Unanimous and resounding House approval of Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Bill hailed by child rights advocates

September 6, 2023

Child rights advocates under the umbrella alliance Child Rights Network and its convenor, the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), celebrate the House of Representatives’ unanimous and resounding passage of the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Bill on its third and final reading.

With 232 affirmative votes and zero opposition, this marks the most significant legislative progress in the House of Representatives since the bill’s introduction in 2017.

“We celebrate this historic milestone with the young voices consistently highlighting the urgency of addressing adolescent pregnancy. Every child has the right to health and the right to finish their education and reach their dreams. Without government intervention, early and unintended pregnancies most often upend these rights,” said Mr. Romeo Dongeto, Convenor of the Child Rights Network and Executive Director of PLCPD.

“With this legislation, we can create a future where young Filipinos are empowered to make informed and responsible choices about their sexuality and reproductive health. This will undoubtedly lead to a better quality of life for our young people,” added Mr. Dongeto, noting that the United Nations Population Fund has estimated that the Philippines is losing P33-billion of potential income yearly due to the prevalence of adolescent pregnancy.

The urgency of this legislation is underscored by alarming statistics. The Philippines ranks second in Southeast Asia for the highest adolescent birth rate, and recent data show an increase in pregnancies among girls aged 10 to 14.

Government data also show that a significant number of births to adolescent mothers were fathered by men who are much more older than the mothers, exposing a potential power imbalance and occurrence of sexual violence resulting in adolescent pregnancies.

“This is a national crisis that demands immediate, comprehensive action. Part of why adolescent pregnancy prevention is so important is the bill’s provisions on adolescent male involvement and comprehensive social protection against sexual and gender-based violence,” Mr. Dongeto said.

Aside from the prevention of sexual violence, the bill also includes:

  1. Ensuring minors’ access to information and reproductive health services, including access to modern contraceptives
  2. Education programs to prevent sexual violence and promote responsible sexuality
  3. A safety net for adolescent parents and their children, including healthcare and educational opportunities
  4. Training of health professionals and custodians
  5. A government infrastructure for policy and programs, such as the establishment of an information and service delivery network for adolescent health and development.

With the recent House approval, the bill now advances to the Senate, where a consolidated version, Senate Bill No. 1979, is already in the Period of Interpellation.

“We deeply thank our legislative champions: Committee on Youth and Sports Development Chair, Rep. Faustino Michael Carlos T. Dy III, and authors Rep. Edcel Lagman and Rep. Raoul Manuel of KABATAAN PARTYLIST. Their tireless advocacy has brought us closer to a future where no child is burdened with early parenthood,” Mr Dongeto said.

“We urge the Senate to act swiftly, aligning with the urgency declared by the national government, to ensure the bill’s immediate enactment,” he added.