POSTSCRIPT /April 13, 2014 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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Why pro-Lifers won in RH case before SC

UNCONSTITUTIONAL: For Sunday reading, we share this email of Bishop Emeritus José C. Sorra of Legazpi explaining why the pro-Lifers who had questioned the constitutionality of the Reproductive Health Law (RA 10354) before the Supreme Court actually won. He said:

“The Court has ruled that the RH Law is not unconstitutional, except for eight sections which were struck down for violating basic constitutional rights, mainly, the right to life and religious freedom.

“The latter are not insignificant: These are mostly penal provisions applying to persons who refuse, on grounds of conscience rights, to render services, give RH information, sell or dispense contraceptives.

“While the press hereabouts banners stories that the Church lost, on the contrary, on a larger plane, the April 8, 2014, decision of our Supreme Court is a WINdfall for the cause of LIFE.”

* * *

WHY LIFE WON: “Through an obiter, the Court explained the beginning of human life. It cannot be clearer:

‘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.’ The Court cited a standard medical/embryology textbook (O’Rahilly, Ronan and Muller, Fabiola, Human Embryology & Teratology. 2nd edition. New York: Wily-Liss, 1996, pp. 8, 29)

“The Court continued, demolishing in its path the idea that implantation is the beginning of human life:

“ ‘For the above reasons, the Court cannot subscribe to the theory advocated by Hon. (Edcel) Lagman (former member of Congress and primary author of the original RH bill) 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.’ (Decision, p. 51)”

* * *

AND HERE’S THE RUB: “(The Court still talking…) ‘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.’ (p. 51)

“That is what the pro-Life advocacy has been saying all along and the Court had confirmed it.

“Not content, the Court says it again: ‘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)”

* * *

TOAST TO LIFE!: “For me, in engaging this prime issue we raised, the Court just opened its arms to all future generations. The Decision is a toast to LIFE!

“As we in the Philippines brace ourselves for the widespread enforcement of this new law, these pronouncements of the Supreme Court will figure greatly in the way the core provisions of the law will be used on women. The distribution by government of all ‘modern methods’ of RH commodities or devices will have to pass the bar of protection of the unborn from fertilization.

“Thus, even a secondary (not just primary) abortifacient action of preventing implantation would make a contraceptive unlawful. Wow!”

* * *

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: “The Decision contains a good number of pages defending freedom of living out one’s religious convictions, striking down as unconstitutional most parts of Section 23 which criminalizes certain acts that offend conscientious objectors.

“This is a triumph for religious freedom, a right that is losing its ground in many parts of the world.

“Our Faith WON! Referring to the Preamble of our Constitution IMPLORING Almighty God, the Court expressed its position thus:

“ ‘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!”

“So who said ‘the Catholic Church lost’?”

* * *

TELLING BLOW: “Miracles indeed still do happen,” said lawyer Romulo B. Macalintal right after the promulgation of the SC decision as he also explained why the anti-RH Law group actually won.

He said: “It is not the constitutionality of the RH Law that was in issue. The substantive issues as defined by the SC in its guidelines were limited to whether or not certain provisions of the law violated the right to life and health; freedom of religion and speech; right to protection against hazardous products; rights of parents in caring for their children; and right of families to participate in family planning.”

In resolving these issues, Macalintal noted, the SC practically said “Yes, all these rights were violated.”

On the right to life and health protection against hazardous products, he said, the telling blow against the RH Law is the SC ruling that the word “abortifacient” does not include only contraceptives that “primarily induce abortion” — which means that all contraceptives that have abortion as “secondary effect” are illegal.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 13, 2014)

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