THE SUPREME Court sided with pro-life groups in affirming that life begins at fertilization in last week’s decision that struck down eight key provisions but declared the Reproductive Health (RH) Law “not unconstitutional.”

The high court was of the “strong view” that life begins at the meeting of the sperm and the egg in the mother’s womb or “fertilization,” which it said should be taken as synonymous with “conception.” The 106-page decision written by Associate Justice Jose Catral Mendoza cited dictionaries, medical literature, court decisions, and records of the Constitutional Commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution. Article II, Section 12 of the Constitution says the state shall “equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.”

The ruling could prevent government distribution of hormonal contraceptives, which have mechanisms to frustrate life after fertilization.

The basis of the court decision, however, was not the Constitution, but Republic Act 10354 or the RH Law itself, which prohibits abortifacients and defines such 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 Food and Drug Authority.”

This Supreme Court’s position is in contrast with that of RH advocates, such as former congressman Edcel Lagman, that life begins at “implantation,” or only when the fertilized ovum reaches the uterine wall.

The high tribunal said: “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.”

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Mendoza’s ponente pointed out that the RH Law’s Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) had overstepped its bounds by changing the definition of an abortifacient to any drug or device that “primarily” induces abortion. The high tribunal said that to uphold the “principle of no abortion” in the Constitution, the word “primarily” should be stricken out, as there are contraceptives that can act as abortifacients, or prevent implantation as a secondary or fail-safe mechanism.

The voting was 14-1 on striking the word “primarily” from the definition, with only Associate Justice Marvic Leonen dissenting.

In previous interviews with the Varsitarian, Dr. Josephine Lumitao of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery and UST Hospital said hormonal contraceptives—in the forms of pills, skin patches, or injections—not only prevent ovulation or the release of the egg cell, but also thicken the cervical mucus to prevent sperm transport and avoid fertilization, as well as produce a uterine lining that is not receptive for implantation of a fertilized egg. Intrauterine devices also intervene with implantation by irritating the uterine lining.

The high court concluded that only contraceptives that do not cause abortion and do not prevent implantation should be included in Philippine National Drug Formulary System, the list of family planning supplies, and the Essential Drugs List of the RH Law.

Likewise, the Supreme Court struck down parts of Sections 3, 7, 17 and 23, dealing with penalties for health personnel, government employees, and health institutions that refuse or fail to provide services and programs under the RH Law.

Specific provisions in the RH Law with corresponding provisions in the IRR that were held unconstitutional were: Section 7, which requires private hospitals and other medical facilities to refer patients, not in an emergency or life-threatening case, to another health facility that is conveniently accessible; and allows a minor who have suffered a miscarriage access to modern methods of family planning without written consent from parents or guardians;

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Section 23 (a) (1), which punishes healthcare service providers who fail or refuse to disseminate information regarding programs and services on reproductive health regardless of their religious beliefs;

Section 23 (a) (2) (i), which allows a married individual, not in an emergency or life-threatening case, to undergo reproductive health procedures without the consent of the spouse;

Section 23 (a) (2) (ii), which limits the requirement of parental consent only to elective surgical procedures;

Section 23 (a) (3), which punishes healthcare service providers who fail or refuse to refer a patient, not in an emergency or life-threatening case, to another health care service provider within the same facility or one that is conveniently accessible regardless of their religious beliefs;

Section 23 (b), which punishes public officers who refuse to support reproductive health programs or hinder the full implementation of a reproductive health program regardless of their religious beliefs; and

Section 17, which requires health service providers to render 48 hours of pro bono or free reproductive health services or else lose their accreditation with the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.

The high tribunal also lifted the status quo ante order issued last year to stop the law’s implementation. The parties were given 15 days to file a motion for reconsideration.

2 COMMENTS

  1. “When does life begin? 3 justices leave it to experts”. IT ONLY EXPOSES THE IGNORANCE OF OUR JUSTICES INCLUDING THE CHIEF JUSTICE MA. LOURDES SERENO, SENIOR ASSOCIATE JUSTICE ANTONIO CARPIO AND ASSOCIATE JUSTICE MARVIC LEONEN. I THINK THEY HAVE ENORMOUS BUDGETS FOR THEIR STAFF AND FOR SURE THERE ARE BUDGETS FOR RESEARCHERS IN THEIR BIG OFFICES. WHY DID THEY NOT READ ALL THE CITATIONS WE SUBMITTED IN OUR RESPECTIVE PETITIONS. CJ SERENO SAID: “It was not the high court but the Bureau of Food and Drugs that had prime authority to determine which reproductive health methods or drugs would cause abortion”. SHE DOES NOT KNOW THAT THAT FDA DOES NOT TEST THE DRUGS OR DEVICES BECAUSE DOH SEC. ONA HAS AN ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER THAT: “DOH-FDA orders authorizing the DOH-FDA to exempt certain products from FDA certification if they are procured from WHO, UNICEF, UNDP, GDP, and UNFPA. As you will see, the latest AO brings the UNFPA within the exemption, allowing the procurement of “pharmaceutical, biological, and invasive medical products/devices” from the UNFPA without need of FDA product registration”. DATED May 31, 2013. THESE JUSTICES ARE NOT DOING THEIR JOBS TO INTERPRET LAWS IN SPITE OF THEIR HUGE SALARIES. AJ MARVIC LEONEN has the opinion that the high court cannot declare when life begins he noted that such a declaration was “not necessary and a dictum that would unduly confuse future issues.” WHAT A STUPID STATEMENT. LASTLY, “Leonen agreed the question of the beginning of life would be best answered by scientists or ethicists. WE SUPPLIED THEM IN OUR PETITITIONS THE PAPERS OF MANY SCIENTISTS FROM UNITED NATIONS AND THE ACADEME. THIS IS ALREADY A PROVEN FACT WITH ALL THE CITATIONS WE SUBMITTED. I ONLY HOPE THEY SLEEP WELL IF THEY ARE HONEST ON THE PERFOREMANCE OF THEIR JOB. GOD BLESS TO THESE JUSTICES.

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