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A Pro-Life Supreme Court’s Decision on RH

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Depending on what paper or article you have read for the past few days, you might have concluded by now which side of the RH slugfest won. Or, like many, you’re still confused and/or undecided about it. On one hand, the mere declaration of the Supreme Court saying that the RH law was “not unconstitutional” should have been enough to silence the critics. On the other hand, there were provisions from the original law that were declared unconstitutional, and the pro-life side was claiming victory too, albeit a partial one. Another way to look at it, however, is to look not at the provisions that were upheld or struck down, but on the 105 page ruling of the Supreme Court justices themselves revealing their thoughts about the various provisions of the RH law, and how they came up with their ruling. From there, we compare and contrast it with our own pro-life beliefs and principles. Atty. Jo Imbong has given us her insights on the recent decision by the Supreme Court penned by Associate Judge Jose Mendoza on the RH law.

On the Beginning of Life

“In all, whether it be taken from a plain meaning, or understood under medical parlance, and more importantly, following the intention of the Framers of the Constitution, the undeniable conclusion is that a zygote is a human organism and that the life of a new human being commences at a scientifically well-defined moment of conception, that is, upon fertilization.” (Decision, pp. 47-48)

The Court relied on the long-established standard medical authority–O’Rahilly, Ronan and Muller, Fabiola, Hum an Embryology & Teratology, 2nd edition, New York : Wiley-Liss, 1996, pp. 8 , 29. With such pronouncement, the Court also discredited the “Implantation” argument advanced by Cong. Edcel Lagman during the oral arguments.

The Decision says: ” x x x the Court cannot subscribe to the theory advocated by Hon. Lagman that life begins at implantation. This theory of implantation as the beginning of life is devoid of any legal or scientific mooring. It does not pertain to the beginning of life but to the viability of the fetus. The fertilized ovum/zygote is not an inanimate object – it is a living human being complete with DNA and 46 chromosomes.” “Implantation has been conceptualized only for convenience by those who had population control in mind. To adopt it would constitute textual infidelity not only to the RH Law but also to the Constitution.” (Decision, p. 48)

What this means is that the Supreme Court has upheld our definition of when life begins: from the moment of conception. Also, the Supreme Court, aware of the population control nuances of the law, mentioned that // To adopt it would constitute textual infidelity not only to the RH Law but also to the Constitution //

On the Abortifacient Effects of Some Contraceptive Pills

One of the many contentious parts of the RH debate was whether pills did induce abortion. RH supporters would say that it is common sense to believe that since the pill prevents ovulation, there is no life conceived, and therefore the claim that pills cause abortion is preposterous. The Pro-life camp, however, insists that the mechanisms of action of the pills also include the prevention of implantation of the zygote, which constitutes early chemical abortion.

The Supreme Court says this about the matter: “To repeat, it is the Court’s position that life begins at fertilization, not at implantation. When a fertilized ovum is implanted in the uterine wall, its viability is sustained but that instance of implantation is not the point of beginning of life. It started earlier. And as defined by the RH Law, any drug or device that induces abortion, that is, which kills or destroys the fertilized ovum or prevents the fertilized ovum to reach and be implanted in the mother’s womb, is an abortifacient.” (Decision , p. 51)

 On Contraceptives Being Included in the Drug Formulary

“The provision in Section 9 [of the RH law] covering the inclusion of hormonal contraceptives, intra-uterine devices, injectables, and other safe, legal, non-abortifacient and effective family planning products and supplies by the National Drug Formulary in the EDL is not mandatory. There must first be a determination by the FDA that they are in fact safe , legal, non -abortifacient and effective family planning products and supplies.” (Decision, p. 60)

This part has to be understood within the context of Justice De Castro, in a separate opinion cited by the Court: “As pointed out by Justice De Castro, a heavy responsibility and burden are assumed by the government in supplying contraceptive drugs and devices, for it may be held accountable for any injury, illness or loss of life resulting from or incidental to their use. (Decision, p. 59)

The Supreme Court also pointed out in page 59 of the Decision: “. . . it bears pointing out that not a single contraceptive has yet been submitted to the FDA pursuant to the RH Law.”

On Sex Education

The Court said that it may be premature to assail the sex education provision. “At this point, suffice it to state that any attack on the validity of Section 14 of the RH Law is premature because the Department of Education, Culture and Sports have yet to formulate a curriculum on age- appropriate reproductive health education. One can only speculate on the content, manner and medium of instruction that will be used to educate the adolescents and whether they will contradict the religious beliefs of the petitioners and validate their apprehensions. Thus, considering the premature nature of this particular issue, the Court declines to rule on its constitutionality or validity.” (Decision, pp. 87-88)

The Court also said– “Furthermore, as Section 14 also mandates that the mandatory reproductive health education program shall be developed in conjunction with parent -teacher- community associations, school officials and other interest groups, it could very well be said that it will be in line with the religious beliefs of the petitioners. By imposing such a condition, it becomes apparent that the petitioners’ contention that Section 14 violates Article XV, Section 3(1) of the Constitution is without merit. (Decision, p. 88)

We shall therefore have to wait until the sex ed curriculum has come out in order for us to attack it. Moreover, we are invited to participate in the development of the sex ed program itself, and this is where we should be focusing our efforts on.

On Poverty and the Population Control Agenda

“. . . the idea does not escape the Court that what it [the RH law] seeks to address is the problem of rising poverty and unemployment in the country. Let it be said that the cause of these perennial issues is not the large population but the unequal distribution of wealth. Even if population growth is controlled, poverty will remain as long as the country’s wealth remains in the hands of the very few.” (Decision, p. 101)

Precisely what we have been saying! Condoms and Pills do not magically distribute the country’s wealth! Wait, there’s more! Listen up, RH fanatics!

“At any rate, population control may not be beneficial for the country in the long run. The European and Asian countries, which embarked on such a program generations ago, are now burdened with ageing populations. The number of their young workers is dwindling with adverse effects on their economy. These young workers represent a significant human capital which could have helped them invigorate, innovate and fuel their economy. These countries are now trying to reverse their programs, but they are still struggling. For one, Singapore, even with incentives, is failing. (Decision, p. 101)

“And in this country, the economy is being propped up by remittances from our Overseas Filipino Workers. This is because we have an ample supply of young able-bodied workers. What would happen if the country would be weighed down by an ageing population and the fewer younger generation would not be able to support them? This would be the situation when our total fertility rate would go down below the replacement level of two (2) children per woman. (Decision, pp. 101-102)

“Indeed, at the present, the country has a population problem, but the State should not use coercive measures (like the penal provisions of the RH Law against conscientious objectors) to solve it. Nonetheless, the policy of the Court is non-interference in the wisdom of a law.” (Decision, p. 102)

On Respecting our Catholic Faith

‘The Filipino people in “imploring the aid of Almighty God ” manifested their spirituality innate in our nature and consciousness as a people, shaped by tradition and historical experience. As this is embodied in the preamble, it means that the State recognizes with respect the influence of religion in so far as it instills into the mind the purest principles of morality.’ (Decision, p. 64) Caesar knelt before God!

All in all, even if the Supreme Court decided to declare the RH law as not unconstitutional, it did validate our pro-life ideals and left some windows open to challenge the law especially on the part of sex education. We still have mountains to climb as far as spreading the culture of life is concerned, however. Hopefully, we will all see the day when the RH law itself is finally repealed, replaced by pro-life, pro-Filipino, and pro-God laws.

 

SUPREME COURT DECISION , APRIL 8, 2014

DOWNLOAD COPY OF MAIN DECISION

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