UNFPA report highlights Filipino women’s need for better access to reproductive health services 

FILIPINO women and girls are among the world’s female population with restricted power, rights, and choices over their own body, the 2021 State of the World Population report of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) showed.

“The annual report documents the realities of issues and concerns surrounding ways and means of upholding bodily autonomy. Here in the country, the probability of bodily autonomy being compromised is more pronounced among our teenagers, especially those who have undergone pregnancies at a very young age,” said Undersecretary Juan Antonio Perez III, executive director of the Philippine Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM).   

The report, titled My Body Is My Own: Claiming the Right to Autonomy and Self-Determination, underscores the link between women’s power to control their own bodies and other dimensions of their lives.

“Data shows that in recent years, Filipino women, on average, give birth to one child more than they intend,” and that “there has been an increasing trend in the number of adolescent pregnancies, particularly among women aged 10 to 14 years old,” said National Economic and Development Authority Undersecretary Jose Miguel R. De La Rosa.

POPCOM reported that the Philippines has one of the highest adolescent birth rates within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), “with 47 births per 1,000 women aged 15-19 per year.”

This number is higher than the 33.5 average annual adolescent birth rates in the ASEAN region and the global average of 44.

“Adolescent pregnancies are often not a result of a deliberate choice but a result of restrictive policies, sex without consent, harmful social norms, and lack of information,” POPCOM said in a statement.

Mr. De La Rosa acknowledged that government agencies must strengthen policies and programs for Filipino women’s rights to bodily autonomy and ensure access to reproductive health services.

“Our goal is to provide every Filipino with full access to sexual and reproductive health care services and comprehensive sexuality education, so that they can make informed decisions and exercise their freedom over their own bodies,” he said. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago