By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
The Senate is set to start debating on the bill seeking to curb the growing number of teenage pregnancies in the country.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros, Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality, recently sponsored in the plenary the Senate Bill No. 1334, or the proposed “Prevention of Adolescent Pregnancy Act”.
The bill was contained in Committee Report No. 45, which consolidates the proposals filed by Hontiveros, and Sens. Sonny Angara, Leila de Lima, Imee Marcos, and Ramon Revilla Jr.
“The bill recognizes the fact that young Filipinos are heaving earlier sexual initiations, sometimes unwanted and usually unprotected,” Hontiveros said, citing a 2013 study showing that 23 percent of Filipino youths are having sex before before age 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,” she added.
SB 1334 proposes the development of a National Program of Action and Investment Plan for the Prevention of Adolescent Pregnancy by concerned government agencies which will serve as framework to address prevent teenage pregnancy.
Schools, led by the Department of Education, shall provide unbiased and scientifically accurate information on sexual and adolescent reproductive health. Parents and guardian shall also undergo a community-based sex education program to help them guide and support their adolescent children in concerns relating to their sexual health.
Hontiveros said the bill also aims to provide social protection for young parents, by ensuring that they are getting all the necessary health care during their pregnancy.
Aside from health care, workshops and counseling services will also be given to young mothers to “prevent repeat pregnancies while we ensure their physical and mental well-being as they take on the heavy responsibilities of parenthood,” Hontiveros said.
Special care will also be provided to first-time parents, especially in the marginalized sectors.
The bill likewise proposes flexible learning options for adolescent parents, particularly young mothers, to encourage them to continue and finish their education.
“Disrupting a girl’s education because of her pregnancy exacerbates poverty. Low educational attainment adversely effects the lifelong earnings of a girl for the rest of her life. Education is so important,” Hontiveros said.
In pushing for the bill’s approval, Hontiveros said 16 million adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 years old give birth every year.
In the Philippines, 24 babies are born to young Filipino mothers every hour, she said.
“We cannot afford to have more and more children having children. 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 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 told her colleagues.