And what is the human zygote? A medical dictionary defines it: “The first diploid cell that forms following fertilization by fusion of the haploid oocyte (egg) and spermatozoa (sperm) resulting in the combination of their separate genomes.”
It is the fusion of the female egg and the male sperm, right after the moment of conception. It is about 2 millimeters in diameter, or the size of the letter “m” on this newspaper.
Catholic dogma claims that this entity is a person, with an immortal soul. With Catholics dominating the Constitutional Convention President Corazon Aquino set up in 1986, appointing all its members, that dogma was enshrined in the Constitution in Article II, section 12: “
“(The State) shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.”
Our Constitution therefore defines the zygote as a person—on the same level as the mother—that the state has to protect.
“Out of the 200 constitutions in the world, it is only us which has that very specific provision,“ a Supreme Court justice said. “It amazes me no end how a Catholic dogma, which most modern worldviews find unrealistic, has wormed itself into our Constitution which declares that the “separation of Church and state is inviolable,” he added.
“While I think many of us in the court support the RH law (Republic Act 10354), we cannot ignore that provision of the Constitution,” the justice added, “especially since our duty is protect the constitution, and not to make social and economic policy.”
“Either we have to amend the constitution to junk that provision, or we have to declare the RH law as violating it,” the justice explained.
The controversy over the Reproductive Health (RH) law’s constitutionality is its provision that “the State will promote and provide information and access . . . to all methods of family planning, including effective natural and modern methods which have been proven medically safe, legal, non-abortifacient.”
“Abortifacient” is medically defined as a substance inducing abortion, or the expulsion—the killing, to call a spade a spade—of the fetus, or that entity the zygote becomes two months after its creation, which is a crime under existing Philippine laws.
The Constitution however mandates not only the protection of the fetus but of the zygote itself, the “life of the unborn from conception.”
Most hormonal contraceptives and the intra-uterine device (IUD) are designed to prevent pregnancy through several means. The first is by inhibiting the female’s ovulation, or the production of eggs. The second is by damaging the sperm or inhibiting its transport to the egg.
Most effective contraceptives however have a “third”, last-resort mechanism: making the endometrium, or the lining of the uterus on which the zygote attaches itself, hostile to it to eventually expel it. Even IUDs are claimed to have this last, fail-safe function, although medical scientists are still divided on this issue. This is due though to the methodological difficulties of coming up with enough data that would show conclusively which of the three mechanisms actually prevented or terminated pregnancy.
Since the Constitution clearly prescribes the protection of the zygote (“the unborn from conception”), the RH law’s provision for the state to provide access to contraceptives—which also have the effect of terminating the zygote—is unconstitutional. Or at least this is the conclusion most of the Supreme Court justices, I am told, are reluctantly arriving at.
This thinking was already indicated by the fact that 15 of the justices had voted in March to issue a 120-day temporary restraining order, with only five voting against the move.
The other alternative for Supreme Court is to require the state to exclude from its list of “modern methods” of family planning those that result in the termination of the zygote.
But that would exclude all modern, artificial methods of contraception, except for the condom. That would make the RH law useless for the Philippines’ efforts to slow down the growth of its population.
For whatever “theo-economics” Opus Dei stalwarts like Dr. Bernardo Villegas espouse for Filipinos to follow the biblical injunction to “be fruitful and multiply”, history just stares us in the face: No Asian nation has grown to be a Tiger or a Newly Emerging Tiger without clamping down on the growth of its population.
Evidence and logic stares us in the face: The poor can’t afford to buy condoms (or calculators and thermometers to use the rhythm method) even as sex provides them with the only blissful moments of their miserable lives.
Crime in US cities has been argued to have gone down starting about two decades after the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling in 1973, because of the impact of that decision. How?
Cruel as it may sound, that ruling (check out the book Freakonomics for the New York case) allowed abortion, which prevented the birth of unwanted children, mostly by poor teen-aged mothers, in inner city America, who would have grown up two decades later as the ruthless teen-aged criminals that plagued the US.
With the recent report that we have the highest rate of teen-age pregnancy in Asia, rising to 196,000 such cases in 2009 from just 115,000 in 1999, do you wonder when you watch TV news how bad our crime situation has become? And the usual criminals are teen-agers from the slums?
I thought that the RH Law would be President Aquino’s unquestionable legacy to the country—probably his only real achievement—as it would have brought the nation to the modern world, and end its subservience to medieval Vatican dogma.
It is indeed ironic that what will rob him of that legacy, determine the course of our history, and condemn millions to dismal lives is something his mother President Corazon Aquino sponsored, the 1987 Constitution.
www.rigobertotiglao.com and www.trigger.ph