfriend beating up his girlfriend and often times it’s because he found out it’s because she was pregnant,” says Rohr. “And now with the defeat of Bill 409, that woman simply has no recourse if her child is damaged. She has recourse for herself personally but if the child is dead the child is dead. The government says ‘too bad,'” Rohr says.
The bill was voted down by a vote of 6 yes’ and 7 no’s. Those who voted against the bill were Senators Judi Won Pat, BJ Cruz, Aline Yamashita, Rory Respicio, Sam Mabini, Tom Ada and Judi Guthertz.