There’s a reason why most politicians would rather not take a position on the abortion issue. Most surveys show people are evenly divided on the difficult question, with about half identifying themselves as pro-life and the other half saying they are pro-choice. That’s a political no-win.
Thus, it’s a little surprising that Governor Eddie Calvo and his administration have chosen this time, less than two weeks before a mid-term election, to bring up the issue. He has called the members of the 31st Guam Legislature into special session this afternoon to take up Bill 52, which has been languishing in committee for months.
The lawmakers, or at least the Democratic majority, had decided not to have any session at all until after November 6th. They would clearly rather not deal with this bill now, when they are all busy campaigning. However that may be the point.
The Governor and his supporters would like to have a Republican majority with which to work for the final two years of his term. They see a weakness in the Democratic majority, with some of the incumbents struggling, and believe it is the Democrats who have bottled up the abortion bill, keeping it from coming to the floor for a vote.
Couple that with the willingness of one incumbent Democrat, freshman Dennis Rodriquez, to bring the bill out of his Committee on Health, and you may well have a win-win. One more Democratic vote, which they reportedly have, plus all the Republicans and the bill will pass 8-7. Never mind the ten votes needed to override a veto. There’s not a chance Governor Calvo will veto this one. Send it to his desk and he’ll sign it, complete with a photo opportunity and some pointed remarks directed at the recalcitrant Democrats.
That’s the apparent plan, but some of the Democrats may have other ideas. The bill presumably could be sent to another committee, or several other committees. If they have the votes to do that they can probably keep the bill stymied for many more months. They may also be able to delay any vote until after the election merely by adjourning the special session. Just because the Governor calls for a special session does not mean the lawmakers are required to do anything other than meet. If they do vote, they may load the bill up with amendments unacceptable to the Governor.
If they can somehow avoid dealing with the bill until after the election, the majority senators would undoubtedly like to do that.
All this political maneuvering sort of overshadows the bill itself, which would impose a 24-hour waiting period on anyone seeking an abortion, and require that information about the procedure and other alternatives be given to the pregnant woman. The highly emotional issue will certainly bring out crowds of demonstrators. Similar laws have been put on the books in several other states, and have reportedly met the Roe v. Wade constitutional test. Guam’s law, if passed, will also be put to that test.