Bernardo M. Villegas
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Rebalancing Strategy
published: Mar 31, 2017



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Abortion Should Be Forever Illegal

           The recent decision of the Supreme Court to declare the RH Law "not unconstitutional" was truly a win-win situation for the pro-life advocates because they were able to convince the vast majority of the Justices to reinforce the constitutional provision that states:  "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."  All modesty aside, I was especially elated by the Supreme Court decision because I was one of those primarily responsible for sponsoring this specific provision in the Philippine Constitution of 1987.

          In an article in the global media website Mercartornet, Mr. Oliver Tuazon analyzes the manner in which the Justices ensured that abortion will never be legalized in this country as long as that pro-life provision is in the Constitution.  He asks:  "But when does conception occur?  When does life begin?  The majority of the Justices considered this is a scientific and medical issue that should not be decided by them at that stage without a proper hearing of evidence.  However, individual Justices were allowed to express their own views on the matter, and these were reflected in the main decision of the Court.

          Tuazon then showed how Associate Justice Jose  Mendoza, who penned the main decision, used two statutory construction tools--"plain meaning" and "intent of the Framers"--to convincingly illustrate that the word "conception" in the Constitutional provision refers to "fertilization."  He quoted Black's Law Dictionary that defines "conception" as the "fecundation of the female ovum by the male spermatozoon resulting in human life capable of survival and maturation under normal conditions".  Mendoza then argued that "contraceptives that actually prevent the union of the male sperm and the female ovum, and those that similarly take action prior to fertilization should be deemed non-abortive, and thus, constitutionally permissible.  This was a "win" situation for those in favor of the RH Law.

          The pro-life side, however, scored a point when the entire Court threw out the submission of one defender of the RH Law who held that life begins at implantation, saying this claim was "devoid of any legal or scientific mooring."  The decision notes that this theory does not pertain to the beginning of life but to the "viability" of the fetus.  It was "conceptualized only for convenience by those who had population control in mind" and "to adopt it would constitute textual infidelity not only to the RH Law but also to the Constitution."  The Court also decided that the RH Law is consistent with the Constitution in prohibiting abortifacients, defined as "any drug or device that induces abortion or the destruction of a fetus inside the mother's womb or the prevention of the fertilized ovum to reach and be implanted in the mother's womb upon determination of the FDA."   

      As a decisive victory for the pro-life side, the Court also struck down a provision that inserted the qualifier "primarily" in the said definition in the laws' Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR), declaring that its authors "gravely abused their office when they redefined the meaning of "abortifacient", as this could pave the way for contraceptive drugs and devices that have secondary abortifacient effects.   The Court also noted that the surreptitious insertion was an "ultra vires" act, that is, it was beyond the power of authors of the IRR.  All the Justices concurred in this save the youngest among them.  With this overwhelming majority decision, I have very high hopes that abortion in this country will be declared illegal forever.  The respect for life from the first moment of conception is a deeply held value in Filipino culture as can be gleaned from the Tagalog word for conceiving (nagdadalang tao or carrying a human being) and a strong religious belief of both Christians and Muslims.  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.