Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Joaquin Bernas on Conception, Abortion and Sex Education

My stand on the RH Bill by Joaquin Bernas, S.J. in Philippine Daily Inquirer is the strong position and lucid explanation of it from a literal Founding Father of the 1987 Cory Constitution that was ratified to establish the present "Fourth" Philippine Republic (after Malolos 1898, Commonwealth 1935, Marcos 1972).  A previous Commentary covered the first few points in that column article.

Bernas Points No. 5, 6, and 7
"Fifth, specifically I advocate removal of the provision on mandatory sexual education in public schools without the consent of parents. (I assume that those who send their children to Catholic schools accept the program of Catholic schools on the subject.) My reason for requiring the consent of parents is, among others, the constitutional provision which recognizes the sanctity of the human family and “the natural and primary right of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character.” (Article II, Section 12)
DJB's Commentary on Bernas No.5 :

I am puzzled as to why Fr. Bernas does not assume that those parents and families who send their children to PUBLIC schools (as opposed to private Catholic schools) ALSO accept the program of the Department of Education on the subject--especially since the matter of sex education will have been debated right in the House, Senate and in the general public and presumably is appropriate and acceptable.  I for one am against "picking the SEX ED peas out of the salad" called the public school curriculum. It reminds me of how in 2002, xPGMA and Raul Roco did radical brain surgery on the curriculum and CUT OUT the Health and Science Subject in all Grade One & Two classes throughout the entire public grade school system. Here is an infographic on the 2002 Basic Education Curriculum showing the damage done. The reduction of the grade school Health and Science program by 33% also drove away into emigration, as a direct consequence, thousands of public school SCIENCE teachers.   If the suggestion of Fr. Bernas for an OPT-IN system by parents on the topic of Sex Ed were adopted, it would create an artificial barrier between that subject matter and the entire program of Health, Science and Biology of which Sex education is an integral and I daresay, inseparable part. To single out this very specific topic for parents to either join or not join, would make it hard or impossible to INTEGRATE sex ed into the rest of the public school science and health program, as really it ought to be or don't even do it!  Therefore I also oppose the so called OPT-OUT program by parents, since even that would create artificial barriers between sex ed topics and the rest of educational science.  Consider for example the matter of education on sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/Aids. Is this really a matter for which we expect parents to decide whether to opt-in or opt-out?  What would prevent a precedent being set and any one or more of the million topics IN the curriculum would become optional?  Moreover, making it optional would treat Sex Ed on par with Religion, which is a subject allowed to be taught in public schools under just such an OPT-IN program as Fr. Bernas suggests for what is in essence a topic under the Science subject.

Fr. Bernas addresses abortion and abortifacients in Point No. 6:
Sixth, I am pleased that the bill reiterates the prohibition of abortion as an assault against the right to life. Abortifacient pills and devices, if there are any in the market, should be banned by the Food and Drug Administration. But whether or not there are such is a question of scientific fact of which I am no judge.
I would love for Fr. Bernas to do a follow up piece on ABORTION and ABORTIFACIENTS after reading the following article I've been calling attention to for several months on Twitter where I am, as everybody knows, writing a lot under the handle  ((@SagadaSun)):

Is Natural Family Planning Abortion? 

Above article throws a rhetorical monkey wrench right in the middle of Humanae Vitae and the so-called "natural" family planning method of contraception and birth control. I think Fr. Bernas would find the premises and assertions made here credible and grounds for the Vatican to invoke the FALLIBILITY of its present teaching on contraception (including especially NFP!).

The central matter of CONCEPTION is addressed in Bernas Point No. 7:
Seventh, I hold that there already is abortion any time a fertilized ovum is expelled. The Constitution commands that the life of the unborn be protected “from conception.” For me this means that sacred life begins at fertilization and not at implantation."
Commentary by DJB on Bernas No. 7

When Fr. Bernas says that "sacred life begins at fertilization and not at implantation" he is no longer speaking as a Constitutional lawyer but as a Catholic priest. He is expressing the religious belief that when a sperm happens to fertilize an ovum and their DNA information combines together,  an immortal human soul is created at that very moment of conception and "sacred" life begins.

But such religious belief must answer to and explain certain things before we use it as basis for interpreting  the all-important 1987 provision Fr. Bernas refers to:
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.
If or when the RH Bill is enacted into Law, I am certain it will be challenged in the Supreme Court on the basis of the above provision.

What happens physically and biochemically during the stage of human reproduction called fertilization is rather well known and on that basis I would like to state my own take on what happens at the point or moment of conception referred to by Fr. Bernas and 1987 Constitution.

In my opinion when a human male's sperm cell successfully merges its DNA information with that of a female's ovum, what results is the creation of the "architectural plans" for the development of a new, individual human being.  It is essentially the creation of a new packet of INFORMATION through the biochemistry of genetic materials, which at some stage has the potential not only for independent biological and physical life but also a mental life through a self-aware consciousness.

However, not every actual fertilization event is guaranteed to result in a DNA assembly that is HUMAN. Many things could go wrong and the resulting combination of sperm and egg might contain DNA information that is not actually capable of producing a human being or any other kind of viable living being at all.

I shall reserve further commentary on this vast subtopic for the Comment Thread.

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