WHEN does life start?
This was the core of the arguments heard by the Supreme Court on Tuesday as personalities who are against the controversial Reproductive Health law or Republic Act 10354 maintained that it violates the constitutional provision protecting the life of the unborn.
Former senator Francisco Tatad told the High Court that the RH Law legalizes mass killings and violates a family’s freedom of choice.
The oral arguments turned into a biology class as those who were allowed to present their arguments insisted that the state is mandated by the Constitution to protect the life of the unborn.
Tatad expressed fears that R.A. 10354, also known as the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, would “rewrite the mandate of the Constitution by imposing population control through state-mandated contraception.”
The former senator said that the implementation of the law will result in mass killings or genocide because it prevents birth.
“It is a population control measure that denies the God-given right to reject contraception,” Tatad, who represents a group of petitioners who sought to stop the law, said.
The new law, he added, redefines the purpose of marriage and refutes the basic right of married people to procreate on their own free will.
“They must practice birth control or else suffer the consequences. That is not freedom of choice at all. That is not protecting the family as foundation of the nation,” he told the High Tribunal.
He maintained that RA 10354 does not provide equal protection to a mother and her unborn child.
“Have we become a democracy only to submit to state supervision and control?” he asked. “That is simply putting family, its most intimate and private life, and their liberties under state supervision,” Tatad added.
The 1987 Constitution gives protection to the “life of the unborn” while the Bill of Rights upholds the “right to life.”
Lawyer Maria Concepcion Noche, one of those who petitioned to stop the RH Law, said the law violates one’s right to life and right to health.
“A fertilized ovum is alive. It has life. This is a vital sign of life. Fertilized ovum is human. There is human life on conception,” Noche said.
“Let all the voices of the unborn be heard in this supreme tribunal. Let their voice be yours.”
The Supreme Court issued an order in March halting the implementation of the law, which mandates the State to “promote and provide information and access to all methods of family planning.”
As oral arguments were being presented, groups opposed to the RH law held a rally outside the Supreme Court building in Padre Faura Street.
The Catholic church also held prayer vigils and Masses.
“We ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten and inspire the lawyers who would be arguing for our position . . . and enlighten the justices of the Supreme Court,” Bishop Gabriel Reyes said at a nearby church.
Bishop Gabriel Reyes of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines–Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (ECFL) urged the govern-ment to give high reverence to morality by valuing life of the unborn.
“Any government that excludes God in its governance and policy will not end well. And if they really go against God, usually, (they) end in disaster,” Reyes said in his homily at the Archdiocesan Shrine of Nuestra Señora de Guia in M.H. del Pilar Street, Ermita, Manila.
Father Melvin Castro, the Executive Secretary of the same commission, agreed with Reyes.
“The moment you push God away from the system of governance, sooner or later, what would enter is moral perversion, family dissolution, and eventually, it would fall as a system of governance,” Castro said. “The absence of any moral fiber would lead to (a government’s) downfall,” he added.
“We are appealing to the government to learn from history. History is replete with examples of governance that came down precisely (because) they failed to protect life and family,” Castro appealed.
He said that the Church’s last hope to stop the law lies with the Supreme Court.
“This is the last branch of the government that we trust to uphold the Constitution. It is very clear that the State should protect life from conception to natural death. We hope and we pray that even if the Executive department already pushed that (law) and arm-wrestled Cong-ress into passing it, the SC, which shouldn’t be beholden to no one, would uphold the Constitution itself,” he added.
Reyes meanwhile said the main problem of the country is erroneous governance, not overpopulation.
“The main causes of poverty in the country is bad gov-ernance, corruption and wrong economic policies and prog-rams,” the prelate said.
“There are many things in the RH law that we are against. One of these things is telling government officials, mayors to distribute free contraceptives to the people. (The use of ) contraceptives is wrong. It’s against the moral law and against the natural law,” Reyes stressed.
WITH A REPORT FROM AFP