Births among girls aged 15 below rise 7% in 2019 – PopCom

Girls aged 15 and below who gave birth increased by 7% in 2019 compared to 2018, the Commission on Population and Development (PopCom) revealed citing new data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.

In 2019, the PopCom recorded that 2,411 girls aged 10 to 14 gave birth – almost 7 every day. The number tripled from the year 2000, when 755 girls from the same age group had babies.

As for the total number of Filipino minors who became mothers in 2019, it was 62,510 – slightly higher than the 62,341 in 2018.

One third of the births occurred in the regions in and around Metro Manila, with 8,008 in Calabarzon, 7,546 in the capital region, and 7,523 in Central Luzon.

Meanwhile, outside Luzon, the areas with the highest number of minors who gave birth were Cebu/Central Visayas with 4,541, Northern Mindanao with 4,747, Davao with 4,551, and Cotabato with 3,394.

2019 was the 9th year in a row that the figure continued to rise, the PopCom said in a February 7 press release.

In the last 11 years, the agency has recorded that one in every 10 pregnancies in the country has consistently been among teenagers during the same period.

PopCom Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez III said government agencies concerned with poverty reduction such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) have "already prioritized teenage pregnancy reduction as an important landmark in the roadmap to reduce poverty."

PopCom also said Congress has reached out to the agencies to help provide social protection to the young mothers. There are at least 3 bills filed with the 18th Congress on reducing teen pregnancies. They remain pending at the committee level. (READ: Lawmaker ‘optimistic’ current Congress will pass teen pregnancies prevention bill)

In October 2019, Perez called on President Rodrigo Duterte to declare teenage pregnancy as a national emergency. The same month, former socioeconomic planning secretary Ernesto Pernia said the phenomenon was dragging economic growth.

“As a national and social emergency, the spread of teenage pregnancy across the archipelago still persists at an alarming rate,” said Perez.

“This requires more than a whole-of-government approach. Thus, we are calling on the private sector, local government units, development partners and relevant government agencies to collaborate closely with us in arresting this social menace grappling our youth," he added.

Need for access to services and information

As the new statistics come in, it may be easy for the public to attribute the problem to teenagers' promiscuity and lack of control over sexual urges.

But the teenage pregnancy phenomenon in the Philippines is more complex than this – beyond the numbers, advocates flag that there are children who don't know any better due to a lack of quality comprehensive sex education, which is mandated by the Reproductive Health Law.

And then there are the children who, when trying their hand at asking an adult about sex in conservative Philippines, are scolded.

Young girls who try to access reproductive health materials are also faced with stigma and shame – moreso when they are denied these services and get pregnant later on.

Parents can foster open communication lines about age-appropriate sexuality education at home. According to Roots of Health executive director Amina Evangelista Swanepoel, one way to do this is by starting early, like parents teaching their kids to call genitals by their real names and not things like “flower” or “birdie.” – 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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