Doctors, pro-life groups file plea vs RH Law

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 14 2013 04:30 PM | Updated as of Feb 15 2013 06:22 AM

MANILA - Concerned doctors and a group that calls itself Filipinos for Life filed a petition with the Supreme Court (SC) for the nullification of the Republic Act (RA) No. 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, also known as the RH Law.

In a 19-page petition, Dr. Reynaldo Echavez, et al urged the high court to declare the law as unconstitutional, and pending a final decision on the merits of the case, issue a temporary restraining order (TRO), status quo ante order (SQAO), and/or writ or preliminary injunction to refrain government from implementing the law.

Petitioners claimed that RA 10354 violates the doctrine of "benevolent neutrality" provided for in the freedom of religion clause of the 1987 Constitution.

They pointed out that under this provision in Sec. 5 of Art. III, the Constitution provides that "[n]o law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

The interpretation of this provision should not be strict but benevolent neutrality, petitioners said.

"It recognizes that government must pursue its secular goals and interests but at the same time strive to uphold religious liberty to the greatest extent possible within flexible constitutional limits," the petition read.

The petition pointed out that several provisions of the assailed law "are clearly too secular that it disregards the religion of Filipinos."

The petition also claimed that RA 10354 violates the Constitutional proscription against involuntary servitude or the freedom of an individual from doing an act which he does not intend to do.

"It (RA 10154)... compels individuals and institutions to provide and refer reproductive health services... [t]he requirement to immediately refer the matter to another health care service provider is still considered a compulsion of these practices on the health care service provider who objected.

"In turn, it also prohibits the free exercise of religion, in case their religion prohibit such kind of service as a practice," the petition read.

This, the petition stressed, not only mandates involuntary servitude, but is also a form of harassment on medical profession practitioners.

Petitioners also argued that the title of the law embraces more than one subject which fall under different provisions of the Constitution.

"Falling under two different provisions of the Constitution, it is clear that these two phrases cover different rights. As such, they should be covered by different laws as well," the petition stated.

Another ground for the nullification of the law is that it violates a person's right to life, petitioners claimed.

They argued that life begins at fertilization, and that the pill is an abortifacient.

The petition claimed that oral contraceptives not only inhibit ovulation, they also modify the endometrium (uterus lining), preventing implantation of the fertilized egg.

"All the measures which impair the viability of the zygote at anytime between the instant of fertilization and the completion of labor, constitute, procedures for inducing abortion," the petition read, quoting the US Dept. of Health.

Aside from allegedly violating the life of the unborn child, the assailed law also endangers the life of the mother, the petitioners stressed. This is because, according to them, the law "allows the women to use certain drugs that are not only abortifacients but also cause long-term illnesses to women."

The petition cited a monograph released in 2011 by a working group under the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which made an "overall evaluation" that "oral combined estrogen-progesterone contraceptives are carcinogenic (cancer-causing) to humans." These cancers reportedly include cancer of the breast, cancer of the uterine cervix, and cancer of the liver.

Petitioners also argued that the law "authorizes the state to control the private education sector, medical industry and employers."