[OPINION] We need to tackle the pregnancy crisis

The numbers are appalling. 

538 babies are born to Filipino teens each day.

2,000 10- to 14-year-olds got pregnant in 2017. 

30% of Filipino teens had sex in 2017, 10% higher than in 2016. 

There's been a 170% increase in the number of new HIV infections among young Filipinos since 2010.

All of this has led to disrupted education and employment, chronic financial difficulties, and serious health complications. 

Who is to blame for this undeclared national emergency? Parents, guardians, church people, government officials, and other supposedly responsible grown-ups. We are all guilty in our failure to identify and tackle the crisis in its manifold aspects. 

First of all, we refuse to recognize human nature at its most chaotic stage: adolescence. This is a turbulent period characterized by rebellion, insecurity, young love, and sexual awakening. This is biology. And biology always wins. 

In this fragile biological phase, our teenagers are bombarded with peer pressure and pornography. With non-stop cajoling from friends and widespread online sexual content – and enabled by freedom of physical mobility – teenagers will have sex. 

These factors have led to the present crisis: a crisis that adults have refused to deal with. 

The solution is arming our teenagers with sufficient, accurate information about human reproduction, sexuality, and safe sex, as well as giving them anonymous access to safe sex commodities, like oral contraceptives and condoms, through qualified health workers. We have to harness the power of every possible resource in the soonest possible time to curb the problem. 

But no, Filipino adults are still dilly-dallying, not realizing that each day of delay translates to hundreds of additional babies born to young, poor mothers. (READ: Kids having kids: When choice is not an option)

Filipino parents and religious sectors have been preaching abstinence for years. Unfortunately, this is not working.  In 2016, 20% of teens were having sex. Then, it rose to 30% in 2017. It’s almost 2020. You do the math. These kids are not receptive to biblical, moral preaching at this point. “Fornication is not pleasing to the Lord,” we tell them.  Well, these kids will gladly go to hell to be with their Romeos and Juliets. 

The immorality or morality of using artificial contraceptives will never be settled, and we should not allow this debate to further stall urgent intervention.  As for the risks, yes, there are health risks involved in taking pills and using condoms, but there are more health risks in spiking rates of teenage pregnancy and unabated, unprotected sex. 

Parents and guardians are either in denial or incapable of communication. “My daughter would never do that.” Then the girl comes home pregnant. Parents are always the last to know. On the other hand, talking to children about sex is never easy. It needs training and preparation.  Hence, we need teachers and school counsellors to help parents in this respect. This can be done in parent-teacher meetings. (READ: [DASH of SAS] Teen pregnancy: Losses and missed opportunities)

The government should swiftly implement much-needed reforms. Aside from funding, legislative amendments are also necessary to allow teens to get safe sex products without parental consent. School curricula should be updated to give administrators and teachers the leeway to offer complete sex education.   

There should be gender-segregated sex education classes (with other subjects still gender-mixed) where teens can ask questions without being embarrassed. They need lessons where human anatomy, reproduction, and safe sex will be discussed direct to the point, not euphemistically or metaphorically.  Teenagers need non-moralizing conversations on human desires and how to handle them. They also need to be aware of the consequences of their actions. (READ: [DASH of SAS] Schools as access points for condoms)

Many parents worry that teaching teenagers about contraceptives and safe sex will encourage them to have sex. There is no empirical data to support this. But assuming that it is true, the risks of knowing are less serious and deadly than the risks of not knowing. Ignorance will take a greater toll. (READ: Teenage pregnancies: Untangling cause and effect)

Priests and pastors should continue preaching abstinence and chastity, but they should stop demonizing the solutions proposed by people they don’t agree with. They don’t have the exclusive knowledge of right and wrong. Scientists and doctors are God’s instruments too, and they, too, have God-given wisdom to differentiate the moral from the immoral.   

Again, how did we reach this crisis? 

Through years of silence, denial, inaction, and a sin-fixated mentality.

Until we change our mindset and act decisively, we will continue to succumb to an unsustainable population explosion, perpetual poverty, and a contagion of diseases. – Rappler.com