By Raïssa Robles
This morning, at breakfast, I nearly choked on my coffee when my hubby Alan read out to me the following lines from his column today.
Bernas, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, wrote in his column entitled “When is family planning anti-life?”:
When does life begin? For me, the starting point in dealing with this very specific question is what the Constitution says. It says that the state “shall protect the life of the unborn from conception.” What this means, in the understanding of the men and women who wrote that Constitution, is that life begins at conception, that is, upon fertilization. Before fertilization there is no life.
Say that again?
…life begins at conception, that is, upon fertilization. Before fertilization there is no life.
He goes on to say:
This is also the view of the Philippine Medical Society, and this is the view of John Paul II. John Paul II said that life is so important that we should not do anything that will endanger it. We would be taking at least a very serious risk against life if we terminate development after fertilization.
Wait a minute. Didn’t certain congressmen vehemently tell us that life does not begin at conception? That life begins with the egg and the sperm? That the Catholic Church totally forbids any birth control that would even remotely prevent the egg and sperm from meeting?
And that the most popular device that prevents the egg and sperm from meeting is the CONDOM?
But there’s more that Fr. Bernas says. He wrote that:
The use of contraceptive devices that only prevent fertilization is not anti-life in the sense of being an act of murder.
For Fr. Bernas, this is not abortion.
He defines abortion this way:
Abortion, in the sense of expulsion of the fertilized ovum at any time after fertilization is anti-life, and is an act of murder. If life of the unborn is terminated at a stage of viability the crime is infanticide. For that reason the Penal Code and also the proposed RH bill prohibit and penalize abortion and infanticide.
As to what are the abortifacients, Fr. Bernas prefers to leave that to the wisdom of scientists, not to doctors of the Church.
I have heard it loosely said that what are being marketed as contraception devices are in fact abortive devices. This is loose talk. If there are such abortive devices being marketed, they should be identified scientifically, not by gossip, and withdrawn from the market. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has the responsibility of ensuring that no abortifacient drugs be marketed. I know of one drug which was withdrawn from the market after being proved before the FDA to be abortifacient. This was the subject of a thesis of a student of mine which she defended, as required for graduation from the Ateneo Law School, before a panel of professors.
Then Fr. Bernas says a most controversial thing at the end. He says he is a Catholic priest but at the same time also a lawyer. You can see the struggle in his mind here when he says:
Having said all this I must also put on my hat as a priest of the Catholic Church. I accept the teaching of the Catholic Church which prohibits not only abortion but also artificial contraception. Yet one might say that through this article I am in fact approving artificial contraception. I am not doing such a thing. Aside from being a Catholic priest in good standing, I am also a lawyer and teacher and student of Constitutional Law. What I am doing is to place all this in the context of our constitutionally mandated pluralistic society. Not all citizens of the Philippines are Catholics. Many of them therefore do not consider artificial contraception immoral or anti-life. The teaching of my Church is that I must respect the belief of other religions even if I do not agree with them. That is how Catholics and non-Catholics can live together in harmony. The alternative which, God forbid, is the restoration of the Inquisition.
I believe Fr. Bernas has not only given Catholics some wiggle room but an entire house to romp in! :)
You can read Fr. Bernas’ entire column by clicking here.