House Committee approves consolidated bill for proposed Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Act
May 23, 2023
QUEZON CITY, Philippines—In a significant move towards safeguarding the rights and well-being of Filipino adolescents, the House of Representatives Committee on Youth and Sports Development, led by Chair Faustino Michael Carlos Dy III, approved the substitute bill for the proposed Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Act today, May 23.
During its 6th regular meeting on Tuesday morning, the House Committee on Youth and Sports Development favored the proposed substitute bill seeking to develop a comprehensive policy that addresses the sexual and reproductive health needs of adolescents through age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education; access to information and services; and, measures to prevent unintended pregnancies and reduce adolescent childbearing. The bill also institutionalizes the social protection of adolescent parents and their children.
Adolescent pregnancy remains a significant concern in the country. Despite the notable decrease in adolescent pregnancies over the past five years, the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) highlights the alarming rate of pregnancies among girls aged 10 to 14, affirming the urgent need for a national policy to address this situation, especially among younger adolescents.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), there were 2,299 births among girls aged 10 to 14 in 2021, while the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) recorded 133,000 families led by minors, further exemplifying the far-reaching consequences on families throughout the country.
Reports from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and World Health Organization (WHO) have consistently shown that adolescent mothers face increased health risks due to their bodies not being fully developed for childbirth and disruptions in education and emotional well-being.
“Young people have the right to lead healthy lives and the means to protect their health and safeguard their future. These include access to reproductive health information, services, and commodities,” asserted the bill’s principal author, Albay first district representative Edcel Lagman in a statement.
The effects of early childbearing extend beyond the young pregnant mother, affecting her child, family, and the wider community. The children of adolescent mothers are more susceptible to health and developmental issues, as well as educational disadvantages.
Moreover, families of young mothers often bear the economic burden and encounter limited opportunities, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty. At a broader level, adolescent pregnancy impedes economic development, increases reliance on social welfare, and strains healthcare, education, and social service resources, posing significant challenges for the country.
In fact, adolescent pregnancy in the Philippines is causing an estimated annual loss of 33 billion pesos in potential income, as reported by the UNFPA.
“PLCPD urges both chambers of Congress to take immediate action by engaging in thorough discussions and casting their votes on the bill. We cannot afford to keep young people uninformed. We must guarantee their access to accurate information, education, and suitable reproductive health services,” said Rom Dongeto, Executive Director of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD).
Some of the key provisions of the proposed bill include establishing an Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Inter-Agency Council; implementing a National Program of Action and Investment Plan for the Prevention of Adolescent Pregnancies; and, developing a Community-Based and Culturally-Sensitive, Age and Developmentally-Appropriate Comprehensive Adolescent Sexuality Education (CASE), among others.
The alternative House Bill consolidates multiple House Bills (79, 2062, 2524, 3211, 5559, 6901, 6964) and considers the provisions of House Resolution No. 288 and Privileged Speech No. 78. Following its approval in the House Committee, the next step for the bill is sponsorship in the House plenary.
Lagman, PLCPD’s chair emeritus, proposed House Bill 97, which became the template for the substitute bill on the prevention of adolescent pregnancy. The other authors of the bill include Kabataan party-list representative Raoul Manuel. Alongside government agencies, development partners, and other civil society and youth organizations, PLCPD and POPCOM initiated the “No More Children Having Children” campaign in 2019 to urge Congress to enact the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Act.