Undue hike in early teen pregnancies alarms authorities

The Commission on Population and Development (CPD) has called for heightened vigilance against adolescent pregnancies noted in its monitor records for young girls between 2021 and 2022.

In a recent news release, CPD executive director Lisa Grace Bersales noted that the hike in total live births among girls under 15 years old went up by 35.13% based on Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) figures — from 2,320 in 2021 to 3,135 in 2022.

“Although live births from adolescent girls, 14 years old and below, is just 0.22% of the total live births recorded, CPD is still deeply concerned about the increase in adolescent pregnancy, especially among our very young girls,” said Bersales who  reiterated their call for Congress to prioritize the passage of the “Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Bill.”

“We cannot overemphasize the significance of having the bill enacted. It is my strong belief, and that of the agency, that its enactment is essential in addressing the lingering concerns of early child-bearing and motherhood among a great number of our juvenile Filipino girls,” she said.

In September last year, the House of Representatives approved on second reading House Bill No. 8910 or the proposed “Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Act.” The bill seeks to provide a national policy to arrest the growing number of cases of childbearing and child births among adolescents.

Bersales reinforced the House’s stand on the situation’s adverse effects not only on the affected persons, but on Philippine society in general.

“I underscore Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez’s statement that this issue’s social cost and its negative impact on the national budget could run into billions of pesos—in terms of the government having to take care of young mothers and their babies; not to mention the human-development aspect that we have to take into consideration,” she said.

The bill, Bersales said, will be vital in the implementation of the Philippine Population and Development Plan of Action (PPD-POA) 2023, which was approved by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on November 14, 2023.

Under the action plan’s eight key strategies is the further advancement of Filipino teens’ health and development, where the phenomenon of early parenthood is specifically addressed.

“PPD-POA covers bolstering of the implementation and promotion of Comprehensive Sexuality Education in schools and communities, improved availability and access of adolescents to sexual and reproductive health and other social services, plus promoting and sustaining youth development and participation initiatives at the community level, with specific tactics to tackle adolescent pregnancies head-on at every level of society,” Bersales said.

With regards to CSE and related measures, she emphasized the need to institute and support strategic interventions, such as those being implemented by the Department of Education that have effectively reduced dropouts due to teenage pregnancies.

Recently, Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Z. Duterte mentioned in her “2024 Basic Education Report” that DepEd’s promotion of “Alternative Delivery Modes” was able to notably bring down the number of dropouts caused by teenage pregnancies and early marriages.

Bersales said addressing early teen pregnancies should begin at the household level reminding parents and guardians of their roles in molding their children as “productive members of the larger Philippine society.” (With PNA)