Rising number of young mothers alarms senators

Rising number of young mothers alarms senators

SEN. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara urged the government to address the rising number of teenage pregnancies among girls ages 10 to 14.

“The decline in pregnancies among 15- to 19-year-old girls is welcome news, but the fact that more girls who are a lot younger are becoming mothers already is very alarming and cannot be left unchecked,” he said.

Sen. Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros raised the same issue and again pushed the passage of the Prevention of Teenage Pregnancy bill.

“While the trend for teen pregnancies among girls ages 15 to 19 is declining, a recent worrisome trend among girls ages 10 to 14 has been emerging,” Hontiveros said.

Angara cited the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) report that the majority of the registered adolescent live births involved men who were three to five years older than the girls.

The senator said that “even more concerning” was the data on fathers who were more than 10 years older than the teenage mothers, which the PSA pegged at 6 to 7 percent annually from 2016 to 2020.

“Teenage pregnancies have been a concern in the country for some time already,” the chairman of the Committee on Youth said on Tuesday.

In 2020, the PSA recorded 2,113 births of very young girls ages 10 to 14. A year later, this number increased to 2,299, data from the Department of Health showed.

Citing data from the PSA, Angara noted that births to mothers ages 10 to 14 years old have increased every year since 2016 even as the overall birth rate among all adolescents has gone down.

The rate of pregnancies among girls ages 10 to 14 has gone up from 11 percent or 1,903 births in 2016 to 2,113 registered births in 2020.

Angara sought an inquiry into the alarming increase of pregnancies among 10- to 14-year-olds in order to come up with a whole-of-government approach in developing a policy framework to prevent early childbearing and its negative consequences.

Apart from the social and moral issues surrounding teenage pregnancies, he said there are also serious implications on their health and development as individuals.

Meanwhile, Hontiveros said that local government units (LGUs) can play a big role in curbing teen pregnancies.

She cited the efforts of local chief executives in the province of Isabela and the cities of Naga, Tuguegarao and Quezon to combat the issue of adolescent pregnancies through the issuance and approval of ordinances and implementation of relevant programs.

“The initiatives of these LGUs demonstrate that local leaders see an urgent need to address the concerns of adolescent parents,” she said.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) had said that early childbearing and delivery can derail a girls’ healthy development to adulthood since many of them are pressured or forced to drop out of school to raise their children.

It also cited the negative social consequences on the girls such as a reduced status in their homes and communities, stigmatization, rejection and violence by family members, peers and partners, and early forced marriage.

Since the pregnancies and births are taking place before the girls’ bodies are fully developed, Unicef said that this is among the leading causes of disability-adjusted life years and deaths among girls.

Angara said the Duterte administration had “taken significant strides” to reduce adolescent pregnancies by implementing programs to address its root causes and strengthening the adolescent’s capacity “to make autonomous and informed decisions about their reproductive and sexual health” by ensuring access to comprehensive sexuality education and reproductive health and rights services.

“What the previous administration initiated was a good start, but a lot more needs to be done to bring down the cases of teenage pregnancies, particularly among the 10- to 14-year-olds,” he said.

“This effort requires a whole-of-government approach and an understanding that this is about caring for the welfare of our children and saving lives,” Angara added.

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