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Guam's only abortion provider retires

The lack of abortion providers could put the health and lives of women in danger, advocates say.
Image: FILE PHOTO: An aerial view of U.S. Naval Base Guam
FILE: An aerial view of U.S. Naval Base Guam September 20, 2006.HANDOUT / Reuters

HAGATNA, Guam — Guam no longer has physicians performing abortions following the recent retirement of a doctor.

Dr. William Freeman of the Women's Clinic has been the island's sole abortion provider since late 2016 following the retirement of the only other physician who performed abortions for years, the Pacific Daily News reported.

Freeman retired in May, leaving the clinic to Dr. Jeffrey Gabel. Gabel, an obstetrician and gynecologist, said he does not conduct abortions and he doesn't support abortions made at will.

"I've always been against it," Gabel said.

Guam's Department of Public Health and Social Services doesn't refer clients or patients for abortion services, said Leo Casil, the agency's acting director.

"As far as I know there are no other physicians who conduct abortions," Casil said.

The lack of abortion providers on the island is not concerning to the department, Casil said, noting that abortions in emergency situations are decided by a physician.

Physicians at the Guam Memorial Hospital and the Guam Regional Medical City do not perform abortions as an elective procedure, hospital officials said.

The lack of abortion providers could put the health and lives of women in danger, said attorney Anita Arriola, an advocate for abortion rights. Arriola was one of the attorneys who challenged and eventually helped overturn a 1990 law prohibiting abortions on Guam.

"Our legislators and governor created an environment that has driven legal abortion providers away from Guam, and they're setting up a system where women will perform their own abortions or travel at great lengths and great risk to get legal or illegal abortions," Arriola said.