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Palawan health advocacy group backs better youth access to family planning services, education

STUDENTS of the Mangingisda High School in Puerto Princesa City participate in a discussion on reproductive health and HIV conducted by a team from non-government organization Roots of Health. — ROOTSOFHEALTH.ORG

LEGISLATION providing adolescents better access to family planning commodities and services is needed to address teen pregnancies in the country, which is more prevalent in rural areas, according to a Palawan-based non-government organization promoting reproductive health.    

Roots of Health Executive Director Amina Evangelista-Swanepoe said the biggest hurdle to reproductive healthcare is the “bias” of service providers.   

“Roughly half of the health care workers we work with in Palawan do not approve of young people having sex, so when youth try to access services, they are scolded, shamed, and denied services,” she said in a statement on Wednesday.    

“Therefore, we urge the protection of adolescent’s rights to access service with specific legislation that will supersede previous age restrictions to accessing these,” she added.  

Under the Reproductive Health (RH) Law, health providers are allowed to refuse young people the services they seek without parental consent, according to Ms. Swanepoe.   

The parental consent clause, she said, should be lowered to give minors at least 15 years old access to service, similar to the expanded Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) law.  

Pregnancies among girls aged 10 to 14 increased to 2,299 in 2021 from 2,113 the previous year, according to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority and Department of Health.  

Ms. Swanepoe said teenage pregnancies could be decreased through enhanced delivery of a comprehensive sexuality education in schools. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan

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