Children's rights

Gov’t agencies, advocates urge Senate to fast-track anti-teen pregnancy bill

Michelle Abad

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Gov’t agencies, advocates urge Senate to fast-track anti-teen pregnancy bill
While the House of Representatives has approved the bill, it has remained up for second reading at the Senate for over a year

MANILA, Philippines – Concerned government agencies, civil society organizations, advocates, and youth representatives on Monday, May 13, asked the Senate to fast-track approving the bill aiming to address adolescent pregnancies in the Philippines.

In a press conference on Monday, representatives from the Department of Education (DepEd), the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC), and the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) joined civil groups and nongovernment organizations like Save the Children and the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines, among others, to highlight the need to pass the measure that would ensure adolescents’ access to sexual and reproductive health services, comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), and protection from abuse.

In February, the CPD raised concern over a rise in births among girls younger than 15 years old. The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that live births from from girls aged 14 and below increased from 2,320 in 2021 to 3,125 in 2022, representing a 34.7% increase.

In 2020, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) also named the Philippines as having one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates among Association of Southeast Asian Nation member states, with more than 500 adolescents (aged 10 to 19) giving birth every day.

The same report also found that just 3% of the live births were fathered by men of the same age group, which “suggests that teenage pregnancies among girls among the 15-19 years old may be a result of coercion and unequal power relations between girls and older men.”

The House of Representatives passed the anti-adolescent pregnancy bill on third and final reading in September 2023 with 232 undisputed yes votes, while the Senate version has yet to reach consideration for the second reading.

In March 2023, Senator Risa Hontiveros, principal author of the higher chamber’s version, sponsored the bill at the plenary. However, more than a year later, it has not been scheduled for second reading.

Youth advocate Sydney, who asked her last name be withheld, said that the public needed to see the issue past data, and consider that the data may not be a complete picture.

Madaming mga kabataan na hindi na lang pinapaalam na sila ay buntis o sila ay may dinadala na rin. Dahil nga, sa takot ng diskriminasyon at stigma dito sa ating bayan. Sana ‘no, mabigyan pa ng mga services ang mga adolescents,” said Sydney in the Monday conference.

(There are many young people who do not report or try to hide that they are pregnant because they fear discrimination and stigma in our society. I hope we can provide more services for our adolescents.)

The bill has three main features: to enhance the government’s ability to address the issue by better defining roles, providing age-appropriate and sensitive CSE, and institutionalizing social protection for adolescent parents and their children.

The proposed measure also highlights adolescent parents’ rights to continue their education. According to Education Assistant Secretary Dexter Galban, the DepEd already has “alternative delivery modes” ready for learners who get pregnant but still want to continue their studies.

Students experiencing discrimination from schooling just because they are pregnant can report this to the DepEd’s Learner Rights and Protection Office, Galban said.

Putting emphasis on the UNFPA’s statistic on how most adolescent pregnancies are fathered by older men, Council for the Welfare of Children executive director Angelo Tapales said that this was a “social economic emergency,” and that passing the bill was urgent for child protection.

“We have to do our best to address this because it’s not just a matter of educating, of course the parents to be open-minded, then educating the youth, but of course protecting the youth also from bad people,” said Tapales. (READ: No judgment: Talk to your kids about sex to prevent teen pregnancies – advocates)

In 2021, then-president Rodrigo Duterte declared the prevention of adolescent pregnancies a national priority.

A need to see other options

In 2022, Oxfam Pilipinas came out with a study on youth attitudes on early pregnancies. It shed light on a new perspective of teen moms – that while plenty of cases of abuse exist, many young mothers in the Philippines appear to accept unplanned pregnancies with a view that motherhood is a duty.

Must Read

‘Nandiyan na’: Young Filipinas accept pregnancy as duty, but stigma remains – study

‘Nandiyan na’: Young Filipinas accept  pregnancy as duty, but stigma remains – study

Asked how they would go about the advocacy against early pregnancies with such a culture also present, Tapales and CPD officials said there was a need to educate young people about planning their own lives, and give girls the space to see that motherhood was a choice.

Tapales said that while sometimes, getting pregnant while still a teenager may be considered “wanted” in some communities, the bill needs to be passed for children to see that there is a “better” choice.

“We have to change that mentality. We have to push for comprehensive adolescent sexuality education and to teach adolescents that there is a better choice, that there are many things to do while you are still below 18. You have hopes in school. You have the right to play. You have the right to grow in a nurturing and safe environment,” he said.

CPD director Jackilyn Robel added that women have seen motherhood as their role “for the longest time,” and “it takes a very long time to change culture.”

However, a proper rollout of CSE would give girls and young women a heightened sense of agency and bodily autonomy.

Siguro isa sa pinakamalaking gagampanan na role ng comprehensive sexuality education para sa mga kabataan – yung gender component talaga. For boys to learn how to respect girls,” said Robel.

(One of the biggest roles that comprehensive sexuality education has to fulfill is the gender component, for boys to learn how to respect girls.) –

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!
Clothing, Apparel, Person


Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers the rights of women and children, migrant Filipinos, and labor.