Greetings to one and all.
After more than 13 years of arduous campaign, reproductive health advocates finally realized the enactment of a Reproductive Health Law or what is now known as the “Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012”.
The RH Law, of which I am the principal author, is health-oriented, human rights-based and sustainable development-driven. It recognizes the inalienable right of couples, particularly women, to freely determine the number and spacing of their children. It mandates the State to give universal access to family planning information, services and commodities to voluntary acceptors, and for free to marginalized and impoverished sectors.
The principal figures in the RH Law are the mothers and their infants, and the core principle is freedom of informed choice. Neither the State nor the Church has the right to compel citizens or the faithful to adopt or reject family planning, including the regular and proper use of contraceptives. The choice belongs to the people.
I earnestly ask you to support the forthwith and forthright enforcement of the RH Law and its objective of preventing adolescent pregnancy, particularly through mandatory reproductive health and sexuality education in both public and private schools.
Research conducted by the Commission on Population and Development in 2020 shows that number of children between 10 to 14 years old who had gotten pregnant has more than doubled in the past 10 years.
According to the United Nations Population Fund, in 2020 the Philippines also has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates among ASEAN countries.
Child mothers are an aberration and do not belong in the 21st century. They should be relics of the past when early childbearing was the norm.
We should not countenance this tragic phenomenon of children having children and must encourage our leaders and health professionals to demand the full and faithful implementation of RH Law which aims to help prevent adolescent pregnancies, mandates age-appropriate sexuality education in our schools, and promotes adolescent reproductive health and rights.
But the RH Law needs sister measures to help improve its efficacy and beneficent effects on the lives of women and girls and this is why I have principally authored House Bill No. 2297 on preventing adolescent pregnancy and House Bill No. 9943 on the proscription of child marriage.
I am happy to inform you that House Bill No. 9943 was just passed on second reading by the House of Representatives last Tuesday, August 31.
I am confident that these House bills, together with kindred measures authored by like-minded legislators, will have your full support.
To underscore the importance of ensuring the faithful and comprehensive implementation of the RH Law and the passage into law of the bills preventing adolescent pregnancy and banning child marriage, let me enumerate some of the serious consequences of adolescent pregnancy and teenage child bearing:
Pregnant teenagers are more likely than women who delay childbearing to experience maternal mortality and morbidity, miscarriage, stillbirth, and neonatal death.
Teen mothers are less likely to graduate from high school and more likely than their peers who delay childbearing to live in poverty and to rely on welfare.
The children of teenage mothers are often
born at low birth weight, experience health and developmental problems, and frequently grow up poor and/or neglected.
Teenage pregnancy poses a substantial financial burden to society and billions of pesos are estimated to be lost annually in social welfare assistance, foregone tax revenues, medical expenses for healthcare since babies born to child mothers are more likely to suffer from health problems, and public funds for the criminal justice system because of the more frequent involvement with crime of children born to child mothers.
While is it extremely important to help children delay entry into sexual relations, policymakers, educators, and healthcare providers must accept the fact that there will be some teens who will engage in early sexual relations, consequently, it is imperative to initiate and fund various programs and interventions that will facilitate and ensure responsible sexual behavior.
A large part of practicing responsible sexual behavior is the correct and consistent use of contraceptives. A six-year study conducted by the Guttmacher Institute and Columbia University shows that increased contraceptive use accounts for a whopping 86% of the decline of teenage pregnancy rates in the United States.
Stakeholders, especially parents, will be reassured to know that studies have consistently shown that access to contraceptives does not increase rates of sexual activity. Contraceptives do not encourage promiscuity.
When government adequately spends for contraceptives to meet young people’s need for effective contraception, savings will be generated from liberated funds on public spending for maternal and newborn services, treatment for pregnancy-related complications and life-long services for thousands of additional people. The resultant savings can be used to fund other essential socio-economic services like education, basic health, and employment generation.
We should all be at the forefront of the war on adolescent pregnancy. We can start by engaging adolescents in honest and non-judgmental discussions on sexuality, relationships, and responsible sexual behavior and openly campaigning for the passage of laws that will ensure that our children will have real childhoods unburdened with the adult responsibility of raising a child.
If it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes entire communities to put an end to children having children.