Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Lenten Reflection on Vested Interest

by Alan S. Cajes

Litrato: I used to think that human beings perform an act to promote their own vested interest. They love, and they are loved in return or simply find fulfillment in loving; take good care of other people to enjoy freedom with responsibility; cheat, material gain; steal, financial security; lie, freedom with no responsibility, and so on. This Good Friday, as we join the Christian community in remembering the passion and death of Christ, I could not help but question my own assumption. Did Christ die to fulfill the prophecy? Did he go through the process of betrayal to experience what it is to be human? Or did he just do it to please the Father? He said so himself: "Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?” In the Garden of Gethsemane, however, we learned that he somehow had second thoughts about his mission and that he was terribly afraid. He first prayed: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” Deeply troubled and aggrieved as he was, Christ eventually chose to accept his fate saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” Thus, there is a higher form of vested interest -- giving it up. As we transcend the logic and music of our right and left brains, we plug ourselves into a higher form of consciousness, that of the Divine, where there is no more vested interest, but only a higher level of selflessness. A blessed Good Friday to all.I used to think that human beings perform an act to promote their own vested interest. They love, and they are loved in return or simply find fulfillment in loving; take good care of other people to enjoy freedom with responsibility; cheat, material gain; steal, financial security; lie, freedom with no responsibility, and so on. 
This Good Friday, as we join the Christian community in remembering the passion and death of Christ, I could not help but question my own assumption. Did Christ die to fulfill the prophecy? Did he go through the process of betrayal to experience what it is to be human? Or did he just do it to please the Father? He said so himself: "Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?” 
In the Garden of Gethsemane, however, we learned that he somehow had second thoughts about his mission and that he was terribly afraid. He first prayed: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” Deeply troubled and aggrieved as he was, Christ eventually chose to accept his fate saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” 
Thus, there is a higher form of vested interest -- giving it up. As we transcend the logic and music of our right and left brains, we plug ourselves into a higher form of consciousness, that of the Divine, where there is no more vested interest, but only a higher level of selflessness. 
A blessed Good Friday to all.

Friday, January 10, 2014

DAP conducts capability training for IPs

By: Claro A. Lanipa

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Dec. 19 (PIA) – The Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP), Mindanao Office in partnership with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP)-9, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Ateneo de Davao and Mindanawon recently conducted a training on “Strengthening the Capacity of Indigenous Peoples (IP, for brevity) Mandatory Representatives to Local Legislative Councils  at Jardin Laviña Hotel, Zamboanga City.

The event was attended by 29 provincial, city and municipal representatives from various ethno-linguistic groups in the region, particularly the Subanen, Yakan, Bajau, Samal and Kalibugan.

The training aimed to gain understanding of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) framework for development, acquire knowledge in mainstream government to be able to interface with the indigenous governance system, understand the accountability of public officials and employees, learn from navigating the government budget and financial processes among others.

Mr. Alan S. Cajes, vice president and managing director of DAP Mindanao announced that under the program  Strengthening Advocacy of Lumads in Government (SALIG-LUMAD), the participants will also undergo mentoring and coaching after the capability training, with the objective of formulating an IP agenda to promote advocacies and participation in the local legislative councils.

“It is imperative for our IPs to develop their functional skills on existing government processes for them to further complement their cultural and traditional competencies in governance,” Cajes emphasized.

Among the speakers in the said training were IP champion Fr. Albert S. Alejo, SJ; Atty. Leilene Marie C. Gallardo of NCIP Central Office; Atty. Mohamad Taha S. Arakama and Jun A. Cilo of DILG IX; Alan S. Cajes; Atty. Marco A. Buena of the Office of the OMBUDSMAN for Mindanao and Director Annabelle C. Echavez and Lilia R. Ledesma of DBM IX.

The training was attended by NCIP Commissioners Cosme M. Lambayon and Era C. España, NCIP IX Regional Director Salong M. Sunggod together with some staff, Ms. Lyn A. Balanza , IPMR Focal Person of Region XI, and the DAP  Mindanao training team, headed by Ms. Regina R. Fernandez. (FPG/CAL/PIA-Zamboanga del Sur with reports from NCIP-9)
See more at: http://news.pia.gov.ph/index.php?article=1351387417225#sthash.kYt0C6Kp.dpuf

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Two Views of Consciousness

by Alan S. Cajes
Journal of Consciousness Studies
Seyyed Hossein Nasr’s ideas resonated in my mind while listening to our professor, Dr. Dejillas, at the Asian Social Institute last Saturday, October 5. Nasr views traditional cosmologies as forwarding the idea that Pure Consciousness or Pure Being manifests down to the fundamental constituent of the cosmos –matter—while maintaining Its transcendence. In this view, consciousness is actively involved in the coming into being of the universe. The opposite or the modern reductionist view, explains Nasr, interprets Pure Consciousness or Pure Being as ascending “from the primordial cosmic soup”. In this view, consciousness is passive in the “evolution of the cosmos”.

These two views of consciousness have profound impact on how we make sense of our lives. I explained this in an earlier article entitled Valuing and the Environment, which has been included in the list of online resources by a Jesuit school of theology in the United States, as well as used as a reference by at least three dissertations presented at U.S. universities.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Development Strategies through Science and Technology for the Sustainable Management of Environment and Natural Resources

by Alan S. Cajes§

In 1975-1977, the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP), UP Population Institute, and the UP School of Economics (UPSE) formed a research consortium to implement a future-oriented research program known as Population, Resources, Environment, and the Philippine Future (PREPF). The findings and recommendations of the study entitled Probing Our Futures: The Philippine 2000 A.D. was published in 1980. In addition to interpreting the data related to “poverty, ignorance, ill-health, poor nutrition, and gross income inequity,” the study also analyzed historical information about the country’s key natural resources, including forestry and fisheries (DAP, UPPI, UPSE: 1980).

In his introduction to the report, Prof. Dr. Onofre D. Corpuz clarified that despite the limitations of future-oriented studies, probing the future actually makes sense. He said:

“There is not a single future ahead of us. There are several possible futures, and the question therefore is: What are the futures in the future? If we can identify many possible futures, and reduce these to the probable futures, then we can select our preferred futures” (DAP, UPPI, UPSE: 1980).

In relation to forestry, the study reported the following:

“Satellite photographs (LANDSAT) taken in 1976 show that only nine million hectares or 30% of our total land area are covered by healthy well-stocked forests, while six million hectares or 20% of our total land area are inadequately stocked. PREPF studies indicate that by year 2000, all our old-growth forests will have been harvested to meet the foreign demand for Philippine wood products and to sustain the national development plan’s targets for construction during the last two decades of this century” (DAP, UPPI, UPSE: 1980).

The recommendations of the study included the following, among others:
  1. Reforestation of 1.5 million hectares of denuded watershed for protection purposes and 1 million hectares of denuded forests for development into forest range land
  2. Establishment of pulp timber plantations in 5.4 million hectares that are under marginal agricultural cultivation to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of pulpwood
  3. Selective logging, which ensures natural regeneration of dipterocarp forests, should be strictly enforced
  4. Forest protection has to be more effectively implemented (DAP, UPPI, UPSE: 1980)
As regards fisheries, the study pointed out that:

“Pollution has spoiled our inland waters, especially our rivers. The chief pollutants are mine tailings (wastes from various processes of mining), toxic substances from industries, fertilizers, and pesticides, and domestic wastes. Of 100 major rivers surveyed, 40 were found polluted in varying degrees. Thus, pollution control measures should be enforced to keep our inland fisheries productive (DAP, UPPI, UPSE: 1980).

In 2010, the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016, 30 years after the publication of the PREPF report, the problem that we are facing is getting worse:

“Of the 15.9 million hectares of forestland, only 6.43 million hectares or 41 percent were still forested in 2003, a significant decline from the 17 million hectares recorded in the 1930s.

The quality of land resources has deteriorated steadily because of erosion, pollution and land conversion.

The productivity of the country’s coral reefs, mangrove forests, sea grass, and algal beds and fisheries is declining at an alarming rate.

The degradation of the environment aggravates the impacts of disasters and climate change. Deforestation increases the chances of landslides. The risk of drought and poor availability of water are aggravated by the loss of forest cover. Depleted mangrove reserves deprive coastal communities of natural protection from storm surges. Uncontrolled urban growth coupled with poor land use planning results in encroachment on protected forests or danger zones like riverbanks (NEDA, PDP 2011-2016: 2011).”

So we ask the questions: What went wrong? Where are we going? What we must do?

This part of the paper proposes some development strategies through science and technology for the sustainable management of environment and natural resources.

The first strategy has something to do with a clear, ambitious, challenging, inspiring, but-must-be achieved vision. Let me provide context to this point.

The sectoral goal of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is “Sustainable Management of Environment and Natural Resources” as contribution to the societal goals, namely: Improved Quality of Life and Sustainable Development. Under the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016, the three (3) medium-term goals are:
  1. Goal 1 - Improved Conservation, Protection and Rehabilitation of Natural Resources
  2. Goal 2 - Improved Environmental Quality for a Cleaner and Healthier Environment
  3. Goal 3 - Enhanced Resilience of Natural Systems and Improved Adaptive Capacities of Human Communities to Cope with Environmental Hazards Including Climate- Related Risks 
In 1977, the Philippine Environmental Policy declares that it is a continuing policy of the State to:
·Create, develop, maintain, and improve conditions under which man and nature can thrive in productive and enjoyable harmony with each other.
·Fulfill the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations of Filipino.
·Ensure the attainment of an environmental quality that is conducive to a life of dignity and well-being.

The 1987 Philippine Constitution is quite clear about the role of the State in relation to ENR. Article II, Section 16 provides that the “State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature”.

In the case of Oposa vs. Factoran (The Children’s Case), the Supreme Court of the Philippines defined the meaning of the phrase "rhythm and harmony of nature.” The Court said:

“Nature means the created world in its entirety. Such rhythm and harmony indispensably include, inter alia, the judicious disposition, utilization, management, renewal and conservation of the country’s forest, mineral, land, waters, fisheries, wildlife, off-shore areas and other natural resources to the end that their exploration, development and utilization be equitably accessible to the present as well as future generations  (G.R. No. 101083).”

If we measure our performance in terms of the use of words and phrases, I humbly submit that we are good, but not good enough.

The first strategy, therefore, is to choose our ENR future, as our PREFP study showed.

Let us go back to the basics. What do we want us human beings? Productive land, healthy flora and fauna, clean air and clean water. As Atty. Antonio Oposa Jr. said during his acceptance speech as he received the Ramon Magsaysay Award, we need CPR for our natural endowments: Conservation, Protection and Rehabilitation! 

But what is our vision as a society? Can we say at least 54% forest cover by 2050, at least class C inland waters by 2060, 100% rehabilitated land by 2070?

These goals and targets are difficult, but they are necessary if we are to build a better Philippines for the succeeding generations.

The second strategy is related to the findings and recommendations of Robert Watson, Michael Crawford and Sara Farley in a World Bank Policy Research Working Paper entitled “Strategic Approaches to Science and Technology in Development”. The main argument of their paper is this:

 “…development will increasingly depend on a country’s ability to understand, interpret, select, adapt, use, transmit, diffuse, produce and commercialize scientific and technological knowledge in ways appropriate to its culture, aspirations and level of development.”

In relation to this strategy, let me share with you our experience at the Academy.

In 1999, we had a partnership with the private sector, Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM), and government agencies like the DENR, DOST, PHILRICE, and DOE to assess the feasibility of using rice hull as fuel for electricity generation. We selected an off-grid barangay in Nueva Ecija where a group of farmers were into rice farming. After our team has studied the characteristics of rice hull, its volume, location, etc., an entrepreneur visited the project site and offered to buy carbonized rice hull from the farmers for about PHP25.00 per kilogram. Sensing a good opportunity to earn income, the farmers asked PHILRICE for help. To assist the farmers, PHILRICE fabricated a simple technology to produce carbonized rice hull. Thus, our project had to change course, support the farmers, and explain to the funding agency what happened.

It took us at DAP another ten years to realize a waste-to-energy project, specifically using rice hull and waste plastic. This time, the project is supported by the United Nations Environment Programme-International Environmental Technology Centre (UNEP-IETC). The development strategy of UNEP is simple: gather data, choose the technology, pilot it in a community, and learn from it.

The rice mill-cum-water pump uses rice hull, which is the by-product of the milling process. It is now used by the Bohol Farmers’ Cooperative. To complete the package, we also provided a training program for the cooperative farmers on how to produce and use biologically indigenous microorganisms (BIMs), especially for the rapid composting of rice straw.

Another project that UNEP supported using the same strategy is the waste plastic-to-fuel project. This pilot demonstration project refers to the use of waste plastics and other biomass to produce refuse-derived fuel (RDF). RDF is produced by pelletizing waste plastics and other biomass materials that have high calorific value. The technology that was adopted is extrusion, with the extruder machine fabricated by a local technology provider. The project is now operated by the City Government of Cebu.

We proposed three models to replicate these pilot projects.

Model 1: Public-Private Enterprise Model

The public-private enterprise strategy is the partnership of the public sector with entrepreneurs who are committed to providing alternative but ecological ways of managing solid waste. This model us supported by the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which provides that LGUs should include in their plans the specific measures that will promote the participation of the private sector in the management of solid wastes, particularly in the generation and development of the essential technologies for solid waste management. It also encourages the LGUs to provide incentives for the involvement of the private sector in solid waste management. 

Model 2: Public-Private Partnership Model

The Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model is an approach by which the private sector invests in technologies with the clear intention of recovering the cost of investment and realizing a reasonable margin. As an economic instrument for solid waste management, LGUs can purposively formulate local policies that will encourage small-scale rice millers to use rice hull to run rice mills. As regards the rapid composting of rice straw, the LGUs can enter into a partnership agreement with the farmers themselves, whether as individuals, village association, or as cooperatives. LGUs should also formulate local policies that will discourage or penalize the burning of rice straw, as well as encourage the farmers or their associations to use BIMs for rapid composting.

Model 3: Public-Corporate Social Responsibility Model

Local government units (LGUs) can partner with industrial and commercial establishments, both within or outside their territorial jurisdictions, to support farmers’ associations and cooperatives to engage in the use of rice hull for rice milling or water pumping, as well as the use of BIMs for the rapid composting of rice straw. Under this model, firms or corporations can provide technical and financial support to farmers associations or cooperatives that are willing to use the technology. The LGUs can provide the support mechanism, such as training of the farmers, as well as technical inputs on organic farming through the local agricultural office.

Another project that we implemented in partnership with the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and various government agencies, including the DENR, is piloting few models of biodigester for pig farms. The development strategy is simple: get community partners, construct a biodigester according to specifications, choose the technology that requires the least cost, and demonstrate and measure performance. The local partners that we have engaged in this project are capable of constructing biodigesters for other organizations or individuals who are interested to reap the benefits of the technology.

At this time, Buklod-Unlad Cooperative is constructing biodigesters for its cooperative members. This week, they will hold a Farmers’ Day, with the Governor of Batangas Province leading the guests from other partner institutions.

There are some important lessons that we have learned from the project cases that I have shared with you earlier. These are as follows:
  1. Choose your local or community partners well. Our experience with Buklod-Unlad shows that mature grassroots organizations have better capability to continue an intervention and maximize the benefits that they gain from it.
  2. Make sure that a development intervention will create value to the partner-beneficiaries. This means that an intervention or scientific study is responsive to a clear and pressing need of the community.
  3. Clarity of expected results can lead to success, but ensure that partners have ownership of such results.
  4. The technical soundness of an intervention is critical. We should do things right the first time.
In closing, I wish to recall what Dr. Corpuz said about the PREFP Report. As a political economist, he saw the need to include a scenario on the political system. He said:

“…the PREPF team assumed no important political changes into the year 2000. It is as if the PREFP scenario projected martial law continuing over the next generation; or that it assumes politics to have no effect on our future. These assumptions are not just tenable” (DAP, UPPI, UPSE: 1980).

The character of our political system will continue to have an influence in our development strategies through science and technology for the sustainable management of natural resources. In their book “Why Nations Fail, The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty”, Daron  Acemoglu and James A. Robinson argue that:

“Nations fail economically because of extractive institutions. These institutions keep poor countries poor and prevent them from embarking on a path to economic growth…the basis of these institutions is an elite who design economic institutions in order to enrich themselves and perpetuate their power at the expense of the vast majority of people in society” (Acemoglu and Robinson: 2013.)

Dr. Ben Malayang, in an article he wrote for the book “Making Sense of the Millennium Development Goals, An Alternative Perspective by Civil Society” said:

“Governance, or the body of decisions and actions that direct human behavior toward a rational and virtuous use of material and social assets of society, is the lynchpin of sus­tainable development. But in the Philippines, issues on governance are inhibiting rational and virtuous behavior toward improving the harmony and integration of economic, envi­ronmental, and social concerns in development” (Philippine Sustainability Watch Network: 2005).

The pork barrel funds issue is a clear example of the effects of political institutions. But I will not pre-empt what strategies you will use to address the challenge posed by our political institutions in relation to environment and natural resources management. As Sixto K. Roxas wrote in the same book:

“All the external trappings of material progress that has changed the landscape of Metro Manila and our major cities have been judged empty of substantive benefits for the majority of the people.

The overarching purpose is to try and get an awareness of the roots of the problem so that a genuine “turnaround” can be achieved, and to provide a framework that serves as an authentic map towards a sustainable development path. We seem to keep repeating the same mistakes. How can we pull ourselves together so we can begin to address the roots of our problem? (Philippine Sustainability Watch Network: 2005)

Much as I am tempted to answer that question, the topic you have assigned to me today precludes me to give in to the temptation.

So let me end my presentation with the words of a famous broadcaster based in Mindanao. I use this quote because the influence of the political system on ENR implies that we have to be involved, somehow, in conscientizing our people.

Ang lungsod nga nasayod maoy makahatag ug kusog sa demokrasya, apan ang lungsod nga mapasagaron maoy makapukan sa atong kagawasan. (An informed citizenry will strengthen democracy, but an uncaring citizenry will destroy our freedom).

Maraming salamat po.

References Cited

Acemoglu, Daron and James A. Robins. Why Nations Fail, The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty. Crown Business: New York, 2013

Development Academy of the Philippines, UP Population Institute, UP School of Economics. ­Probing Our Futures: The Philippines 2000 A.D. PREPF: Metro Manila, Philippines, 1980.

Oposa et al. v. Fulgencio S. Factoran, Jr. et al (G.R. No. 101083) available at http://www.lawphil.net/judjuris/juri1993/jul1993/gr_101083_1993.html

Philippine Sustainability Watch Network. Making Sense of the Millennium Development Goals, An Alternative Perspective by Civil Society. 2005

Republic of the Philippines. Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016. National Economic Development Authority: Pasig City, 2011

Republic of the Philippines. The 1987 Philippine Constitution.

Republic of the Philippines. Presidential Decree No. 1151 (Philippine Environmental Policy). 1977

Robert Watson, Michael Crawford and Sara Farley. Strategic Approaches to Science and Technology in Development. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 3026, April 2003

§ Presented by Alan S. Cajes, vice president of the Development Academy of the Philippines-Center for Sustainable Human Development as an Opening Lecture of the workshop participated in by the officials and staff of the DENR- Research Sector comprised of the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau based in Los Banos, Laguna and the Ecosystems Research and Development Services in 16 regions nationwide. The 4-day workshop, which aims to review and discuss the RDE thrusts and directions for FY 2014 and onwards, was held on 17-20 September 2013 at Lima Park Hotel, Malvar, Batangas, Philippines.

Friday, September 13, 2013

On Pork Barrel Funds

Foto taken from www.interaksyon.com
by Alan S. Cajes

Many Filipinos have voiced out their opinions about the pork barrel funds. Let me just share some thoughts about this issue.

My disagreement with the idea of providing funds to senators and representatives started in 1995 when I studied Philippine Constitutional History under Prof. Dr. F.H. Hornedo at the Graduate School of the University of Santo Tomas. The idea was simple: The Executive implements the law, the Legislative enacts the laws, and the Judiciary interprets the law. If any branch fails to perform its function or abuses its authority, then there is a dysfunction in the system of government. Indeed, the system is good, but it has the tendency to become evil. Hence, systems of government are like human beings. My 2001 paper entitled Rethinking the Concept of Sovereignty gives more details.

A better way of addressing the problem on pork barrel funds is not possible within the context that gives rise to the problem. The Presidential System of Government has been unsuccessful in developing “inclusive political institutions” that will interpret, and respond to, the needs of the people. To paraphrase Albert Einstein, we cannot solve a problem with the same system that created it. Thus, my humble opinion is to change the system of government from presidential to parliamentary form. My Critique of the Presidential Form of Government explains this point further.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Beneficial Indigenous Microorganisms (BIMs)

by Alan S. Cajes

The use of beneficial indigenous microorganisms (BIMs) is a
Compost Tea used by Malagos Garden Resort in Davao City
development in the use of effective microorganisms (EMs). BIMs, as the term implies, uses locally available organic materials to come up with a mother enzyme (no need to buy from manufacturers). Producing your own mother enzyme is cost-effective compared to buying one from the market.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Conception as Fertilization: A Reading of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012

Human ovum examined  fresh in the liquor folliculi.
by Alan S. Cajes

The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 (RPRHA) or R.A. No. 10354 “recognizes and guarantees the human rights of all persons” (Sec. 2) pursuant to the duty of the State to “equally protect the life of the mother and life of the unborn from conception” (Sec. 12, Art. II, 1987 Philippine Constitution). It defines an abortifacient as “any drug or device that induces abortion or the destruction of a fetus inside the mother’s womb or the prevention of the fertilized ovum to reach and be implanted in the mother’s womb upon determination of the FDA” (Section 4a).

The RPRHA also defines modern methods of family planning as “safe, effective, non-abortifacient and legal methods, whether natural or artificial, that are registered with the FDA, to plan pregnancy” (Sec. 4(l)). In Sec. 9, the law mandates the National Drug Formulary to “include hormonal contraceptives, intrauterine devices, injectables and other safe, legal, non-abortifacient and effective family planning products and supplies”. The same provision emphasizes that the concerned offices “shall not purchase or acquire by any means emergency contraceptive pills, postcoital pills, abortifacients that will be used for such purpose and their other forms or equivalent.” In Sec. 19, the FDA is mandated to “issue strict guidelines with respect to the use of contraceptives, taking into consideration the side effects or other harmful effects of their use”.

First Point: The RPRHA recognizes that life begins at fertilization and equates conception with fertilization.

That there is an ongoing debate on the question of when life begins is true. But the law concedes that conception is fertilization. This is quite clear in the provision that excludes abortifacients among the family planning products and supplies. Abortifacients include those drugs or devices that prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum. This view is different from that which equates conception with implantation.

Conception as implantation is prevalent in the medical community, at least in the United States: “Pregnancy is established when a fertilized egg has been implanted in the wall of a woman's uterus. The definition is critical to distinguishing between a contraceptive that prevents pregnancy and an abortifacient that terminates it. And on this point, federal policy has long been both consistent and in accord with the scientists: Drugs and devices that act before implantation prevent, rather than terminate, pregnancy.”[1]

However, this understanding of conception as implantation is not clearly shared by other states, which equate conception with fertilization. A study pointed out that: “At the state level, however, definitions of pregnancy—generally, as part of larger measures enacted to regulate abortion or prescribe penalties for assaulting a pregnant woman—vary widely. Some of these laws say that pregnancy begins at fertilization, others at implantation. Several use the term "conception," which is often used synonymously with fertilization but, medically, is equated with implantation.[2]

In brief: “According to both the scientific community and long-standing federal policy, a woman is considered pregnant only when a fertilized egg has implanted in the wall of her uterus; however, state definitions of pregnancy vary widely.”[3]

A statement from the American College of Obstetricans and Gynecologists will help answer the question: When is a woman pregnant?

“To be sure, not every act of intercourse results in a pregnancy. First, ovulation (i.e., the monthly release of a woman's egg) must occur. Then, the egg must be fertilized. Fertilization describes the process by which a single sperm gradually penetrates the layers of an egg to form a new cell ("zygote"). This usually occurs in the fallopian tubes and can take up to 24 hours. There is only a short window during which an egg can be fertilized. If fertilization does not occur during that time, the egg dissolves and then hormonal changes trigger menstruation; however, if fertilization does occur, the zygote divides and differentiates into a "preembryo" while being carried down the fallopian tube toward the uterus. Implantation of the preembryo in the uterine lining begins about five days after fertilization. Implantation can be completed as early as eight days or as late as 18 days after fertilization, but usually takes about 14 days. Between one-third and one-half of all fertilized eggs never fully implant. A pregnancy is considered to be established only after implantation is complete.”[4]

In other words, fertilization occurs when the male sperm combines its DNA with that of the female egg. Its process is completed in about 18 hours and results in a zygote. The zygote will mature as it travels to the uterus. After about 6 days, the zygote becomes a blastocyst, which, in the process of implantation, attaches itself to the lining of the uterus. Accordingly, implantation “can be prevented by regular use of birth control pills or by taking emergency contraception pills.”[5]

Second Point: The challenge is determining which of the modern methods of family planning are safe, effective, non-abortifacient and legal.

Under the RPRHA, the allowed modern methods of family planning are those that are safe, effective, legal and prevent the union of the male sperm and the female egg or those that suppress ovulation and inhibit sperm penetration. The law, therefore, prohibits drugs and devices that prevent implantation, i.e., disallowing the formed zygote to attach itself to the lining of the uterus.

The problem, of course, is that at least one combined oral contraceptive has other “possible mechanisms” that “may include…endometrial changes that reduce the likelihood of implantation.[6] According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “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.”[7]

This problem is compounded by other claims stating that the use of “birth control pill before or after a pregnancy is confirmed will not abort the fetus. Oral contraceptives don't cause miscarriages because they do not have any effect on a fertilized embryo. Birth control pills — generally made of estrogen and progestin (synthetic progesterone) — essentially prevent pregnancy by inhibiting ovulation and/or causing the cervical mucus to thicken. It is also unlikely that taking the pill will have any effect on fetal development.”[8]