Reproductive Health

House votes to give teenagers full access to family planning services

Dwight de Leon

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House votes to give teenagers full access to family planning services

CHILDREN HAVING CHILDREN. A girl holds the child of her friend, who was 19 when the baby was born.

Michelle Abad/Rappler

Approved on final reading, House Bill 8910 seeks to set up the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Interagency Council to craft programs that would address teenage pregnancies

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives on Tuesday, September 5, passed a bill that would give adolescents ages 15 to 17 access to reproductive health services even without the consent of their parents or legal guardians.

The provision is part of the bigger rationale of House Bill No. 8910, which seeks to create a national policy for the prevention of teenage pregnancies and put in place social protection for teenage parents.

The bill also creates the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Interagency Council, the interagency body that would craft the policy and programs focused on the prevention of teenage pregnancies, and the counseling and post-delivery care of those who have gone through them.

The access to reproductive health services would be extended to adolescents below 15 years old who have begun childbearing, have experienced sexual abuse or miscarriage, are sexually active, or are engaged in high-risk behavior.

A total of 232 lawmakers voted in favor of the measure, with no opposition or abstention.

The following would be the members of the council:

  • Commission on Population and Development executive director (chairperson)
  • Council for the Welfare of Children executive director (co-chairperson)
  • Senior officials of the Department of Health (DOH), Philippine Commission on Women, National Youth Commission, Department of Education, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Commission on Higher Education, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (ex-officio members with right to vote)
  • 2 members from women’s rights groups or civil society organizations (at least one should be female)
  • 1 adolescent and 1 youth representative from various nationally represented organizations (at least 1 should be female)
  • Chairpersons of the league of provinces, cities, and municipalities
House votes to give teenagers full access to family planning services

The bill would also instruct health facilities to be adolescent-friendly, in accordance with DOH standards, and schools to have staff that are trained on adolescent health and development.

There are 44 listed authors of the House bill, including Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman. He was the first to file a measure of its kind in the 19th Congress, although versions of the bill were introduced as early as 2013 by former lawmaker Sol Aragones.

“I have been saying this for some time now: Adolescent mothers should be relics of the very distant past when early childbearing was the norm,” said Lagman, a women’s rights advocate and father of the country’s Reproductive Health Law.

“Verily, enacting a law preventing adolescent pregnancy will save young girls from the clutches of maternal death, unemployment, and poverty, and improve their future and reinforce their self-esteem,” he added.

House votes to give teenagers full access to family planning services

The United Nations Population Fund said in 2020 that the Philippines had one of the highest pregnancy rates among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, with over 500 teenagers becoming pregnant and giving birth daily.

A University of the Philippines Population Institute study in 2021, however, found that the number of young women ages 15 to 19 who had begun childbearing saw a steep decline from 2013 to 2021, particularly during the pandemic.

The Commission on Population and Development still called on stakeholders not to be complacent as the low figure was recorded “during extraordinary circumstances.” –

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.