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PopCom: Amend RH law provision on minors' access to birth control

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Population and Development (PopCom) said on Wednesday, November 6, that a controversial provision in the reproductive health law, which requires parental consent for minors to access birth control, should be changed to prevent repeat pregnancies.

According to Section 7 of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RH) Act, no person shall be denied information and access to family planning assistance, except for minors, who need to ask their parents' permission before availing themselves of these services.

The original provision in the law gave exceptions to minors who already have children or had a miscarriage, but the Supreme Court struck down this exception in 2014.

For some, minors seeking parents' permission to gain access to family planning is unrealistic, since young people, including minors, remain to be sexually active without the intention of becoming parents.

One in 3 Filipino youth has engaged in premarital sex, according to a study by a demographic research organization.

In a Rappler Talk interview, Population and Development Undersecretary Juan Antonio Perez III said the law should be amended to cater specifically to young mothers avoiding repeat pregnancies.

However, unmarried young people who have never had children should still be prevented from obtaining birth control unless they are properly educated on reproductive health, according to Perez.

"I would only allow it if we had a good, enforced comprehensive sexuality education program. Our CSE should be good first before we give that opening," Perez told Rappler.

"At the same time, PopCom does not want to stigmatize pre-marital sex. We are not judging those who want to engage in it. The weight of importance is really on CSE," he added.

The Philippine Statistics Authority reported in 2017 that there are 538 babies being born to teenage mothers every day, with one in 10 women aged 15 to 19 years old having begun childbearing.

Around 30,000 of these young mothers have experienced repeated pregnancies.

Even with the RH law active since 2012, the country has yet to see the rollout of comprehensive sexuality education in schools across the country. 

In an interview with Manila BulletinEducation Secretary Leonor Briones expressed the need for sex education for the youth to make more informed choices. She has also rebuked schools who kick out pregnant girls. – Rappler.com

Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a researcher-writer at Rappler. Possessing the heart and soul of a feminist, she is working on specializing in women's issues in Newsbreak, Rappler's investigative arm.

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