“God’s greatest gift is human life and we have a duty to protect the life of an unborn child.”
The unborn are some of the most vulnerable and defenseless members of society. They are sometimes neglected, abandoned, and forgotten. But over the years, the government has taken a pro-active role not only in recognizing the rights of the unborn but also in enacting statutes that protect their well-being.
Section 12, Article II of the 1987 Constitution highlights that the State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.
The debate on when protection to an unborn child commences has been put to rest in the case of Spouses Imbong v. Ochoa, Jr. Here, the Supreme Court held that the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 (RH Law) itself clearly mandates that protection be afforded from the moment of fertilization. As pointed out by Justice Antonio T. Carpio, the RH Law is replete with provisions that embody the policy of the law to protect the fertilized ovum and that it should be afforded safe travel to the uterus for implantation.
From the moment of fertilization, an unborn child is entitled to, among others, the following rights:
• The right to life. Several treaties and international agreements including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child contain numerous references to the right of the unborn to life. Domestically, laws are enacted to protect the life of the unborn.
Act No. 3815, otherwise known as the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, penalizes intentional abortion committed by any person who shall intentionally cause an abortion; unintentional abortion committed by any person who shall cause an abortion by violence; and, abortion practiced by the woman herself or by her parents and abortion practiced by a physician or midwife and dispensing of abortives.
The clear and unequivocal intent of the framers of the 1987 Constitution in protecting the life of the unborn from conception was to prevent the legislature from enacting a measure legalizing abortion.
• The right to support. An unborn child has a right to support from its progenitors. Support comprises everything indispensable for sustenance, dwelling, clothing, medical attendance, education and transportation, in keeping with the financial capacity of the family.
• The right to receive donations. A conceived child, although as yet unborn, is given by law a provisional personality of its own for all purposes favorable to it. The unborn child, therefore, has a right to support from its progenitors, even if the said child is only “en ventre de sa mere” (in utero); just as a conceived child, even if as yet unborn, may receive donations as prescribed by law. Article 742 of the Civil Code provides that donations made to conceived and unborn children may be accepted by those persons who would legally represent them if they were already born.
• Other rights and protective measures. The safety and welfare of the unborn are of paramount importance. As such, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Department Order No. 179-17 considered it a valid cause for a trainee to terminate his training contract if she is pregnant and the training program poses a significant risk or hazard to her or her unborn child.
Further, child trafficking is a serious global concern. Hence, a pregnant mother who executes an affidavit consenting to the adoption of her unborn child for a consideration is liable for the offense of attempt to commit child trafficking as defined and penalized under Section 8 of Republic Act No. 7610.
It is said that the children are the hope of our nation, so let us not lose sight of the unborn who will eventually live and lead the nation we create.
The “Day of the Unborn” is observed every March 25 of the year which is also the Feast of the Annunciation to commemorate life and human dignity.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. This article is for general informational and educational purposes, and not offered as, and does not constitute, legal advice or legal opinion.
Jenny Ann A. Pimentel is an associate of the Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices (ACCRALAW), Cebu Branch.