Due to the rising cases of teenage pregnancies in the country, Senator Risa Hontiveros has pushed anew a bill addressing the “national social emergency”
Senate Bill No. 161, or the Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Bill authored by Hontiveros, aims for the social protection of young parents by ensuring they receive necessary health care in all stages of pregnancy, providing guidance and information to prevent repeat pregnancies and counseling to help them raise their child. In December 2018, Hontiveros filed a similar bill, the Prevention of Adolescent Pregnancy Act.
Data from the Commission on Population and Development (Popcom) state that pregnancies among 10-14 year olds or very young adolescents (VYAs) have been on the rise since 2011, and has increased to as much as 63%. VYAs deliver 504 babies per day.
In 2019 alone, teenage pregnancies in the Philippines rose by 7 percent according to Hontiveros.
“Ang patuloy na pagtaas ng bilang ng mga maagang nabubuntis ay dagdag pang pagsubok sa kalusugan at kapakanan ng pamilyang Pilipino sa gitna ng pandemya at economic crisis. This remains a frightening epidemic in the middle of a pandemic,” she said.
Then National Economic and Development Authority Secretary Ernesto Pernia declared in 2019 the rise in teenage pregnancies as a “national social emergency.”
The lockdown has made the situation worse, due to the limited access to medical facilities and public transportation. The University of the Philippines Population Institute is predicting a baby boom in 2021 — an estimated 751,000 additional unplanned pregnancies.
According to Popcom, 130,000 babies from women younger than 20-years old were fathered by men who are 20 years of age or older. This raises the issue of sexual child abuse in the Philippines. The age of consent in the Philippines is 12 years old.
“How many of these young children were sexually abused? Sa ngayon, malabo pa ang datos. Importante na magkaroon tayo ng batas na magpoproteka ng mga kababaihan natin, lalo ang mga anak natin who have no choice now but to take on the burden of motherhood,” Hontiveros said.
The senator added that she is willing to compromise on amendments on the bill for as long it moves forward in the Senate. The bill is currently in the period of interpellation.
“We need to pass this measure so we can put crucial programs in place as soon as we can. Kailangang simulan na ang mga programa para mapigilan ito sa lalong madaling panahon,” she said.
“Huwag nating pabayaan na dumami pa ang mga kabataang Pilipinong mapagkakaitan ng magandang kinabukasan dahil sa maagang pagbubuntis. There will be consequences for the future of our nation if we do not seriously solve this epidemic of teen pregnancy,” Hontiveros concluded.
The Reproductive Health Law came into effect in 2012, but years of Supreme Court challenges have led to delays of its implementation to this day. To remedy this, lawmakers have introduced bills improving access to contraception, supporting sex education and making it illegal to expel girls from school should they become pregnant. None have become law so far. Camille Trinidad