Bill 54-30: History

Updated: July 15, 2011


BILL 54-30, THE WOMEN'S REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH ACT OF 2009 required that consent to an abortion be voluntary, informed, and written. It was introduced  by Senator Eddie Calvo in February of 2009, promptly received a public hearing, and was reported out of Committee the following month.

Given that Bill 54 would have provided the first ever significant legal protections to the unborn and their mothers, we expected that the bill would be challenged. We were not surprised by the subterfuge, intrigue, lies, and silence that followed. We did not, however, expect to have to ask the Governor to veto the bill! The fact that we DID have to ask the Governor to veto the bill is evidence of the subterfuge employed by legislators in order to evade public scrutiny on the issue of abortion.

Rather than vote up or down on the bill or simply not place it on the agenda, Senator Respcio completely
rewrote the bill so that it actually accomplished the opposite of the bill’s intent: advised on the risks of carrying a child to term rather than the risks of abortion.

It was obvious why Senator Respicio did this. He did not want to have to face public scrutiny by voting the bill down. He tried to keep it off the agenda, but Esperansa had already shed some public light on that tactic. Substituting an entirely different bill on the floor would allow Senator Respicio and the others who want to keep abortion unregulated on Guam the best cover:
  1. The public would not see the substitute bill beforehand
  2. The bill would have the same number and title, allowing the public to think it was the same bill but with “some” revisions
  3. “Substituting” the bill at the very end of the session held on the day after Thanksgiving would give the debate the least amount of public exposure
  4. The “substitute” bill would force the author and supporters to try to put the informational requirements back into the bill, which Respicio knew wouldn’t happen because of the Democratic majority.
  5. The substitute bill would pass and Respicio and his colleagues would be seen as pro-life.
Respicio was correct on all his assumptions and tactics. But he didn’t count on some of us watching so closely. Once confronted with the evidence of his sneaky antics he has had to increase the cover-up.

Timeline and History of Bill 54-30

02/02/09: Bill 54-30
introduced

03/27/09: Received Public Hearing

03/30/09: Reported out of Committee on Health (
Committee Report)

01/19/10: Nine months after the bill is reported out of Committee, Esperansa inquires with Senator Aguon as to the status of Bill 54.

01/19/10: Sen. Aguon adivses us that Bill 54 was “re-referred” back to his Committee "today" : "Bill 54 was re-referred back to the Committee today due to constitutional questions raised on certain provisions" and stated that he would have to "review these provisions and ensure that they were consistent with existing constitutional issues".


06/2010:  Five months later, Esperansa again contacts Senator Aguon by phone to request for an update on status of Bill 54.

06/2010:  Esperansa is advised by an Aguon staff member that the bill had been referred back to Senator Respicio’s Committee on Rules.

06/2010:  Esperansa contacts Senator Respicio’s office (by phone) and the following transpires:
  • A Respicio staff member informs Esperansa that the bill is still with Sen. Aguon.
  • Esperansa advises the staff member that we had already contacted Sen. Aguon and were advised to contact Sen. Respicio.
  • The Aguon staff member advises Esperansa that the matter will be looked into and we would be contacted. 
07/05/10: After not hearing back from Senator Respicio's office, Esperansa (in an email) recounts the foregoing to Senator Respicio and again reiterates a request for a status update.

07/05/10: Sen. Respcio advises Esperansa that Bill 54 had been returned to the Committee on Health” due to information submitted by “a few attorneys of a recent US Supreme Court decision which would have deemed Bill 54 unconstitutional.” 


07/05/10: Esperansa asks Sen. Respicio to please let us know “which recent U.S. Supreme Court case would invalidate Bill 54, and which provision of Bill 54 in particular would be invalidated by that case?” 

07/15/10: Sen. Respicio did not respond. Esperansa then sent another inquiry requesting clarification on the the U.S. Supreme Court case Sen. Respicio had referred to in his previous reply.

07/17/10: Sen. Respicio replied that he wasstill in the process of obtaining that decision and referred us to the testimony submitted by Arriola, Cowan, & Arriola which, he said “explains the legal flaws of the bill”, and promised to forward a copy of the actual decision as soon as we can get one.”



Esperansa had already reviewed the testimony submitted by Arriola and noted that NO U.S. Supreme Court case was referenced, and that not only were there NO legal challenges in the bill, but in fact the U.S. Supreme Court itself had advocated for informed consent laws such as Bill 54-30. (Read the Arrioloa testimony here and Esperansa's analysis here.)

07/19/10: Esperansa contacts Sen. Respicio (email) asking Sen. Respicio if they simply accepted the Arriola opinion or if he sought out a neutral opinion on the constitutionality of Bill 54. And we again asked for information about the specific decision.

07/28/10: Sen. Respicio informs Esperansa that the bill is not within his committee’s jurisdiction and that he is essentially tired of us bothering him.


07/29/10: Esperansa sends a request for the decision again. There is no reply.

07/30/10: Esperansa asks Sen. Respicio again whether or not he sought out a neutral opinion on the supposed constitutionality of Bill 54. There was no reply.

09/29/10: Two months later, Esperansa sends a
letter to Sens. Aguon and Respicio with exhibits detailing these conversations and providing evidence that there was no U.S. Supreme Court decision mentioned in the Arriola testimony as claimed by Senator Respicio.

09/29/10: Upon receipt of our letter, and presented with the evidence of either his neglect or his intention to thwart the legislation, Sen. Aguon immediately sends a
request for opinion on Bill 54 to the Attorney General, NINE MONTHS after he advised us (on 1/19/10) that he would have to research the "constitutional issues".

10/06/10: Sen. Aguon
notifies Esperansa that a request for opinion by the Attorney General has been submitted by his office.

10/07/10: Esperansa acquires a
copy of Sen. Aguon’s letter to the Attorney General which is Date/Time stamped: 9/29/2010, 1:30pm, which is less than one hour after Esperansa had sent him our letter with the attached exhibits and threat of public action.

10/7/10: Esperansa holds a press
conference summarizing all of the above.

10/07/10: Sen. Aguon is not available for comment to the Media, which then asks Sen. Barnes, a co-sponsor of the bill, for her opinion. Barnes either ignores the evidence or demonstrates her ignorance of the bill's status
stating to the media that she believes Sen. Aguon is doing the right thing.

10/08/10: Sen. Aguon
advises the media that he has submitted a request for opinion on Bill 54 to the Attorney General. He does not say when, and he is not asked. But it is obvious that he never had any intention of seeking the AG's opinion and only did so after confronted by Esperansa and the possibility of a negative impact on his campaign loomed.

10/12/10: Sen. Respicio, now caught in the middle of a big lie, goes on the attack, 
accusing Esperansa Spokesperson, Marjorie DeBenedictis of being a front for the Calvo-Tenorio campaign. Respicio has no option but to attack. His actions and his abuse of the public trust and the democratic process is defenseless.

10/26/10: Attorney General
advises Senator Aguon that Bill 54 WOULD withstand a constitutional challenge, recommends only one area of clarification. Of course with four major U.S. Supreme Court rulings supporting such legislation and the presence of similar legislation in at least 30 other states, there was no need to go to the AG in the first place.

11/05/10: Committee on Health incorporates AG's recommended clarification and
re-reports the bill out of Committee as SBill 54-30.

11/26/10:
During the Legislative Session an entirely different SBill 54-30 is questionably “substituted on the Floor” with the following header:

    As Substituted by the Committee on Economic
    Development, Health & Human Services, and Judiciary
    and further Substituted on the Floor

    However!!!!
  1. There was no motion to accept the bill as "further substituted on the Floor" as is required by legislative procedure.
  2. Senator Calvo, the bill's primary sponsor, attempted to ask Speaker Won Pat if the bill "as substituted on the Floor" has been accepted, but he was silenced by the Speaker and...
  3. On the video record, someone seems to have advised him that it had been accepted because Senator Calvo appears to say "okay" and he moves forward. (It is not known why Senator Calvo did not know if the bill "as substituted on the Floor" had been accepted. Perhaps he had arrived late.)
The mysterious SBill 54-30 "as further substituted on the Floor" is not only NOT the Substitute Bill that was re-reported out of the Committee on Health on 11/05/10 and should have been the bill debated on the floor, the new SBill 54-30 was an entirely different bill (authored by Senator Respicio) which achieved the very opposite of the intent stated in the original bill:

Instead of an expectant mother being advised of the risks and alternatives to abortion, she would now only be advised of the risk of carrying the child to term! In effect, the new SBill 54-30 encouraged abortion.

11/30/10  Legislature
passes the "new Bill 54"

12/01/10  Bill 54 is
transmitted to the Governor

12/06/10  Esperansa
recommends Governor to veto Bill 54 which has become a pro-abortion bill

12/13/10  Governor Camacho
vetoes Bill 54

12/15/10  A copy of video recording of the Legislative Session held on 11/26/10 in which Bill 54 was debated is acquired. A review of the
recording shows that THERE WAS NO MOTION to accept the bill "as substituted on the Floor" as per the bill's header.

Legislative Session 11/26/10, Re: Bill 54-30



12/20/10  Because the DVD recording is not the official record of legislative proceedings, we ask the Clerk of the Legislature (by phone) for a copy of the legislative journal, which is the official record, and which the Organic Act requires the legislature to keep and to make available for public inspection.

 He is told that the journal is not available. The request is made for the journal in order to officially verify what the video recording of the session shows: that the bill presented on the floor for debate was not substituted according to the standing rules and was radically different than the bill reported out of the oversight committee.

01/15/11  Esperansa posts a
copy of Senator Aguon's Speech about Bill 54 at the 11/26/10 Legislative Session in which Aguon attempts to clear his name but actually provides further documentation and evidence to his role in the attempt to bury Bill 54.

01/20/11  An Esperansa Project member, again requests a copy of the journal for the session relative to Bill 54 and is again told that it is unavailable.

03/17/11  Still trying to acquire the journal for Bill 54-30, we send a
request to Speaker Won Pat - the request references her recent Bill 90-31 which calls for greater government transparency and implores her to live up to the standard she intends to mandate by law for everyone else.

03/23/11  We receive a
reply from Speaker Won Pat that the requested journal will be available in “3-4 weeks”.

03/24/11  We 
respond to Won Pat”s reply questioning her sincerity in introducing a bill (90-31)  requiring greater government transparency when she herself is ignoring existing requirements which calls for concurrent written record of legislative proceedings. He questions whether she is also involved in the cover-up of the fate of Bill 54-30.

04/04/11  The Pacific Daily News runs a
story about our request for the journal wherein Won Pat refers to the journal as a “transcript”, and uses the excuse that a transcript takes time (since it is now 5 months after the fact).

04/06/11  Not receiving a reply from his
March 24 letter to Won Pat, and wondering why Won Pat thinks the journal is a transcript, we send another letter  to Won Pat referencing several instances in both the Organic Act and the Legislative Standing Rules wherein the journal is referenced. Again, there is NO response from Won Pat.

04/27/11  The “3-4 weeks” indicated in Speaker Won Pat's 3/23/11 letter as per the time frame in which we could expect to receive a copy of the journal for the 11/26/10 session he requested is still not forthcoming. We write another letter to Won Pat stating:

  1. He has received from the Clerk of the Legislature copies of the journal for the first sessions of the 28th, 29th, 30th, & 31st Legislatures, demonstrating that keeping a written journal and not just a video recording is the norm for the journal.
  2. That he received the copies of the requested journals within 4 days as per the requirement of the Open Government law.
  3. And alleges that Won Pat is withholding the journal for the discussion relative to Bill 54-30  since over 5 months have transpired and the journal is still not available while journals for other sessions were easily obtainable.
05/10/11 We send a Freedom of Information Act letter to the Executive Director of the Legislature, Vince Arriola, requesting a copy of the journal for the 11/26/10 legislative session. Mr. Arriola does not reply in the time frame allotted by law (4 working days).

05/19/11 Pacific Daily News runs our op ed "
Legislature Fails to Provide Journal"

06/07/11 With still no response from the Executive Director or Speaker Won Pat, we decide to send a letter to all the Senators of the 31st Guam Legislature with a copy to the media detailing the continued violation of the Organic Act and the Open Government Law in regards to his attempt to procure the journal for of 11/26/10.

06/08/11 The Executive Director of the Legislature, to whom the FOIA request was addressed replies in an email that the requested documents are now available. The are immediately retrieved. The date is more than 6 months after the session in question.

*****

We review the journal record and immediately finds (on Pg. 34) exactly what he knew would be there...an event THAT DID NOT OCCUR which is copied here:




 The above entry is a completely manufactured record inserted to cover for Speaker Won Pat's "failure" to follow legislative procedure and ask for a motion to accept the bill "as further substituted on the Floor". 
"Failure" is in quotes, because it is obvious from the video record of the session that this was no oversight.

07/05/11 We send a letter to Speaker Won Pat with the evidence that the journal was doctored, linking both to Pg. 34 of the journal where the concocted record was inserted and the video of the session which shows her banging the gavel and not allowing the required motion. 

While the Speaker's actions are clearly part of an orchestrated effort to slip the real fate of Bill 54-30 past the public, the person who must first take the blame is the Clerk of the Legislature, Patricia Santos, for recording an event into a public document that did not happen, and we give Speaker Won Pat until 07/11/11 to respond as to what she will do.

07/11/11 Speaker Won Pat does not respond. There was no reason to expect that she would respond. She has a history of not responding or keeping her commitments. On March 23, 2011 she advised in the Pacific Daily News that the journal would be available in "3-4 weeks." As of June, 7, 2011, eleven weeks later, the journal was still not available.

At worst, the concocted journal record is evidence of the Speaker's complicity in a pro-abortion conspiracy and an open violation of the Open Government Law and the Organic Act, and at best, an extreme dereliction of duty. She, like the others in this dirty game of hide and seek with the people's business, believe that the people will forget. We won't.









Summary
  1. Senators Aguon and Respicio attempted to keep Bill 54-30 from going to a vote.*
  2. When their intrigue was exposed, Respicio rewrote the bill and deleted all the informational requirements and effectively turned it into a bill promoting abortion.
  3. The journal for the legislative session documenting the questionable substitution of Respicio's version of Bill 54 was been kept from the public for over six months.
  4. Upon procurement of the journal and comparison with the video record, it was immediately obvious that the journal had been doctored to cover up the fact that the Speaker had not requested that the bill "as further substituted on the Floor" had not been accepted.
  5. Confronted with the evidence, Won Pat refuses to respond.
*Note: This post recounts Senator Aguon's actions in 2010-2011. As of September 2013, Senator Aguon has since introduced two pro-life bills: Bill 191-32 and 195-32 (see www.guamlegislature.com)

Notes:
Currently (2011) Guam has only three laws regulating abortion:
  1. Abortions must be performed by a physician
  2. Abortions must be reported
  3. Partial Birth Abortion Ban

Compared to a state by state study conducted by AUL.org and information available from Guttmacher.org, the lack of regulation of the abortion industry on Guam makes Guam the easiest place in the United States to procure an abortion.

Other states have seen the wisdom of providing some regulation of the industry given the risks involved and the regrets expressed by many women after an abortion. In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v Casey, opened the door for informed consent laws. Today most states have some form of a waiting period after counseling which is what Bills 54-30 would have required (and now Bill 52-31).

See
State Policies in Brief: An Overview of Abortion Laws as of May 1, 2011, published by the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion research group which tracks legislation regulating abortion. Note the states which have laws requiring a waiting period after counseling. Note that Senator Respicio’s rewrites of both Bill 54-30 and 52-31 would have eliminated all the counseling requirements leaving only an empty 24 hour waiting period.
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