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House OKs bill giving 15-year-olds RH services access sans parental consent

A bill allowing adolescents aged 15 to 17 to access reproductive health services, including birth control, with no need for parental consent was unanimously approved in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

House Bill 8910, which provides for a national policy to prevent adolescent pregnancies and institutionalize social protection for adolescent parents, garnered 232 yes votes during Tuesday’s plenary session.

Likewise, House Bill 8910 states that reproductive health and birth control services must be available with no need for consent from parents or legal guardians to adolescents below 15 years old who:

  • have already begun childbearing
  • are already pregnant
  • have experienced sexual abuse,
  • have had miscarriage
  • are sexually active or engaged in high-risk behavior.

In all other cases not covered by these provisions, consent to access reproductive health services should be obtained from the parents or legal guardian if the adolescent is below 15 years of age or is mentally incapacitated.

In cases when the adolescent’s parents or legal  guardian cannot be located despite reasonable efforts, or if the adolescent's parents or legal guardian refused to give consent, it shall be obtained from a duly licensed and trained health service provider.

“The bill aims to promote and protect the basic human rights of adolescents, particularly their rights to sexual and reproductive health, development as well as education and participation,” House Assistant Minority Leader Arlene Brosas of Gabriela party-list, one of the principal authors of the measure, said.

“At the heart of this bill is the recognition of the role of adolescents and young people in the overall human socio-economic development of our country. Thus, one of its policies is to create and sustain an enabling environment for adolescents to achieve their potentials and fully contribute to nation-building. Mahalagang kaakibat ng naturang panukala na ito ang malawakang kampanya sa edukasyon at impormasyon kasama ang abot-kamay at dekalidad na serbisyo para sa mga adolescent mothers at parents. Sa katunayan, long overdue na ang panukalang ito dahil matagal nang nilalaban ng mga kababaihan ang mga panawagan para sa karapatan, kalusugan, kabuhayan, at serbisyo,” Brosas added.

Other key provisions of the bill state that:

  • community-based and culturally sensitive, age- and developmentally appropriate comprehensive adolescent sexuality education (CASE) should be developed through community-based information, education and communication programs for all adolescents;
  • CASE should be institutionalized for out-of-school adolescents and those with special concerns in the communities and workplaces: provided, that the needs of adolescents who belong to indigenous communities, those who are working, have disabilities, and are in social institutions are considered in the design and promotion of sexuality education among adolescents;
  • that all teachers, guidance counselors, school supervisors, and school nurses entrusted with the duty to educate adolescents on CASE should be properly trained on adolescent health and development, and gender sensitivity to effectively educate and guide adolescents in dealing with their sexuality-related concerns;
  • comprehensive social protection programs should be provided to adolescents who are already parents or currently pregnant, and their partners to prevent repeat pregnancies and to ensure their well-being while assuming the responsibilities of being young parents;
  • mandates the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Inter-Agency Council  to develop programs to be implemented by LGUs whichl promote adolescent males’ active involvement in the prevention of early and unintended pregnancies;
  • directs the Department of Social Welfare and Development to provide assistance to adolescent parents who may decide to put their child up to foster care or adoption
  • intensifies and institutionalizes interactive learning methodologies for CASE among parents and guardians to effectively guide adolescents in their growth and development;
  • provides training programs for policymakers and implementers in both the executive and legislative branches of government at all levels to enable a better understanding of adolescent sexuality and reproductive health as well as policies and practices to promote it;
  • allows the government to enter into public-private partnership agreements in mobilizing private communication networks and companies in promoting CASE through text or short message service or media messages, among others.

In January, the state-run Commission on Population and Development (CPD, formerly POPCOM) said that the number of pregnancies among 10 to 14-year-olds  in the country was still high in 2022 at more than 2,000. — BM, GMA Integrated News