The Constitutionality of the Reproductive Health Law

January 24, 2013

Let’s begin my birthday with this.

Pretext

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, while in her speech favoring the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill, concluded saying: “Nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”

And indeed she was right. The RH Bill has now become the RH Law (RA 10354). The law was signed on 12/21/12 (ironic, in a way) and was publicized on the 28th and took effect on the 17th, exactly a week ago. A few days after the publication, a lawyer couple filed a petition on certiorari challenging the constitutionality of the RH Law before the Supreme Court. The SC a week later just rejected the TRO. A low number of petitions were filed after the first petition but a response is still pending and it looks like it isn’t being considered high priority.

Arguments

The RH Law is being challenged strongly based on the gross misinterpretations of certain constitutional amendments, particularly the following:

Preamble – “We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a just and humane society, and establish a Government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations, promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our posterity, the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution.”

Article II, Section 6“The separation of Church and State shall be inviolable.”

Article 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.”

Article III, Section 18“(1) No person shall be detained solely by reason of his political beliefs and aspirations. (2) No involuntary servitude in any form shall exist except as a punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”

Article VI, Section 26“(1) Every bill passed by the Congress shall embrace only one subject which shall be expressed in the title thereof.”

Does the statute in dispute violate these principles and state policies? No. The RH Law is in fact, upholding these amendments and the opponents are naively arguing the contrary by misinterpreting the constitution. Here are my responses:

Claim: “The Government, through the RH Law, seeks to regulate morality and does not embody our ideals and aspirations and negates the foundational values and culture of the Filipino people as enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution.”

Rebuttal: Any law student person should know that the Preamble is merely a confirmation of what the constitution was made for. It is neither a source of rights nor legally binding as to impose a restriction or requirement towards the State. There is no language in the RH Law that seeks regulate what real values are.

Also, in a philosophical point of view, morality, in its essence, is not objective. Morality has no absolute definition. Reality suggests that society is culturally diverse with different values and ideals. And with the progressing of globalization, we are becoming more culturally liberal.

Claim: “The Government is infringing on people’s beliefs through coercion via the bill’s mandates. Art. II, Sec. 6 is being violated as it violates the clause mandating the separation of Church and State by mandating health service providers to aid a person in need even if it is against the provider’s belief. In addition, the Government is infringing their privacy rights by interfering with the sex lives of the people by providing methods that are against their beliefs”

Rebuttal: Section 23, clause 3 of the RH Law does in fact make a person liable for refusing to help. But as a subtext of that clause, it is explicitly stated that if that person is refusing to help based on religious grounds, the State nevertheless respects it and that punishment will not be imposed although the questioned provider has the duty to refer a patient to another competent provider. Ergo, there is no coercion here.

Also, the privacy argument is flawed and seriously ignorant, if not fucked up. It assumes that the people are religious and against contraception. The notion that the State is meddling in other people’s bedroom is fallacious. The opposition, particularly the Church, are actually the ones who are interfering with the private lives by coercing their beliefs to the masses. The State promotes the individual right to choose by enabling individuals to choose their RH methods via this law. There is no language in the law that says otherwise and the opponents refuse to believe this.

Claim: “Art. II, Sec. 12 is being violated as it violates the clause mandating the equal protection of the lives of the mother and the unborn by mandating all health services to provide a full range of modern family planning methods which does not specify what these methods are which means that some methods can be abortifacients, which induces abortion which is black-and-white unconstitutional. In addition, contraception avoids pregnancies which deny the life of the unborn. Thus, this is a breach to the amendment.”

Rebuttal: This amendment is arguably the most misinterpreted one which has resulted to flawed and fallacious arguments.

The main essence of said amendment is designed to ban the legislation of abortion, which the RH Law prohibits. This amendment mandates the equal protection of mother and child. It mandates the unborn from conception and not before conception. Conception, in medical jurisprudence, is defined as the beginning of pregnancy. Biologically it refers to the process of the sperm and egg meeting together to form a zygote.

Even if the unborn is to be given the benefit of the doubt, it would still harm the constitution and the mother since focusing more on the unborn’s protection disregards the equality on protecting the woman. It would also be illogical since the unborn cannot live without the mother. But in theory and as what I argued in my abortion post, the mother’s life is more crucial and important the child’s. That’s why absolute protection of the unborn is limited to the equal protection of the mother.

The State, through its language of the RH Law, has considered to avoidance of the usage of abortifacients. The Declaration of Policy clause and other sections of said statute states that the government guarantees and promotes universal access to safe, legal, non-abortifacient health care.

Furthermore, the Philippine FDA has the discretion and legal power to label a drug or device as an ‘abortifacient’. Therefore, unless the FDA has an official say on the abortifacient status of a disputed method, it’s not legally an abortifacient regardless of public opinion.

Claim: “The statute violates Art III, Sec. 18 by imposing involuntary servitude healthcare service providers and penalizes offenders regardless of personal belief.”

Rebuttal: As previously stated, Section 23, clause 3 of the RH Law explicitly states that if that person is refusing to help based on religious grounds, the State nevertheless respects it and that punishment will not be imposed although the questioned provider has the duty to refer a patient to another competent provider. Again, there is no coercion here whatsoever.

Claim: “RA 10354 violates the ‘Single-Subject Rule’. Section 26, Article VI of the Constitution as it carries two subjects; ‘Responsible Parenthood’ and ‘Reproductive Health.’”

Rebuttal: Yes, it does carry two terms but ultimately in compliance to one subject. In People v. Carlos, the SC commented that Congress embracing only one subject in a bill shall be expressed in the title. And this requirement is satisfied if all the facts of the law relate to the terms in compliance with the subject in the title, which RA 10354 does.

In addition, in Samulong v. COMELEC, the High Court ruled that if the provisions of the statute are germane to the general subject of said statute, then said law would be in compliance with the amendment.

Moreover, numerous constitutional amendments support and allow the RH Law provisions. These constitutional statutes enable the government to serve and protect the people (as its prime duty stated in Art. II, Sec. 4), promote social justice by providing care (Art. II, Sec. 10), promotes and guarantees human rights (Art. II, Sec. 11), promotes gender equality by improving the care on women (Art. II, Sec. 14), promotes the right to healthcare and provides care for the needy (Art. II, Sec. 15) (Art. XIII, Sec. 11), promotes adequate and accurate education (Art. XIV, Sec. 1 & 2) and promotes and defends the individual rights of the families to choose their family planning method (Art. XV, Sec. 3).

Likely Conclusions

I’m quite optimistic about the likely outcomes of this law. With the majority of the Filipino people, NGOs, the Malacañang, elite law professors and other prestigious constitutional and legal scholars like Sen. Santiago backing up the Solicitor-General before the Supreme Court headed by an Aquino-appointed Chief Justice, this bill would survive and pass judicial perlustration.

Seeing that the Imbong petition was denied a TRO, the SC will likely junk said petition and potentially further petitions later on for being baseless and premature. The RH war is now in social media. The so called prayer rallies are getting old and I don’t see any political pressure and danger concerning the stern takedown of the law. It seems that the Church is alone in this one.

Overturning the RH Law leaves us with the undesirable alternative as before. The striking down of that law may well be a huge blow to human rights and leads to religious tyranny.

The language of the law is crystal clear, ladies and gentlemen. There is not a single constitutional violation in this statute.

Links

1986 Philippine Constitution

RA 10354 Full Text

Wikipedia Article

SOURCE: http://attorneyatawe.tumblr.com/post/41310166865/the-constitutionality-of-the-reproductive-health-law

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