House panel pushes anti-Adolescent pregnancy measure

TEENAGE MOM. A young mother and her baby are being attended to by a doctor in this undated photo. A consolidated bill is being pushed in the House of Representatives that seeks to institutionalize a policy that would prevent teenage pregnancies. (Photo lifted from the Commission on Population and Development Facebook page)

The House Committee on Youth and Sports Development has approved the consolidation of at least seven bills that seek to institutionalize a policy that would prevent teenage pregnancies.

The comprehensive consolidated measure would make family planning methods accessible to sexually active minors. The move is expected to effective address adolescent pregnancies.

Committee chair, Isabela Rep. Faustino Michael Dy III said that in 2019, the Philippines was ranked second among Southeast Asian countries with the highest adolescent birth rate at 5.9 percent in girls aged 15 to 19, based on a study conducted by the Commission on Population and Development. Laos ranked first at 6.33 percent.

Dy noted that back in 2019, some 2,411 girls aged 10 to 14 gave birth. A continued surge of teenage pregnancies over the past 11 years has also been observed.

World studies in 2020 also showed that the Philippines has logged 47 births annually for 1,000 women aged 15 -19 years old. The number is  higher than the average adolescent birth rate of 44% globally and 33.5% in the ASEAN region.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, the principal author of HB 79, pointed out that adolescent pregnancies and childbirths account for the high rate of maternal mortality.

“Adolescent mothers should be fixtures of the past but until today, teenage mothers still abound even in progressive and developed countries,” Lagman said.

He stressed that the country’s teenage pregnancy situation is a “national social emergency” because of the declining average ages of adolescents experiencing early pregnancies and an increase in the number of families headed by teenagers.

Due to early pregnancy, he said young girls fail to finish at least basic education, and lack adequate skills for remunerative work and are economically vulnerable, thus perpetuating inter-generational poverty.

Lagman pointed out that adolescent pregnancies negatively affect the economy with a yearly average of P33 billion in forfeited revenues due to “lost opportunities and foregone savings” as a consequence of early childbearing.

“Legislating a comprehensive law on preventing adolescent pregnancy is imperative to institutionalize policies and strategies on eliminating or mitigating adolescent pregnancy, and extend social protection to adolescent mothers and their infants,” he stressed.

The consolidated bill proposes the development of community-based and culturally-sensitive comprehensive adolescent sexuality education (CASE) for adolescents belonging to indigenous people, persons with disabilities, out-of-school youth, children in conflict with the law, beneficiaries of residential social welfare services, and other marginalized groups.

It likewise proposes to make the CASE curriculum a compulsory part of education, integrated at all levels of learning with the end goal of normalizing the discussion of sex and gender, adolescent sexuality, and reproductive health, and removing the stigma on the discussion of these topics.

The measure also pushes ready access to information and services on modern family planning methods with proper counseling by trained service providers for adolescents following a rights-based approach in public and private health facilities, including Teen Centers.