Health - Philippine Teen Pregnancy Rates Defy Trend
Teen pregnancy rates are dropping around the world, but one country is still having a problem - The Phillipines leads a regional list of Asian countries that continued to have the greatest number of teenage pregnancies.
"Adolescent fertility rates have declined in the last two decades in all countries with available data, with the exception of the Philippines where there has been little change," says the new report from the UN World Health Organization(.pdf link) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). It breaks down how one in ten young Filipino women - between 15 and 19 years of age - is already a mother. Around one-third of adolescent pregnancies were conceived prior to marriage. And as many as 50 percent of pregnancies in the Philippines are unintended, according to research published by the family planning advocacy group the Guttmacher Institute.
Contributing factors include sexual assault, and the Catholic Church opposes birth control and is influential in the Philippines.
"It did not cross my mind that this could happen. My mother just asked me one day why I was not having my period any more," said Vanessa Aguilos, a 24-year old mother of three who did not fully understand that having unsafe sex would lead to her pregnancy. "After a pregnancy test, it turned out I was (pregnant)," she said.
Low-income Filipinas like Ms. Aguilos are legally entitled to information on family planning services and free contraception, as part of the Reproductive Health Law. But neither were available to her. The government says it plans to address the law's shortcomings after the May election, but note it is achieving some success in the cities where access to birth control is easier.
"In Manila the contraceptive prevalence rate among poor women was almost zero because of a former executive order depriving women of their reproductive health rights," said former health secretary Esperanza Cabral. "But since the implementation of the Reproductive Health Law, contraceptive prevalence has gone up to 42 percent in Metro Manila."