Thursday, February 2, 2023



Timing dictates a variety of procedures

By JEANNE SCHULZ, (Pacific) Daily News Staff
August 24, 1979

“I’ve seen abortions in girls from 12 years old to women in their early 50’s,” said Dr. Thomas Gibson, an obstetrician-gynecologist at a Tamuning clinic. * “I can’t be very enthusiastic about them. But we live in an ugly world. Sometimes ugly measures are necessary.”

*SDA Clinic

Gibson, who performs only therapeutic abortions for women whose pregnancy endangers their lives or mental health, performed elective abortions until his clinic discontinued the service in 1976. 

“Having an abortion is safer than having a baby,” Gibson continued. “And it is much less traumatic to have an abortion than to give a baby up for adoption.”

Women seeking an abortion on Guam normally go through the procedure at Guam Memorial Hospital or Family Health Program/Guam Medical Center. Only FHP members or long-standing clinic patients are eligible for the service there, according to Dr. Pieter Huitema, FHP medical director.

Abortions are not performed at FHP after the 10th week of pregnancy Huitema said. 

“Sometimes an abortion is the best way out,” Gibson said. “I don’t like it. As doctors we’re trained to save life, not take it. I haven’t met anyone who really likes abortions. And no one wants to do them,” he continues. “Those less adamant are the ones who do them.”

“Those who do perform them include Dr. Vivien Batoyon, Dr. Vallop Boonprakong, Dr. Fong Shou Chang and Dr. Pat Sagisi. Boonprakong, Chang and Sagisi are given as referrals to women who call Seventh-day Adventist Clinic asking about abortions. Baton, Boonprakong and Sagisi are names given by Guam Memorial Hospital when called about abortions.

The earlier the abortion is performed, the less psychological strain is suffered, Gibson says. And the earlier an abortion is performed, the shorter the hospital stay.

If an abortion is done during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, a dilation and evacuation usually is performed. In this technique a narrow tube is inserted into the cervix and the fetus is removed by suction.

The procedure is done under local or general anesthesia and is completed in about 10 minutes, with a two or three-hour rest period afterward.

After 12 weeks, the fetus is too large for this procedure so the dilation and curettage method is used up to the 15th or 16th week. During dilation and curettage, the cervix is dilated and the fetus removed when the uterus is scraped with a spoon like instrument.

The procedure is relatively simple, according to Annie Bordallo, director of nursing at GMH. All abortion patients are admitted to the hospital at 5 a.m. and usually are able to leave the hospital by 4 p.m. the same day, she said.

The dilation and curettage is done under general anesthesia and takes about 15 to 20 minutes to complete, Bordallo said.

The third type of abortion performed at GMH is the saline abortion. It is the only method available to women more than 16 weeks pregnant.

A 16-week old aborted fetus requires a death certificate and burial. The saline abortions “are more painful than a regular delivery” because labor is forced, according to Trinidad Santa Ana, assistant nursing director at GMH. The also are quite controversial. 

Saline abortions involve the injection of a saline or salt solution into the uterus while equal amount of fluid is withdrawn.

The high concentration of salt kills the fetus and contractions occur until the fetus is expelled. Saline abortions occur rarely at GMH, Bordallo said.

Women undergoing a saline abortion are injected with the saline solution and remain in the hospital until labor is induced and the fetus is expelled. The process takes from two to three days with the woman usually going home the day the fetus is aborted.

The medical complications of the saline abortion given after 16 weeks are risky, according to Chang, chief of obstetrics/gynecology at GMH and one of the physicians who perform abortions there.

“The fetus is formed by then,” he said. “If the saline can stop the baby’s heartbeat, it can stop the mother’s too (if it gets into her blood stream). The bleeding and infection rates are higher also.” 

According to Hawaii Planned Parenthood, the saline solution is being replaced in most hospitals with a hormone called prostaglandin. The hormone is injected into the uterus, stimulating contractions and causing miscarriage to occur more rapidly than with saline abortions. The risk of complications is decreased with prostaglandin. 

Here on Guam, patients can expect to pay about $710 for a dilation and curettage, according to Santa Ana, who completed a study on abortions along with other students during a University of Guam course on fertility and reproduction. Approximate cost of this method includes a $250 surgeon’s fee, $69 anesthesiology fee and a $400 hospital fee covering the cost of the recovery room, operating room and lab tests. GMH requires the $400 payment before the patient is admitted to the hospital. Costs increase if overnight stays are required. 

Medicare or Medicaid does not cover the cost of abortions.

In Hawaii, the cost of an abortion ranges from $100 to $350, said Baily R. Center, executive director of Hawaii Planned Parenthood. Dilation and evacuations usually re done in a doctor’s office for women from six to eight weeks pregnant “In a matter of minutes,” Center said, and cost about $100.

After eight weeks, abortions are done in hospitals and cost about $350, including doctor’s fees and hospital costs. Center said. Twenty weeks is the cutoff point for abortions in Hawaii, he added.

Here on Guam, according to a bill passed by the 13th Guam Legislature in 1976, an abortion may be performed “within 13 weeks after the commencement of pregnancy; or within 26 weeks after the commencement of the pregnancy if the physician has reasonably determined using all available means that the child would be born with a grave physical or mental defect or that the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest; or at any time after the commencement of pregnancy if the physician reasonable determines using all available means that there is a substantial risk that continuance of the pregnancy would endanger the life of the mother or would gravely impair the physical or mental health of the mother.”

Before that bill was passed, Guam’s abortion law was patterned after California’s 1923 penal code. Under the old Guam code, still on the books in 1976 in spite of apparent contradiction with Supreme Court guidelines set in 1973, abortions could only be provided in order to preserve or protect a woman’s life or health.

Physicians and their attendants not adhering to those guidelines were subject to fines up to $5,000. A woman undergoing an abortion could have been fined up to $200 under the pre-1976 ordinance. 


  1. Not sure if the "missionary" is told the reporter the truth here:

    "Gibson, who performs only therapeutic abortions for women whose pregnancy endangers their lives or mental health, performed elective abortions until his clinic discontinued the service in 1976. "

  2. Given that Gibson said: “Having an abortion is safer than having a baby"...“And it is much less traumatic to have an abortion than to give a baby up for adoption,” it appears he was happy to perform them. Nevertheless, he was awarded the Ancient Order of Chamorri. Given the dates he practiced here, it appears that he pioneered abortion as a mainstream medical practice with the help of SDA.

  3. Many Catholics frequent the SDA clinic believing that it is only a "clinic." While not wanting to turn JW into a hostile place to anyone, one only has to listen to the sermons on Saturday mornings on the local SDA station to get a taste of what the SDA religion officially teaches. While broadcasting uplifting music and generic biblical teaching the rest of the week, the station is quite different on Saturday mornings (the SDA Sabbath) - or at least it used to be since I haven't listened to it in a while:

    "Adventists believe, for instance, that the Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon; that the pope is the Antichrist; that in the last days, Sunday worship will be “the mark of the beast”; and that on the last day, after a period of punishment in hell, the wicked will be annihilated and cease to exist rather than be eternally damned."

    In any event, whether SDA's regard the Catholic Church as the Whore of Babylon or not, there is no question that the SDA clinic pioneered "abortion for all" here in Guam.