Landmark Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Act gets green light from House Committee

In a move towards safeguarding the rights and welfare of Filipino teenagers, Chair Faustino Michael Carlos Dy III spearheaded the House of Representatives Committee on Youth and Sports Development’s approval of the innovative Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Act on May 23.

The 6th regular gathering of the committee on Tuesday morning brimmed with anticipation as the substitute bill, brimming with promise for adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health, was green-lighted. Packed with content to empower youngsters, the bill weaves in comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education, access to vital information and services, and proactive measures to combat unintended pregnancies and curb teen childbearing. In an extra leap of inclusivity, it pledges to ensure social protection for adolescent parents and their offspring.

Teen pregnancy in the Philippines is no small matter. Despite a downturn in the number of adolescent pregnancies in recent years, the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) remains vigilant about the rampant rates amongst girls as young as 10-14 years old. This reality pinpoints the urgency of a nationwide policy tailored to combat this issue, especially for our younger generation.

Recent numbers from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) for 2021 sketch a worrying picture – a total of 2,299 births were recorded among girls aged 10 to 14. This stark data underscores the dire need for swift, decisive action.

Data from World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) show young mothers face more health dangers. Their bodies are not ready for giving birth, which increases the risks. This shows why it is crucial to address this problem effectively.

Albay’s first district representative and the bill’s principal author, Edcel Lagman, passionately voiced, “Guaranteeing young people’s right to lead healthy lives and empowering them to protect their health and future are paramount. This encompasses access to reproductive health information, services, and commodities.”

The ripple effect of early childbearing stretches beyond the young mother, impacting her child, her family, and her community. Children born to teen mothers face a higher likelihood of health, developmental, and educational pitfalls. Families, in turn, shoulder the economic burden, which often traps them in poverty. On a broader scale, adolescent pregnancy stalls economic growth, overtaxes social welfare, and strains healthcare, education, and social services, causing a considerable strain on the nation. The UNFPA approximates a staggering annual loss of 33 billion pesos in potential income due to teen pregnancy in the Philippines.

“PLCPD implores both chambers of Congress to spring into action by engaging in thorough debates and casting their votes on the bill. We can’t risk leaving our youth uninformed. We owe it to them to ensure they have access to accurate information, education, and suitable reproductive health services,” stated Rom Dongeto, Executive Director of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD).

The exciting new bill proposes the creation of an Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Inter-Agency Council, introduces a National Program of Action and Investment Plan to prevent teen pregnancies, and envisions a culturally-sensitive and age-appropriate Comprehensive Adolescent Sexuality Education (CASE).

This game-changing legislation combines several House Bills (79, 2062, 2524, 3211, 5559, 6901, 6964) and takes on the provisions of House Resolution No. 288 and Privileged Speech No. 78. Now, following the committee’s thumbs-up, the bill is all set to make its debut in the House plenary for sponsorship.

Lagman, also known as the chair emeritus of PLCPD, is credited with proposing House Bill 97, which laid the groundwork

for the substitute bill on teen pregnancy prevention. Other authors include Raoul Manuel, representative of the Kabataan party-list. In partnership with government entities, development allies, civil society, and youth groups, PLCPD and POPCOM kicked off the “No More Children Having Children” crusade in 2019, making a rallying cry for the passage of the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Act.