Thursday, August 25, 2011

From the Moment of Conception

Is an unborn fetus possessed of a personality under the law?

Article 40 of the New Civil Code (NCC) of the Philippines states that "[b]irth determines personality; but the conceived child shall be considered born for all purposes that are favorable to it, provided it be born later with conditions specified in the following article." The article referred to is Article 41 which states that "[f]or civil purposes, the foetus is considered born if it is alive at the time it is completely delivered from the mother's womb. However, if the foetus had an intra-uterine life of less than seven months, it is not deemed born if it dies within twenty-four hours after its complete delivery from the maternal womb."

The Supreme Court of the Philippines has interpreted the above provisions to mean that a conceived child (although yet unborn) is given by law a provisional personality of its own for all purposes favorable to it. Examples of this are the unborn's right to support from its progenitors, right to receive donations subject to Article 742 of the NCC and right to succession under Article 854 of the NCC.

Verily, the aim of the law is to protect life that has already been formed inside the womb of a woman, making sure that its development progresses to full term which will translate to full viability and health upon being born. Once born, the full force and mantle of the law's protection is then made available to the child who is, for all intents and purposes, already a natural person.

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