Last Tuesday I had the opportunity to attend a Senate hearing as a resource speaker for two proposed laws that address the issue of teen pregnancy.
Senator Nancy Binay is the author of SBN 1154 which proposes establishing refuge centers and providing assistance to young pregnant women in every province and city of the Philippines. Senator Risa Hontiveros authored SBN 1482 which calls for a national policy preventing teen pregnancies and institutionalizing social protections for teenage parents.
Senator Binay did not attend the hearing but Senator Hontiveros took reactions for both bills and provided thoughtful answers and comments in response to the feedback provided.
There were a dozen or so resource speakers present, representing government agencies, international donor organizations and civil society organizations. Speakers included the Department of Health, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the DILG, the Commission on Population, the National Youth Commission, the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society, NORFIL, UNFPA, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, Save the Children and Roots of Health.
Resource speakers shared statistics and facts in order to set the stage to demonstrate what a serious problem teen pregnancy is. Among some of the facts shared:
- Every hour in the Philippines, 24 teenage girls give birth. That’s 576 births to teen moms every single day.
- According to a doctor from POGS, these 24 births per hour are the tip of the iceberg as many more young people resort to abortions to end their pregnancies.
- In 2015, 207,000 teens gave birth. 130,000 of them were aged below 18. That’s equivalent to the population of three municipalities of minor-led families.
- About 3,000 girls aged 15-19 give birth to their 3rd baby every year. (2014 data)
- The head of National Youth Commission reported that the youngest pregnancy recorded in Region 2 is a 10-year-old girl. Her partner is 12-year-old boy.
- UNICEF & DSWD launched a survey documenting violence against children. They found that 1 in 4 Filipino kids experience violence. Of the children who experience violence, 1 in 10 are sexual assaults that happen at home at the hand of fathers, brothers and uncles.
Generally, there was more support for Senator Hontiveros’ more comprehensive bill which is very holistic and calls for a variety of programs, some already existing, to be put in place to help prevent teen pregnancy, from access for young people to comprehensive sexuality education and modern contraceptives, to trainings for parents and teachers, to more stringent standards for the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.
Senator Binay’s proposed law was met with more skepticism as it proposes building new centers in every city and province of the country for young pregnant girls to live in. Several speakers noted that infrastructure projects are costly and time consuming. The representative from NORFIL told of how her organization has started closing their centers for teen mothers because very few teen mothers are accessing the centers. Several government agencies noted that teen centers and halfway homes already exist and should be maximized before appropriating funds to build new centers.
Following the feedback, Senator Hontiveros adjourned the hearing and said she and Senator Binay would take all the comments and suggestions and revise their proposed bills. There will be further hearings as well as meetings of the Technical Working Groups before these proposed bills move forward for voting.