(Delivered by Rep. Edcel C. Lagman on 05 September 2023)
Pregnancy should invariably be an occasion for joy. It should not elicit dread or unhappiness in the prospective mother. For most women, a pregnancy is a long-awaited dream. But for adolescent girls, it may mean the end of their dreams. What should be a source of pride becomes a brand of dishonor and disgrace for unmarried adolescents. What should be a cause for celebration and cheer becomes a basis of castigation and criticism. What should be a forecast of life becomes a foreboding of death.
I have been saying this for some time now: Adolescent mothers should be relics of the very distant past when early childbearing was the norm.
The World Health Organization has stated that pregnancy and childbirth are the leading causes of death in adolescent girls age 15 to 19 worldwide because young girls’ bodies are not ready for pregnancy and childbirth and a great percentage of adolescent mothers are less likely to seek lifesaving prenatal and postnatal care.
Due to early pregnancy, many young girls fail to finish basic education, lack adequate skills for remunerative work, and are economically vulnerable, thus perpetuating inter-generational poverty. It must be underscored that one of the most reliable predictors of future poverty is early childbearing.
The major deleterious consequences of early pregnancy and childbirth also have a multiplier effect that cascades to the national economy.
Adolescent pregnancies negatively affect the economy with a yearly average of P33-B forfeited revenues due to “lost opportunities and forgone savings” consequent to early childbearing. Most adolescent mothers remain unemployed and unproductive. The government also spends billions of pesos annually for the health care of pregnant teenagers, adolescent mothers, and their infants.
In 2020, a Social Welfare Stations survey revealed that Filipinos consider teenage pregnancy the “most important problem of women today”. The National Economic Development Authority and PopCom have described the teenage pregnancy situation as a “national social emergency”.
There are clear and established methods on how to address the serious problem of adolescent pregnancies. The major programs and strategies to prevent adolescent pregnancies must include: (1) age and development-appropriate reproductive health and sexuality education; (2) access to contraceptives by adolescents; and (3) comprehensive and adequately-funded legislation.
Legislating a comprehensive law on preventing adolescent pregnancy is imperative to institutionalize policies and strategies on eliminating or mitigating adolescent pregnancy, and extend social protection to adolescent mothers and their infants.
Verily, enacting a law preventing adolescent pregnancy will save young girls from the clutches of maternal death, unemployment, and poverty, and improve their future and reinforce their self-esteem.
In 2020, the UNFPA reported that the “Philippines has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates among the ASEAN member states.” It documented that “more than 500 Filipino adolescent girls are getting pregnant and giving birth everyday”.
If we are to truly uplift the lives of women, we must start by improving the future of young girls.
I vote a resounding yes to HB No. 8910 or the “Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Act”.