Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Fated to self-destruct

I have tried from the very start to use substantive arguments to show why we must reject the reproductive health bills. The objections are moral, constitutional and meta constitutional. And they have not been refuted at all. But it looks like the bills are fated to self-destruct, even on procedural grounds.

The first objection has to do with the “right” of the State to enter the bedroom, and tell poor married couples they cannot exercise their conjugal rights and engage in the marital act unless they first use contraceptives or get sterilized.

Does the State or anybody else for that matter have that right?

I have been saying nobody has that right, and no one has been able to show me that the State has.

Were an African dictator to impose such policy on his people, he would be held criminally accountable under the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which prohibits “measures intended to prevent births within a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

But probably because the embryonic dictatorship is not African, our anti-reproduction guys want the State to intervene in an area of human activity where it does not have any authority or competence to intervene at all.

What I have been saying is that it is not a proper area for legislation. But the proponents of the anti-reproduction bills apparently believe they are omnipotent, and that they can legislate anything they want to legislate just because they are legislators. Dirty Harry (not the Angelic Doctor) has the best quote for this: “A man must know his limitations.”

The State has its limitations. It can ask the citizen to risk his life in defense of his country, it can tax him to death, although that would be oppressive; it can expropriate his most valued piece of land for public use; it can do any number of things which he may not exactly relish. But it cannot tell a journalist how he will write, or a congressman how he will think. It certainly cannot tell a man how to embrace his wife or father his child.

The Bill of Rights says, “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

The right of a man and a woman to be left alone in the privacy of their bedroom and to embrace and make love as husband and wife belongs to an infinitely higher order of rights than any of those mentioned in this provision. The Constitution calls it sacred, and it is not a simple constitutional right. It is a meta-constitutional right. Meaning, above the Constitution.

The right to love and make love, to realize oneself fully as a human person and connect intimately to one’s Creator through love is a God-given right. It could even stand higher, but not lower, than the right to breathe, to think, and to speak. How can any group of legislators believe they have a right to put that transcendental right under the boot of foreign population controllers and their conscript State?

But the Constitution is abundantly clear. It does not equivocate. The family, which is founded on marriage, is the foundation of the nation. Family life is sacred, autonomous and inviolate. The family’s religious beliefs shall be protected by the State. “The State shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.”

The sentence in quotes needs no interpretation. The State shall not allow the destruction of any unborn child. So abortion is out. But does it allow contraception? As an individual decision and action of women, yes; but not as an activity of the State. For how can the State be a protector of the unborn from the moment of conception, if its first program is to try to prevent women from conceiving?

We cannot hold the State accountable if married women decide to contracept either on their own, or on the prodding of a private individual or institution, and as a result succeed in completely avoiding conception. But if the State itself engages in an active program of contraception and sterilization, even if that program fails, then it has already violated its clearly mandated duty under the Constitution.

The present bills are actual proposals for the State to commit that violation. Can there be a more perverse piece of legislation?

But as stated in the beginning, the bills could founder on the rock of procedural questions. And here’s how.

In the House of Representatives, only one committee hearing was held before they consolidated four bills into one, and announced it would now be debated on the Floor. That does not comply with the constitutional requirement of adequate consultations.

In the. Senate, two joint hearings have been held so far. In the first hearing, two senators attended; in the second, three. The Rules require that one-third of the regular members of a committee shall constitute a quorum. The six committees named in the joint hearings have a combined membership of 78 senators. One third is 26, bigger than the entire Senate.

The hearings therefore had no quorum. They were all invalid, and not in a position to recommend anything to the plenary at all.

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