MANILA, Philippines — Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, the main proponent of the Reproductive Health measure in the House of Representatives on Thursday criticized the first petition filed against Republic Act 10354 and defended the new law’s constitutionality.
In a statement, Lagman said that the newly signed law was “completely constitutional and will surmount any attack or test on its constitutionality.”
He was reacting to a petition for certiorari and prohibition against the RH law filed by lawyers James Imbong and his wife Lovely-Ann at the Supreme Court on Wednesday, the first business day of 2013.
“The RH law has not defiled any constitutional principles on proscription of abortion, protection of the unborn, religious freedom, family life, marriage and responsible parenthood,” said Lagman, who pointed out that “all relevant provisions of the Constitution” had also been included in the law.
He enumerated reasons why invoking Section 12 of Article II of the 1987 Constitution which provides, among others, that the State “shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn” as a challenge on the RH law was “flawed and fallacious”:
1. The genesis of the subject provision shows that the “unborn” does not refer to the “fertilized ovum” which was not given the right to life;
2. The life of the “unborn” is protected “from conception”, not before conception when there is nothing yet to protect; and
3. The intention of the framers of the 1987 Constitution is to prevent the Congress and the Supreme Court from legalizing abortion, which criminal act the RH law does not tolerate and in fact prohibits.
Lagman said that what the Constitution mandated was that the life of the unborn be protected from conception. “No less than the Constitution acknowledges that life begins when conception sets in, and it is upon conception that there is an ‘unborn’ which is entitled to protection.”
“The rejected precursor of the subject provision on the ‘protection of the unborn’ was the proposal to include in Section 1 of the Bill of Rights the proposition that the ‘right to life extends to the fertilized ovum’,” he said, pointing out how the proposal was rejected by the Constitutional Commission of 1986.
This, he said, “unmistakably evinces that the purported concept that ‘life begins at fertilization’ was not constitutionalized.”
The Albay legislator added how such a provision was “in consonance with medical science” which he said does not view the fertilized ovum as viable until it implants on the woman’s uterus.
He said that the provision sought to ensure that abortion will not be legalized and explained that this was something that the RH law subscribed to.
“It does not legalize abortion,” Lagman maintained, pointing out how the new law “recognizes that abortion is illegal and punishable by Law” and includes as part of reproductive health care the “proscription of abortion and management of abortion complications”.
He further explained how no law prohibits the use of contraceptives which he said “are not abortifacients.”
“Contraception prevents conception or pregnancy, while abortion terminates pregnancy. This is the whale of a difference which the detractors of the RH law refuse to see,” said the lawmaker.
One of the RH law’s provisions states that the government will not promote contraceptives that “prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum as determined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).” Lagman said that once contraceptives failed, “no human or medical intervention is authorized to prevent its implantation in the mother’s uterus.”
He said that the RH law respected the couples’ rights to start their family in accordance to their religious convictions. “The RH law is replete with provisions upholding religious freedom and respecting religious convictions consistent with the hallmark of the law on freedom of informed choice.”