Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Two interpretations of: "The State shall protect the life of the unborn from conception"

Two interpretations of: "The State shall protect the life of the unborn from conception"

(In other words: we must protect ourselves from twisted interpretations)

Chemical contraceptives are known to inhibit implantation of the fertilized ovum (in other words they are abortifacients) and I have never found an OC manufacturer's statement that officially and categorically denies the fact. With this in mind, I have often wondered how the pro-RH bill advocates can reconcile the bill's proposal for state promotion of contraceptives with the fundamental law of the land. The pertinent provision in the Philippine Constitution's Article II, Section 12, is as follows:

"...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."

Therefore the prolife objection is based on a clear premise: Considering the state is bound to protect the life of the unborn from conception, it follows that it cannot licitly enact laws that require it to promote abortifacients, whose harmful actions occur after conception (the moment egg and sperm meet) and prior to implantation (the moment the fertilized ovum attaches to the womb) and afterwards. We understand that the term conception is equivalent to fertilization. However, the RH bill legislators seem to have conjured a way out of this constitutional bind, or so as they want to make it appear. They claim that "conception" - as it was framed by the Constitution - means implantation, not fertilization. Now I am not a lawyer, although some legal principles should be common knowledge enough. (and common sense enough if I may add)

I have come across an articulate pro-RH bill proponent in one of the online forums which I occasionally visit, and we come up with an interesting exchange which appears to frame the debate for both contending sides. I copy portions of that exchange here. His comments come first and are italicized in blue, while my following comments are italicized in red.

The constitution does not define the meaning of conception. It is not there. People can argue about intent of the framers, who were unelected and unrepresentative of the diversity of Philippine society. There was an attempt to specifically include in the constitution "The right to life extends to the fertilized ovum." However, the proposal did not materialize, and its non-adoption "unmistakably shows that the concept that life begins at fertilization was not constitutionalized for lack of concurrence from the commissioners."

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists that asserts that -conception is the implantation of the blastocyst (the egg several days after fertilization). It is not synonymous with fertilization.

The statement that "any constitutionalist will tell you that the intent of the law prevails" is false. In the US where the constitution is considered a living document, there are Originalists, Instrumentalists, Literalist and Democrats. The Literalists (both Historical and Modern) insist on an interpretation not coloured by the intent of the framers.
Interpretation of constitutions is not a uniquely American past time. In the Philippines, we have our version of Originalists and Literalists, the difference being one can be in either camp depending on the situation. Everything is negotiable here. Even the opinion of esteemed bodies such as the PMA is subject to the weather of the day.

If you can show me the place where the Constitution defines conception as "fertilization", I will gladly accept your statement. You and I know there is no such definition in the Constitution.

The Constitution is the constitution, not the record of deliberations. The people who voted for its ratification were not voting on the contents of deliberations but on the Constitution itself.

Again: the Constitutional commission did not adopt the proposal to include the "fetilization". Its non-adoption "unmistakably shows that the concept that life begins at fertilization was not constitutionalized for lack of concurrence from the commissioners."

When does human life begin? For the science part as far as is relevant to the Philippine context, the Philippine Medical Association has already spoken out: Human life begins at fertilization. The Constitution on the other hand, said that the life of the unborn must be equally protected at the moment of conception...

We must understand that statutes flow from fundamental law and not vice-versa. That is the purpose why we have a Constitution in the first place. Laws can only be licitly legislated if they are in accord with the fundamental law of the land. We are an independent country. We are under no compulsion to adhere to other nations notions. Between the Philippine Medical Association and the American COG, we give more credence to our local authorities/ resource organization. And between the American Consitution and ours, ours prevail for our own laws - anytime.

The claim that the constitution does not define conception is not supported by the evidence on record. I acknowledge convoluted positions on this, but I would rather take the cue from Dr Bernie Villegas, a member of the Constitutional Commission who was actually the sponsor of the said provision. He said: "conception is defined as fertilization, the moment the egg is fertilized by the sperm. This was the majority decision (32 to 8) of the members of the Constitutional Commission".

As for the records:

“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)

As I said the intent of the law prevails over the letter of the law, and I can cite not a few SC jurisprudence that affirms the legal doctrine, and of course they are easy enough to research anyway. The constitution should not be treated as a dictionary looking for precise terms and definitions, otherwise there is no need for Supreme Court, constitutional experts and interpreters. Now we may or may not like the constitution the way it is, but it is a given. It is of course changeable, as all man-made laws are. But as long as it is in its present form and substance, we have to abide by it especially with respect to crafting statutes.
In other words anyone can call a dog a cow many times over, but still it won't turn the dog into a cow.

1 comment:

Jessejino said...

So this Pro-RH BILL thinks that we make our very own definition to try to fit into our liking. The statement presented by the way was quoted from Lagman's statement in his interview with Daily Inquirer.

They are simply using semantics.

Conception and Fertilization are synonymous.

If sperm does meet and penetrate a mature egg after ovulation, it will fertilize it. When the sperm penetrates the egg, changes occur in the protein coating around it to prevent other sperm from entering. At the moment of fertilization, your baby's genetic make-up is complete, including its sex. Since the mother can provide only X chromosomes (she's XX), if a Y sperm fertilizes the egg, your baby will be a boy (XY); if an X sperm fertilizes the egg, your baby will be a girl (XX).

By "conception," we in the pro-life movement understand this word as meaning "the union of sperm and ovum." Another word for that same event is "fertilization." Even the U.S. Senate used these two terms synonymously as recently as 1982 in its two-volume report on the Human Life Bill then being debated. [1]

The meaning of the word "conception" has been intentionally changed by pro-abortion forces in recent years to refer not to the fertilization of the ovum by the sperm, but instead to the implantation of the blastocyst (the
newly developing human at about a week after fertilization) into the wall of the mother's uterus. This change in definition has become so commonplace that it is reflected in standard medical reference books such as OB & GYN Terminology: "Conception is the implantation of the blastocyst. It is not synonymous with fertilization."

That's a classic deception propagated by Pro-Abortionist.

Truth is;

There is no more appropriate moment to begin calling a human "human" than the moment of fertilization or conception. And don't let anyone tell you otherwise, because it would be a degradation of factual embryology to say it would be any other moment. For example, some pro-abortion zealots and even, shockingly, some disingenuous physicians claim it is the moment of primitive notochord formation (nonsense!) or, even more absurdly, the moment of implantation. (It defies sanity to claim that the implantation of a developing blastocyst onto a uterine wall defines humanity more than does the completion of an entirely new DNA map, which defines a new organism's existence).

And to say that "size" is a determinant of humanity, of course, is an unscientific reason to deny an embryo his or her human status. In any event, it is an embryological reality, which no embryology textbook on earth denies, that at the moment of fertilization a new human being is formed.

It seems to be a growing trend that Pro-RH Bill people believe that understand what they are talking about. When they don't know jack about what's hidden behind this Bill. If Lagman say's the easter bunny represents the resurrection, they'll probably believe that too!