PopCom raises alarm over children as young as 10 getting pregnant
MANILA, Philippines — Despite a drop in teenage pregnancies among Filipino girls aged 15 to 19, a new worry has arisen: pregnancies among 10 to 14-year-olds, according to the Commission on Population and Development (PopCom).
PopCom executive director Lisa Grace Bersales urged the government to take action to reduce pregnancies in the younger age group.
“Our concern now are births from [aged] 10 to 14 – the much younger teenage girls,” she said in a House committee on youth and sports development hearing.
Citing data from the Civil Registry of Statistics system of the Philippines Statistics Authority (PSA), Bersales said 2,113 births were recorded from the said age group in 2020.
She then noted that according to the Field Health Service Information System of the Department of Health (DOH), there were 2,534 young Filipinas–10 to 14 years old–who gave birth in 2020, but this figure dipped to 2,299 in 2021.
“The statistics vary depending on the source of data, but they are all worrying. And If I may emphasize, the 10 to 14 [age group] is now something that we need to look into,” Bersales further stressed.
Jelie Barceta from the Department of Social Welfare and Development Social Technology Bureau said that in 2019, there had been 2,411 births among girls in the 10 to 14 age group.
“And we already have 133,000 minor-led families in 2021,” she said, noting that this covers adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19.
DOH health specialist Dr. Diego Danila pointed out that lack of education may be among the reasons behind this trend in pregnancies among girls aged 10 to 14.
“I hope this is a conjecture of mine, but that is a danger sign. A red flag. If we reduce teenage pregnancy [for aged] 15 to 19, which are highly educated, how about 10 to 14? Are we really reaching them? Are they products of child abuse? This is still a big question for us,” he said.
Danila added that “teenagers are like adults who find their way around.”
“Kahit bawal, nagagawan nila ng paraan (Even if they’re not allowed to, they still find a way). And they still have access without, sometimes, the knowledge of their guardians. If they really need it, they will find a way to use it (contraceptives),” he added.
Access to contraceptives sans parental consent
Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman said the prevention of teenage pregnancies can be achieved through the following strategies:
- Age and development appropriate reproductive health (RH) and sexual education
- Access to contraceptives by adolescents
- Comprehensive legislation
“What we still lack is access to contraceptives by adolescents. Adolescents’ access to contraception complements RH, sex education, as well as the comprehensive law,” he said.
But Lagman also cited a Supreme Court decision in a 2013 anti-RH lawsuit filed by couple James and Lovely-Ann Imbong that “further diluted” an already-diluted version of the legislation.
READ: Couple asks SC to declare RH law illegal
“Without a written parental consent, no minor can access modern contraception today in the Philippines,” he lamented.
But according to Lagman, Congress can create a legislation that allows adolescents, specifically those 16 years and above, to access contraceptives sans a parental consent “because the state policy upholding the constitutional right of privacy of minors is superior to parental authority.”
Kabataan Rep. Raoul Manuel echoed Lagman’s sentiment, noting that requiring parental consent “would be too stringent.”
He also said that if the government wants to reduce or eradicate teenage pregnancies in the country, it should look into how families are treating the issue.
This, Manuel noted, is not to intrude into family affairs but to ensure that the teenage pregnancy cycle is broken within the family.
The Makabayan lawmaker said that addressing teenage pregnancies in the family will help solve the perennial problem in the country.
Lagman then said that giving minors access to contraceptives without parental consent is a “national interest, particularly so when adolescent pregnancy has become a social emergency problem.”
“Congress can depart from the Supreme Court ruling in order to make necessary corrections. This has been done before. It can be done again,” he added.
Asked why a new law is needed instead of merely amending the RH law or the Magna Carta of Women, Lagman said Congress should be particular in addressing the issue of teenage pregnancy.
“This is a very specific concern [that] Congress, and the nation must address without being constrained by any other similar laws. This is very specific. It refers to the prevention of adolescent pregnancy and the giving of social protection to adolescent parents,” he explained.
According to Plan International–which advances children’s rights and equality for girls, teenage pregnancies are being addressed across the globe, but most happen in “poorer and marginalized” communities.
READ: Numbers fall but PH teen pregnancies persist, mirror economic, learning gaps
At least 59 percent of Filipinos believe that teenage pregnancy is the most pressing problem faced by women today, according to a 2021 survey by the Social Weather Stations.
READ: Majority of Filipinos consider teenage pregnancy as women’s most important problem—SWS
Several House lawmakers, including Lagman, had filed separate bills pushing for a comprehensive national policy to prevent teenage pregnancies in the country.
Former Valenzuela City 1st District Rep. Rex Gatchalian, who had just been appointed as Secretary of Social Welfare and Development, also sought a House inquiry into the rising number of teenage pregnancies and human immunodeficiency virus among the youth.
Pregnancy among girls below 15 rising – PopCom
1 out of 10 of live births in PH are to adolescent moms — PSA
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