Records show that the rate of adolescent birth over the past decade in the country has been at a level that makes it a “national social emergency,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said on Thursday.
In Mindanao, according to a demographic health survey, three regions have 15 to 18% of teenage mothers — their economic cost alone is staggering.
Pernia noted that the lifetime earnings of women in the country lowered due to early childbrearing — between P24 billion and P42 billion.
He said that not being able to solve the crisis ahead of time is being the cause of perpetual “intergenerational poverty.”
“I commit to advocate for the President to issue an executive order acknowledging teen pregnancy as a national social emergency.”
Effects of Teenage pregnancy
Pernia called on lawmakers to address the matter immediately, as the effects of teenage pregnancy are profound.
Teenage pregnancy results in negative effects on the health of both the teenage mother and their children, dropout rates in school rises, and then will face financial issues.
“This issue affects the heart of the development of our country as the state of our young people today affects the state of our country’s future,” Pernia said.
Based on the results of a National Demographic Health Survey in 2017, teenagers aged 15-19 years old are the 9% of women who have begun childbearing. That figure mostly increases in impoverished populations.
For example, 10% of teenagers in rural areas start childbearing. The figure even rises in certain regions, namely Davao (18%), Northern Mindanao (15%), adn Soccsksargen (15%).
The Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Leonor Briones was alarmed by this issue as 57% of female students had been forced to drop out because “family matters”, and mostly their reason is regarding teenage pregnancy and early marriage.
“When a child drops out of school, what career opportunities are available to them?” Briones said. “This has a real effect on employment.”
24 babies per hour
The probability of adolescent childbearing also drastically increases with age — 1% of 15 year olds and 22% of 19 year olds have gotten pregnant.
Although the 9% figure in 2017 is just 1% lower than in 2013, 196,409 women aged 10-19 have still have given birth — 24 babies every hour.
“I join the voices of adults putting a spotlight on the issue of teen pregnancy by calling on the passage of a policy to address this critical issue,” Pernia said.
His argument leads to an enactment of a teenage pregnancy prevention bill in Congress.
In December 2018, Sen. Risa Hontiveros filed the Senate Bill No. 1888 or the Prevention of Adolescent Pregnancy Act. The measure restates that educational institutions are barred from expelling pregnant students and forms a Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Council.
Pernia also told Congress that the effort that was exerted for the passage of reproductive health (RH) law in 2011 should also be given for the passage of this measure.
“I urge each one of us to take part in pushing for this bill to be passed into law like what we did in the long fight for the (RH law),” he said.