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“The one who got me pregnant was my cousin. He is not my boyfriend. In one bed, there are three of us…I am the only girl beside two boys…The one who got me pregnant is my cousin who is 13 years old. When I sleep, I really do not feel anything….When I woke up I felt…I wondered why my opening was painful.” Those are words from Jessica, 16 years old, Quezon City, Philippines
Teenage pregnancy is widespread in the Philippines, especially amongst the poor. In Manila, this contributes to overpopulation and the vicious cycle of poverty, another child borne into the ghettos and a teenage Mom bearing the burden of raising a child before her own maturity and adulthood. An estimated 70,000 adolescent mothers die each year in developing countries.
Young mothers face enormous health risks, obstructed labor is common and results in newborn deaths and deaths or disabilities in the mother.
Children are everywhere, tangible evidence of the city’s teenage pregnancy problem. Every year, 13 out of 100 girls aged between 15 and 19 of the Filipino population get pregnant. Health care for Manila’s urban poor is almost nonexistent, while opportunities to learn about contraception in this strictly Catholic country are rare.
A growing and heated debate in this predominantly Catholic country revolves around the church’s uncompromising stance against the use of contraceptive devices that is said to be contributing to poverty and affecting the quality of life for many Filipinos.
The Catholic church in the Philippines only approves of natural family planning methods and view condom use as promoting adultery and premarital sex. Church leaders believe that sex is meant solely for procreation. In this context, using of condoms-even for HIV/AIDS prevention becomes a sinful act. The problem is becoming very real. An AIDS crisis threatens the Philippines as the number of people who are HIV positive has doubled in just over three years.
The Philippines, now home to around 85 million people, has become one of the fastest-growing populations in Asia with about 2 million new births each year, many of them in public hospitals so overwhelmed that new mothers are forced to share beds. Meanwhile, the Philippines’ population is projected to expand to as many as 142 million by 2040, by the government’s own estimates, and the rapid arrival of new mouths to feed is straining the country’s creaking infrastructure and choking its efforts to cut poverty.
These are the statistics. On paper, they sound alarming. The reality s even more astounding. One can walk into poor community and ﬁnd an overabundance of child mothers. Most girls are unaware of protecting themselves and once pregnant, most will give up their studies.