Bill seeking to curb teen pregnancy reaches Senate floor
MANILA, Philippines — “The gift of life shouldn’t have to come at the cost of another.”
Sen. Risa Hontivros pointed this out in a speech on Wednesday when she endorsed for plenary approval Senate Bill No. 1334 which seeks to curb teenage pregnancy in the country.
The bill is contained under Committee Report No. 45, which was signed by 15 senators.
“The problem of adolescent pregnancy is completely preventable and doing little to prevent will end up in a lose-lose situation. It perpetuates the intergenerational cycle of poverty and robs our children of their childhood,” Hontiveros, chair of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality, said.
“It is our duty as legislators and as parents to provide them with the knowledge they need and to empower them to making good choices and informed decisions as they grow into adulthood,” she added.
The senator noted that in the Philippines, 24 babies are born to young Filipino mothers every hour.
“At the end of every day, 504 children have borne a child,” she said.
Girls as young as nine were reported to be pregnant, Hontiveros added.
“They still have a body of a child that threatens to break under the pressure from the one inside of them. Have these girls ever doubted if they would survive the birth? I fervently hope that they did,” she said.
“The alternative is just too harrowing to think of but is a reality we cannot afford to ignore,” she added.
In 2012, Hontiveros said, 2,815 girls aged 15 to 19 gave birth to their third child while 12 girls younger than 15 also bore three children.
In the same year, she said 302 girls aged 15 to 19 gave birth to their fourth child and 60 girls in the same age range were already mothers to five children.
“In an age where they should be busy going to school and worrying about school projects, they are burdened with the heavy responsibilities of parenthood,” she said.
“However, some girls are not as lucky,” she added.
Hontiveros noted that one of the youngest reported maternal death in the Philippines was a girl who died of childbirth at the age of 11.
“A child in every sense of the word,” she said.
She said 128 in every 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19 died while giving birth in the Philippines while 255 in every 1,000 girls aged 20-24 “died in birthing rooms across the country.”
“We cannot afford to have more and more children having children,” Hontiveros said.
According to her, the bill, a consolidation of three measures seeking the establishment of a national policy to prevent teen pregnancy, pushes for the social protection of young parents by ensuring that our young mothers are getting the health care necessary at all stages of her pregnancy.
“Workshops and counseling services are also to be made available for them to ensure that they can get the all help and counsel they need when it comes to raising their child,” Hontiveros said.
“By providing them with much needed guidance and information, we can prevent repeat pregnancies among our young mothers while we ensure their physical and mental well-being as they take on the heavy responsibilities of parenthood,” she added.
Under the bill, special care would also be accorded to first-time parents, especially to those who are economically disadvantaged and those who belong to marginalized and hard-to-reach groups who may have limited access to healthcare and life-saving information.
The bill would also provide “strong protection for young girls” and would push for their “right to continue their education despite the barriers presented to them.”
“Flexible learning options are proposed in order to minimize the chances of disrupted education and to encourage young parents to continue and finish their education. Disrupting a girl’s education because of her pregnancy exacerbates poverty,” she said.
“Low educational attainment adversely affects the lifelong earnings of a girl for the rest of her life. Education is so important. So much so that if we do not take our girls back to school, we stand to lose P33 billion in lost income,” she further pointed out.
Hontiveros said the measure also “recognizes the fact that young Filipinos are heaving earlier sexual initiations, sometimes unwanted and usually unprotected.”
She cited the 2013 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality which showed that 23 percent of Filipino youth are having sex before the age of 18.
“This bill recognizes this reality and has made measures to equip our children with the knowledge and guidance to make choices that they believe are the best for themselves,” the senator said.
“Schools, parents, and guardians are recognized as important sources of unbiased and scientifically accurate information on sexual and adolescent reproductive health and as such, are respectively capacitated and trusted to deliver the correct and necessary information to our teenagers,” she added.
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