Hontiveros sponsors bill to curb teen pregnancies

Sofia Tomacruz
Hontiveros sponsors bill to curb teen pregnancies
Failure to address the issue of teenage pregnancy would be a 'lose-lose situation for everybody,' says Senator Risa Hontiveros

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros sponsored on Monday, July 30, a bill that seeks to develop a “national program of action” to prevent teenage pregnancies.

Hontiveros, chairperson of the Senate committee on women, children, family relations, and gender equality, said teen pregnancy is a growing concern in the Philippines.

The Commission on Population recorded an increase in teen pregnancies, from 1,700 in 2014 to 1,986 in 2015. This means roughly 5 girls become pregnant or give birth every day.

“Numerous articles underline the fact that so many girls are strangers to their own bodies, who do not know that it is possible to refuse having sex, that it is not right when you are pushed to have sex, that sex leads to babies,” Hontiveros said in a speech.

The senator highlighted the importance of equipping young girls with the proper knowledge “to navigate the new and seemingly vast terrain of puberty and reproductive health.” She said girls should grow into adulthood “not jarred by expectations of parenthood.”

Why this matters: The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) previously reported that teen pregnancy remains a challenge in the Philippines, despite “already strong support for family planning.”

A 2015 UNFPA study also cited the Philippines as the only Southeast Asian country where teen pregnancy rates were not falling.

Government data as of 2012 show that 2,815 girls aged 15 to 19 years old had already given birth to their 3rd child.

Moreover, 302 girls aged 15 to 19 years old had already given birth to their 4th child, while 60 girls in the same age range were already mothers to 5 children.

Data from the 2013 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality (YAFS) study also said first pregnancies occurred at an average age of 19.3 years old among girls.

For maternal death rates in the country, 128 deaths per 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19 and 255 deaths per 1,000 girls aged 20 to 24 were recorded as of 2012.

UNFPA data also showed 15% of adolescent girls who had sex before the age of 15 reported that their first encounter was forced. (READ: Kids having kids: When choice is not an option)

Key features of the bill: Senate Bill (SB) 1888 or the Prevention of Adolescent Pregnancy Act ensures young mothers have access to health care “at all stages of their pregnancy.”

This includes services such as post-natal family planning and counseling, parenting workshops, and psychosocial support for teen mothers.

The bill also seeks to remind academic institutions and workplaces that any suspension, expulsion, dismissal, or denial of admission against pregnant girls is prohibited.

Hontiveros said this would encourage girls to finish schooling, as “disrupting a girl’s education because of her pregnancy exacerbates vulnerability and poverty, with the young mothers carrying the cost for the rest of their lives.”

SB 1888 also proposes that schools, parents, and guardians teach sexual education and reproductive health to teenagers.

Hontiveros said the failure to address the issue of teenage pregnancy would be a “lose-lose situation for everybody,” as it perpetuates the cycle of poverty over generations and robs children of their childhood. 

SB 1888 consolidates SB 1154 or the Young Women’s Refuge and Assistance Act and SB 1482 or the Prevention of Adolescent Pregnancy Act. – Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.