Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Life of the Mother and the Life of the Unborn

1987 upholds as a State Policy in Article II Section 12 the following provision:
1987 ART II Section 12. The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government.
I believe that the controversial Reproductive Health Bill currently being fought over in Congress and far beyond it, in places like Ayala Alabang Village,  if passed into law, will be questioned before the Supreme Court for being violative of the above State Policy.

As with much of the 1987 Constitution, this passage contains words of Biblical proportions and importance which even reasonable men might have trouble agreeing upon the true meaning of, particularly in the bolded sentence above.

I would ask Philippine Commentary readers comment on what they think this provision means.


WillyJ said...

I stumbled into your blog and I'm glad. Hope all is well with you.

Yes I believe you are correct on the primary importance of this constitutional provision.
The point in question is what "conception" means in that provision. I was wondering whether you or your readers already came across an earlier article of Bernardo M. Villegas, who was
actually the sponsor of this particular provision. In that article, he was unequivocal in stating that conception as it was framed, meant the equivalent of fertilization. Thus, the intention is to protect the unborn from the moment of fertilization. Of course the pro-RH bill legislators (Lagman et al) refuse to interpret it at that, claiming that the Constitution actually meant "implantation" when it said "conception". The records of the Commission however, do not support that claim:
“it is when the ovum is fertilized by the sperm that there is human life. Just to repeat: first, there is obviously life because it starts to nourish itself, it starts to grow as any living being, and it is human because at the moment of fertilization, the chromosomes that combined in the fertilized ovum are the chromosomes that are uniquely found in human beings and are not found in any other living being”

(Record of the Constitutional Commission, Volume 4, p. 668).

"The intention is to protect life from its beginning, and the assumption is that human life begins at conception, that conception takes place at fertilization"

(Record of the Constitutional Commission 799, cited in Bernas, J., The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, Manila: 1996 ed., p. 78)
I can understand the stand of Lagman in trying to redefine what conception means. They have no choice. If they concede that conception means fertilization, then it would blow-up the entire RH bill for clear unconstitutionality. That is because they cannot convincingly deny the anti-implantation effect of the "full range of contraceptives" (except barrier methods) that they propose in the bill. The only thing to do is to redefine conception, but it appears
they have painted themselves into a corner.

Jego said...

It means what it means: No law shall be passed that would endanger the life of the humans, whether in the womb or out of it... unless...

Unless in defense of others' right to life. Im sure your readers will bring up those instances when continuing the pregnancy will endanger the life of either the mother or the child or both. In such cases I think the decision should be a personal one based on one's conscience, and bearing the consequences of such a decision. The State cannot encroach on a mother's right to continue living even if it means killing her baby, or a mother's right to die so her baby might live. But the danger to one's life has to be there. No law should give a person the right to terminate a human life for convenience. The state should not shield its citizens from the consequences of their willful actions. That's not its job.