Passage of teen pregnancy prevention bill pressed

Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros expressed alarm over the rise in cases of teenage pregnancies in Eastern Visayas, as she renewed her call for the swift passage of a measure that will help bring down adolescent birth rates all over the country.

Hontiveros, chair of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Eqaulity, made the remarks after the Commission on Population (PopCom) reported its  concern with the sharp increase of teenage pregnancies in Eastern Visayas, with around 9,483 teenage  girls from the region reported pregnant in 2015 alone. In two cases, the pregnant mother was as young as 10 years old.

“Hindi biro ang paglobo ng bilang ng mga batang ina, hindi lang sa Eastern Visayas, kundi sa buong bansa. Dahil maaga silang nagiging mga nanay, parami nang parami ang mga kabataang kababaihan na nawawalan ng pagkakataong makapag-aral, makapag-trabaho at tuparin ang kanilang mga pangarap sa buhay.

“We need to give our youth, especially our women, a fighting chance to live better, healthy and prosperous lives,” Hontiveros said.

Senate Bill No. 161 or the Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Bill seeks to provide comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education programs for young Filipinos nationwide, as well as social protection programs for teenage mothers - including accessible maternal health services, workshops, and livelihood programs.

The bill also provides medical, legal and other services for teenage mothers who were victims of sexual abuse or violence.

According to the PopCom, the higher number of adolescent birth rates are accompanied by a similar boom in young Filipinos engaged in pre-marital sex. The commission pointed out that this problem is happening not just in Eastern Visayas -- one of the poorest regions in the country -- but also in communities nationwide, and called the phenomenon a “national social emergency that needs national action.”

Hontiveros added that she will push for additional funding for the Department of Health (DoH) to augment its its budget for age-appropriate sexuality education and free distribution of reproductive health supplies to curb teenage pregnancy rates, especially in poor and marginalized communities.

“We have to put our money where our mouth is. We have to act and invest in programs and policies that will ensure that our young people, especially women, will have greater access to education and services that will motivate them to pursue safe, progressive and healthy lifestyles,” Hontiveros said.