Teen pregnancy is ‘most important problem of women today’ in PH – survey

A November 2020 Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey found that Filipinos think teenage pregnancy is the “most important problem of women today” in the Philippines.

According to the new data, 59% of Filipinos believed that early adolescent pregnancy was the most important problem – a landslide number compared to the next most important problems: physical violence at 11% and unexpected pregnancy at 11%.

Sexual and emotional violence each ranked 7% on the list. Meanwhile, 4% thought that the most important issue for women was that they cannot access family planning information and services.

While all 3 island groups and Metro Manila overwhelmingly agreed that teen pregnancy was the most important issue, it was the Mindanao respondent group that yielded the highest agreement at 67%. Visayas followed at 60%.

It was also Mindanao and Visayas that mostly said that the government efforts to “solve the most important problem of women” was very adequate, at 35% and 36%, respectively. Meanwhile, 12% of Metro Manila respondents said it was “very inadequate.”

The Commission on Population and Development has noted the alarming rise in teen pregnancies in recent years. At the end of 2020, the PopCom reported that 70,755 families were led by minors. They project that this number will balloon to 133,265 by the end of 2021.

Meanwhile, in 2019, the PopCom found that girls aged 15 and below who gave birth increased by 7% compared to 2018.

The PopCom’s numbers say 2,411 girls aged 10 to 14 gave birth in 2019 – almost 7 per day.

More access to birth control for minors

Andrea Hernandez, a student and young mother, told her story in PopCom’s press briefing on Wednesday, February 17. At 15, she got pregnant for the first time. She did not know that she was pregnant until two weeks before she gave birth.

Hernandez said after she gave birth, she was denied access to an IUD because she was still a minor. 

Last year, noong lockdown na, nag-start akong maghanap ng puwedeng tatanggap sa ‘kin pero wala talaga (Last year, when the lockdown was imposed, I started looking for a facility that would cater to me but I couldn’t find any),” said Hernandez.

Now, she is 7 months pregnant with her second child.

Jhie Mojica from the Council for the Welfare of Children noted the stigma surrounding young people who try to go to facilities to access information and services. The government is targeting to have more adolescent-friendly health facilities after the Department of Health identified 704 nationwide in September 2019.

There are at least 3 bills pending in Congress that would cater to the prevention of teen pregnancies and the social protection of the mothers. State and non-government advocates are pushing for the bills, as they would allow young people and minors to have better access to birth control services. 

The push comes in light of a 2014 Supreme Court (SC) ruling that struck as unconstitutional a provision in the reproductive health law that allowed birth control access for minors who have been pregnant or had a miscarriage without parental consent.

In April 2014, the SC ruled the provision unlawful as it clashed with the Constitution’s laid rights of spouses in a family.

“[The Supreme Court] felt this was undue interference, na makialam sa nangyayari sa pamilya (in family affairs),” said PopCom Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez III.

This SC ruling on minors’ access to birth control without parental consent, however, is “not a dead end,” Perez said. The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) supports access without parental consent for all minors who say they need it, not just those who have already become pregnant.

Non-government advocates have noted the government’s tendency to focus more attention on preventing repeat pregnancies instead of the first ones. 

“I feel like realistically, [young people are] having sex; let’s teach them to do it safely, so they’re not going to have an unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections,” said Roots of Health executive director Amina Evangelista Swanepoel in a November 2020 Rappler webinar series. – 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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