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Popcom: Allow minors access to contraceptives

MANILA, Philippines — Congress should restore a provision of the reproductive health law that allowed certain minors to access contraceptives even without parental consent, the Commission on Population and Development (Popcom) executive director, Undersecretary Juan Perez III, said on Monday.

The landmark law originally allowed minors who already had children to access family planning services without consent from their parents — one of just eight provisions struck down by the Supreme Court in 2014 when it ruled the overall law was constitutional.

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Perez said at a press conference that removal of the provision had complicated efforts to curb teenage pregnancy rates.

Popcom has urged the Senate and House of Representatives to pass a law recognizing the gravity of the situation and detailing a comprehensive plan of action to address it.

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Teenage pregnancy

Perez said on Monday that such an act could reinstate the scrapped clause.

Asked whether Congress could pass a policy that was tossed out by the Supreme Court, Perez said it was only struck down because in the court’s view, there had been no compelling reason then to allow minors to secure birth control without parental consent.

“Now that we’re seeing an emergency, there is now a compelling reason,” he told the Inquirer. “So in a way, it will update the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health [Act], recognizing the situation among teen pregnancy as an emergency.”

Some reproductive health advocates have protested that the discarded provision does not go far enough, saying all adolescents should be allowed to access family planning services without parental consent regardless of whether or not they had been pregnant before.

But Perez said even the limited approach would bolster efforts to contain teenage pregnancy, as one in six of those cases each year are repeat pregnancies.

No access

“In the past those minors would have been able to access services, but since that [Supreme Court] decision, they have been barred,” he said. “And they get pregnant again, partly because they have no access to family planning services.”

Meanwhile, Perez advised Senate President Vicento Sotto III to listen to the experts after the senator proposed in a budget hearing last week that the procurement of progestin subdermal implants be scrapped.

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