POPCOM: Fate of 60K-plus minor girls giving birth yearly hangs in the balance with stalling of “teen pregnancy” bills
The Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) said that the fate and the future of more than 60,000 young girls have been left in a precarious state, as the leadership of the Senate decided to delay the discussions on Senate Bill (SB) No. 1334, or the proposed “Prevention of Adolescent Pregnancy Act,” which seeks to fully and appropriately address the alarming prevalence of teenage pregnancies nationwide.
“We need to address minor parents’ lack of access to family planning services,” Undersecretary Juan Antonio Perez III, MD, MPH asserted. “POPCOM believes it is high time for our lawmakers to acknowledge the glaring fact that the numbers of minors who are becoming vulnerable to social and economic pressures, on top of their health needs, are escalating yearly.”
Perez said that if passed into law, SB 1334 will greatly benefit minor girls who are already mothers and those who are currently conceiving, as it will enable their unimpeded access to reproductive health programs, as well as age- and development-appropriate education and information on sexual health and family planning.
POPCOM’s executive director said that the government agency has been relentlessly campaigning with policymakers, including Senator Ana Theresia “Risa” N. Hontiveros —principal sponsor of SB 1334—to address the needs of an increasing number of minors who have been giving birth since 2013. This, despite the hampered implementation of the Supreme Court (SC)’s ruling in April 2014 of the implementation of Republic Act No. 10354, or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law, which was declared as “not unconstitutional.”
The SC ruling, however, struck down a part of the RPRH Law which would provide access to family planning services to minors below 18 or young girls who are already mothers or are currently pregnant, as it declared that it is the role of their parents to give consent to the adolescents’ use of artificial or natural methods of contraception.
The number of adolescents who gave birth have increased, “with only a marginal decline,” according to Perez, “because of various efforts in-place, which still require broader policy support—including budget and resources.”
In 2018, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported that the country had 62,341 minors who delivered babies—counting those with repeated pregnancies. That same year, former Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia sounded the alarm on the glaring incidences of teenage pregnancy, which he said had already reached a level of being a “national social emergency.” The National Economic and Development Authority even cited the occurrence as “a drag on the Philippines’ economic growth,” as it has identified existing evidence on social and economic impact.
Perez explained that with this national social emergency, POPCOM is extending support to comprehensive sexuality education, or CSE. This ensures that public and private schools, as avenues for development, will provide young people a supportive environment where they have access to age- and development-appropriate information on responsible parenthood and reproductive health, as stated in Rule 11 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the RPRH Law.
“The public, as well as our solons, should now be cognizant of the fact that families started by minors year-in and year-out, especially the young mothers who have experienced repeat pregnancies, are the real beneficiaries of the RPRH Law,” the POPCOM chief explained. “It will be further complemented and supported by SB No. 1334 if eventually enacted, as both will provide necessary protection to our young mothers who now have become among those most vulnerable in Philippine society.”