On April 8, 2014 the Supreme Court of the Philippines declared the Reproductive Health Law that was passed in December 2012 as “not unconstitutional” after deleting eight of its provisions that the justices viewed as unconstitutional.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer wrote two editorials about this development.
Here are my comments.
The Supreme Court’s decision on the “non-unconstitutionality” Reproductive Health Law seems to have touched some people’s raw nerve. One noticeable case is that the Inquirer devoted two editorials in a row on this issue: “Win-win-lose” on April 10 and “What’s Next for RH” on April 11. Inquirer’s reaction is understandable: for years its editorial stand has been one of all-out support the bill then and the law now. By declaring eight provisions of the law as unconstitutional, the law has lost its coercive force. One essential quality of a human or state law is its power to demand compliance from its citizens. Otherwise, it becomes merely a suggestion.
Nevertheless, I would like to commend Inquirer for some positive points I can see that were brought up by both editorials.
In the first one the editors declared, “We have nothing against court rulings or indeed any government policy that satisfies the demands of contesting parties; a ‘win-win’ solution, to borrow the language of negotiation, is often the ideal outcome, rarely achieved.” There is a
tone of conciliation in the entire article although it is inevitable for the editors to air their “profoundest concerns” because some of
their expectations were not met.
The next positive point is the editors effort to make sense of why the Supreme Court struck down Section 23 article 2 of the RH law: “We can
only presume, without the ponencia to consult, that a majority of justices saw this provision as undermining both the right of parents to raise a family on their own terms and the constitutional principle that the family is the basic unit of society.” That article prohibited any healthcare service provider from refusing to perform legal and medically-safe reproductive health procedures on any woman, on the ground that the spouse did not consent. I think the editors were right in their presumption.
Even when the editorial tried to respectfully argue against the decision to expunge an article in Section 7, the editorial strove to seek a reason for it. That provision is about the demand to refer patients to other facilities that will render the services the health workers deem in conscience they could not give, “the Court has found this light burden apparently too heavy for providers who refuse to provide healthcare service for religious reasons.” The editorial could have hit the nail on the head here.
In the next editorial I find the tone going to the tune of let’s move on and take care of the sick and needy mothers. It has moved beyond divisive issues like contraception and condoms, as it explicitly said, “The law is much more than that.” It talks about caring for poor and needy mothers who are about to give birth and who urgently need medical assistance. The need is urgent and we cannot afford to delay things any further. I say: good, let’s go.
I personally think the RH law, even after it has been purge of the eight provisions is still an imperfect law. But in reality no human law is perfect because any law is always open to revision and improvement so as to conform better to the truth of the dignity of persons and their real historical circumstances. The way I see it, the RH law, as it now stands, is still a vehicle to promote contraception. For reasons I have explained before, I do not agree to contraception. But in its revised form, the RH law respects those who in conscience do not agree to its practice.
I agree with the editorials’ outlook: let’s stop fighting each other and work together for the good of all Filipino mothers. Let’s move on.