Friday, August 30, 2013

Is the viability of a fertilized ovum a condition for its humanity as claimed by Lagman?

Response to Lagman
Rep. Edcel Lagman: the fertilized ovum is not human
Rep. Edcel Lagman: the fertilized ovum
is not human
In his website, Cong. Edcel Lagman claimed:
"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....The life of the “unborn” is protected “from conception”, not before conception when there is nothing yet to protect....The Constitution mandates the protection of the life of the unborn from conception. In other words, 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 subject constitutional provision is consistent with nature and is in consonance with medical science. The fertilized ovum is not viable until it successfully implants on the woman’s uterus for sustenance."
Let's state Lagman's definitions, though we may disagree with him.  For him, conception is different from fertilization.  Fertilization is the meeting of the egg (ovum) and the sperm.  Conception is the implantation of this fertilized ovum on the woman's uterus.

MY REPLY

A. Fertilization and Conception: The Odyssey

In Philosophy, when we say that an idea was conceived, we mean that an idea popped into existence, initiating a chain of reactions, affecting not only the person who conceived the idea, but also all of history.  In the same way, when a human being was conceived through the meeting of the sperm and the egg, nature takes its course: chemical and biological reactions carries the fertilized ovum to the uterine walls where it implants, receives sustenance, and grows.  On the other hand, if the egg was not fertilized, the woman's body would flush out the unfertilized egg through menstruation.  It is true that the journey from fertilization to implantation has its hazards, for it possible that a fertilized ovum may also be flushed out, but this is what makes the journey from fertilization to implantation an epic story, for the journey of Odysseus from Troy back to the walls of his home in Ithaca is also fraught with many dangers, e.g. Cyclops, Circe, Scylla, and Suitors. Nevertheless, the idea was already conceived--Odysseus shall go home despite all the dangers.  In the same way, when a sperm fertilized an egg, a new human being is conceived despite all the dangers that it may face as it journey to its home in the uterine walls.  The fertilized ovum has 46 chromosomes--23 from the male's sperm and 23 from the female's egg--just like the rest of us, but its chromosomes are distinct from us, because each human being is unique. Personhood and humanity are philosophical concepts, but if we stick to biology, the number of chromosomes of the fertilized ovum, which is distinct from the chromosomes of the father or of the mother, is sufficient to call the fertilized ovum as part of the human species, a distinct organism with its own existence.  Thus, fertilization is the same as conception, and Lagman is wrong.

B. Implantation and Critical Habitat: Fertilized Ovum as Endangered Species

The Philippine Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001 defines the importance of critical habitats for the threatened species:
Sec. 25. Establishment of Critical Habitats. - Within two (2) years following the effectivity of this Act, The Secretary shall designate critical habitats outside protected areas under Republic Act No. 7586, where threatened species are found. Such designation shall be made on the basis of the best scientific data taking into consideration species endemicity and/or richness, presence of man-made pressures/threats to the survival of wildlife living in the area, among others.
All designated, critical habitats shall be protected, in coordination with the local government units and other concerned groups, from any form of exploitation or destruction which may be detrimental to the survival of the threatened species dependent therein. For such purpose, the Secretary may acquire, by purchase, donation or expropriation, lands, or interests therein, including the acquisition of usufruct, establishment of easements or other undertakings appropriate in protecting the critical habitat.
Is the fertilized ovum worth less than wildlife?  If we think of the fertilized ovum as an endangered species--for it may be aborted by its mother or by state law--then  the identification of its critical habitat is necessary.  This is the habitat that if the fertilized ovum is deprived, the fertilized ovum will die and will not grow, be born, and take part in Philippine politics.  What is the fertilized ovum's critical habitat?  It is the woman's uterus.  It is the womb.  If the uterus is destroyed or rendered inhospitable to the fertilized ovum, the fertilized ovum dies.  According to Guttmacher Institute, the main proponent of contraceptives whose arguments Lagman use:
Food and Drug Administration–approved contraceptive drugs and devices act to prevent pregnancy in one or more of three major ways: by suppressing ovulation, by preventing fertilization of an egg by a sperm or by inhibiting implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterine lining. 
The third mode is the "prevention of implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterine lining."  Since the uterus is the critical habitat of the fertilized ovum, then pills and emergency contraceptives which alter the chemical and biological state of the uterus are detrimental to the survival of the fertilized egg.  So we ask again: is the fertilized ovum worth less than wildlife?  If the Philippine government protects wildlife and its critical habitat, should it not also protect the newly conceived life, the fertilized ovum, and its critical habitat, the uterus?

Cross-section of a fertilized egg
Cross-section of a fertilized egg. (Photo from Visual Dictionary)
Republic Act No. 6147 protects the Philippine Eagle and its eggs:
Section 1.    It is hereby declared that the pithecophaga jefferyi commonly known as the monkey-eating Eagle shall be a protected bird in the Philippines.
Sec. 2.    To insure the proper conservation, preservation and management of the Monkey-eating Eagle, the killing, hunting, wounding or taking away of the same and/or destroying, disturbing, or taking away of the nests or eggs of such a bird, in contravention of the rules and regulations promulgated by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, is hereby prohibited and made subject to the penal provisions in Section five hereon.
Why include the eggs in the statute, when an egg is not yet an eagle, in the same way as a fertilized egg is not yet human according to Lagman?  The Republic Act recognizes the simple fact that the fertilized egg would soon become an eagle.  Inside the eagle's egg is a fertilized ovum, an embryo, that receives its sustenance from the albumen.  The egg is the critical habitat of the fertilized bird ovum, in the same way as the womb's uterus is the critical habitat.  Is the fertilized ovum of a Philippine Eagle more important than a human fertilized ovum?  If we protect Philippine Eagle's eggs, then we must also protect the human fertilized ovum and its critical habitat, the womb, from the destruction due to chemical contraceptives and intra-uterine devices (IUDs).

C. Viability of the Fertilized Ovum and the Stages of Human Life

Lagman said: "The fertilized ovum is not viable until it successfully implants on the woman’s uterus for sustenance."  Of course, what living creature would survive without food and water to sustain itself? Even adults like us need sustenance.  The only difference perhaps is that we can look for food and water for ourselves, while the newly fertilized ovum is helpless on its own.  That is why, nature takes care of the weak and the helpless fertilized ovum and sends it to the uterine walls where it can implant itself and receive sustenance through the woman: whatever the woman eats, the fertilized ovum also effectively eats and shares in the nutrients.  Is a fertilized ovum not viable?  A newly born baby is also not viable: just leave him on the table or on the floor, and soon the baby will die.  For the baby to live, it has to implant itself on his mother's breasts and from there suck the milk that he needs for sustenance.  After a year, the baby is still not viable, because it can barely walk and feed himself.  The baby is still dependent on his parents for food.  After several years, the young child is still not viable: he does not know enough to live outside on his own.  He is still dependent on his parents for his allowance, tuition, food, clothing, and moral guidance.  When the child enters marriage, it is assumed that he is already viable: he can feed himself and he has a job to feed his family.

As you can see, Lagman's viability argument fails, because a human being at different stages of his life is not viable starting from being a newly fertilized ovum, then to a fetus, a baby, a child, a teen, and even sometimes even as an adult.   If this viability is the reason behind Lagman's refusal to treat the fertilized ovum as a human being, then we would not be anymore surprised that he intends the Reproductive Health Law as a way to reduce the populations of non-viable humans: the poor who can hardly feed themselves and who depends on the government for their health care needs and other necessities.  To survive, the poor must implant themselves on a Congressman or Senator and ask food, money, and jobs in exchange for their votes in the next elections.  Thus, the idea of the PDAF or the Pork Barrel was conceived to perpetuate this cycle of dependency of the poor and the continued entrenchment of politicians in public office.

When a man reaches old age, his body weakens, and he goes to his second childhood: he needs somebody to feed him, to change his diapers, and to walk him around.  Most of the aged in Western countries do not have children to take care of them, so they rely on caregivers and pay them large salaries.  The Japanese, for their part, invented robot caregivers.  But what if the aged have no money or robots, do they cease to be viable, and by Lagman's argument, destined for death?  Thus, it is not surprising that countries who agrees with Lagman's viability argument for the fertilized ovum ended up supporting abortion and euthanasia as well, because for them for an unborn baby is not viable and so is an aged man who lies in his bed all day.

D. Conclusion

The fertilized ovum is a human being like us and like all human beings it also needs sustenance by implanting itself on the uterine walls.  To deprive the fertilized ovum of its chance of implantation by making the uterine walls inhospitable through chemical contraceptives and IUDs is to deprive the fertilized ovum of its existence.  Viability of the fertilized ovum should not be used as a reason to deprive it of sustenance and life, because even humans at different stages of their life, such as a a baby or a senile elderly, are not viable to live on their own.  Like the fertilized ovum, these unviables need to implant themselves in a home where they will receive sustenance, care, and love. If the fertilized ovum is unviable and therefore not human enough to fit to live, then the baby and elderly are also not human enough to fit to live, and so they, too, should be killed through either abortion or euthanasia.

An idea, once conceived, has drastic consequences in human history, especially if the idea is an error.  And Lagman's idea of the unviability of the fertilized ovum before implantation is an error that leads to the Reproductive Health Law.  But since the RH Law has not yet implanted on the Philippine soil because the law's constitutionality has not yet been settled in the Supreme Court, then we can use Lagman's arguments and say that the RH Law is not viable, and therefore, it can be aborted.
Photographic Print of Human Ovum in Fallopian Tube This freshly fertilized
Photographic Print of Human Ovum in Fallopian Tube This freshly fertilized
Mayo Clinic Guide to Fertility and Conception
Mayo Clinic Guide to Fertility and Conception
The Odyssey
The Odyssey
Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters
Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters
Coastal Lagoons: Critical Habitats of Environmental Change (CRC Marine Science)
Coastal Lagoons: Critical Habitats of Environmental Change (CRC Marine Science)
Proactive Strategies for Protecting Species: Pre-Listing Conservation and the Endangered Species Act
Proactive Strategies for Protecting Species: Pre-Listing Conservation and the Endangered Species Act
Human Reproductive Biology
Human Reproductive Biology
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Eagle Philippines Bird Head Feathers Beak Carnivore Table Mats Customized Made to Order Support Ready 24 Inch (610mm) X 14 15/16 Inch (380mm) X 1/8 Inch (4mm) High Quality Eco Friendly Cloth with Neoprene Rubber Liil Deskmat Desktop Mousepad Laptop Mousepads Comfortable Computer Place Play Mat Cute Gaming Mouse pads
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