In the Philippines’ biggest maternity hospital, a baby is born every few minutes. And often the new mothers are just children themselves. With the legal age of consent just 12, teen pregnancy is on the rise here. Tempting many to turn to a shadowy underworld for help. I’m Steve Chow. On this episode, 101 East investigates the impact of church and state on a nation dubbed “The Baby Factory” It’s late afternoon in an area locals call, “Happy Land” On the outskirts of the Philippine capital, Manila. Among the shanty dwellings, 13-year-old Maymay is playing a jumping game, Chinese garters, with her friends. “The two of you.” Watching on, high from sniffing paint solvent, is her 22-year-old boyfriend. At just 11, she became pregnant to him. But she was seven months along before she even realized. “I didn’t know I was pregnant. I was even playing Chinese garter.” “When I was jumping the garter, I felt something in my stomach.” “Then I suffered a miscarriage.” Local health workers say her boyfriend taunt her for losing their child. But Maymay doesn’t mention that. She just blames herself. “It was painful. It’s also an affront to the Lord.” “Why did I commit such a sin that I played garter?” “I cried hard because it was painful painful to lose a baby.” Maymay’s pregnancy was not by choice and it seems neither was the first time she had sex. “It hurt. It was painful.” “I was just forced to do it.” With her father in prison and her mother in a new relationship, she lives here with her boyfriend’s family. Why you’re staying here with your boyfriend? “Because they feed me well.” Maymay’s just one of the growing number of young Filipino girls who find themselves pregnant. – It’s really a tremendous problem. Not just for in terms of the health of the actual teenagers themselves were becoming parents at such young ages and for the children that they then have, but it’s also costing the government and the country a lot in so much– so much money lost in productivity and in terms of them being unable to join the formal economy because they haven’t finished high school. It’s really a very, very big problem for the country. The province of Palawan in the west of the Philippines is a pretty part of the world. But it bellies an ugly reality. – Palawan has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancies anywhere in the country. One in five teenagers is either pregnant or already has a child. And the vast majority of them live in very poor communities like this one. In this slum on the edge of Palawan’s capital, Puerto Princesa, we find 15-year-old Teril with her family The baby she’s holding isn’t one of her three siblings, it’s her daughter. She says she knew little about sex when she met the child’s father soon after her 14th birthday. “At first, I didn’t want to do it. I was scared.” “But after a week, I agreed.” When it came to protecting herself against pregnancy, Teril says she knew nothing and her mother never talked about it. “I felt awkward giving her advise about contraceptives because she was too young.” “I also wasn’t sure whether she was allowed to use contraceptives at her age.” In the Philippines, girls under the age of 18, need their parents’ permission to get contraception or an HIV test. But the age of consent is much lower. Just 12. One of the lowest in the world. The father of Teril’s baby says he’s 28. But local health workers believe he’s at least 10 years older than that. “I feel proud that I have a beautiful wife.” “Even if I’m so much older.” Rodel already had four children when he met Teril. His eldest just a couple of years younger than her. He claimed he didn’t know Teril was only 14 until she got pregnant. “After a year of being together, she told me she was pregnant.” “So I chose her over my wife because I was scared a case might be filed against me.” On the Filipino law, even though Teril was above the age of consent, because she was still under 18 and he was older, Rodel could have been charged with coercing her to have sex. ” I was so scared. I went to her parents’ house and told them that I would take responsibility for the baby.” “They gave the consent.” “My parents were concerned that he might not be able to make a living for us.” “But now they see he’s trying his best to put food on the table. And to support our daily needs. They don’t say anything anymore.” – We reported him to the Department of Social Welfare and Development but the girl didn’t want to press charges because she’s in love. Her parents didn’t want to press charges because as far as they were concerned, she’s being taken care of by her boyfriend now. She’s living with him, one less mouth for them to feed. And they didn’t want to interfere. Amina Evangelista Swanepoel is one of the founders of a Palawan women’s health NGO, Roots of Health. – Something troubling that we’ve also seen among the groups that we work with is that a lot of young girls are in relationships with much older men. And I think technically via the law, you should be able to press charges even without the cooperation of the girl and of the parents. On the other side of town, 23-year-old Angela has four children to two different fathers. The youngest child is just a week old. She says her first sexual experience was when she was fourteen and her boyfriend, 19. “All I knew back then was how to play Chinese garters. That’s all.” “I wanted to cry.” “I was pushing him away.” “But he said he would take responsibility and that he loved me.” “I was scared that other guys won’t accept me anymore.” “I thought whoever took my virginity should be the one.” Angela’s aunt threatened to file a case against him for coercing her into having sex. “That’s why his mother and father decided to make us live together. And make him take responsibility for what he did to me.” At 15, Angela got pregnant. But miscarried at 7 months. At 16, she gave birth to a baby boy. And then within a few weeks, was pregnant again. “They said contraception has side effects. They said it damage the uterus. So, I got scared.” After her second child was born, her boyfriend left her for another woman. Taking their two other kids with him. She now has two more children with a new partner. He’s at work today but they all live here with her family. “He wanted me to get pregnant. “I agreed because he accepted me for who what I am. Unlike others.” “But there are times when he tells me I should be thankful he accepted me.” “Sometimes I cry because my children are suffering. And sometimes they have nothing to eat.” Angela believes would have been very different if she’d known more as a teenager. “It’s better to be educated about what contraceptives are available.” “And what sex is about.” “That’s better than being ignorant.” – Here in Palawan, we have a government that doesn’t spend very much money on teen pregnancy prevention programs. They don’t allot very much funding or any at all to contraception. And so this really ties the hands of the provincial health office. They can’t really do much without the budget to have activities and programs. We visit the vice governor of the province, Dennis Socrates to ask him why this is the case. “I think the solution lies in a more intensive information and education campaign. To tell young people that sex is good but it has to be within the context of a loving and indissoluble marriage and it must be open to life. To parenting, which is a natural consequence of the marital act. – So abstinence till married. – Yes, that’s right. A member of the extremely conservative Catholic group, Opus Dei, he’s vehemently against all forms of contraception. – All human life is good. Even life that is helpless. Even life that belongs to a poor family. Even human life that is unwanted by the mother. – But the United Nations says that it’s a woman’s right to be able to plan a family. What do you say to that? – I disagree with the UN proposition or the UN idea. And I would like to think that that could be overturned in the future. With more than 80% of Filipinos Catholic, the Church wills enormous influence over national policies particularly when it comes to family planning. – It’s 5 years since the government pass a reproductive health law, guaranteeing sex education in schools and access to free contraception. But with fierce lobbying from the Catholic Church and other pro-life groups, it still hasn’t been implemented. And having no access to contraception can have tragic consequences. The black Nazarene church in Manila has come to be known as a place of despair. Many mothers live aborted fetuses here in the hope their child’s soul will be saved. They not only by their God, but also by the law. In the Philippines, abortion is illegal in all circumstances. Even rape. – But right here in front of this church is an abortion supermarket. Where women desperate to get rid of unplanned pregnancies, come for help. Wearing a hidden camera, we send one of our team in undercover to see if she can buy abortion treatments. Within a few minutes, she finds a store willing to help. She tells the woman she’s 4 months pregnant, and with no questions asked, she pays $75 for the remedies. – How did you go? – Yeah. We were able to get what we were looking for. – Wow, it didn’t take you very long. She was sold two treatments, one a herbal and root concoction. – The lady said that you take that concoction when you’re up to two months along. – But then when she found out that I was four months pregnant, she offered pills. And even offered if I wanted further operation through a catheter. The pills are an illegal ulcer medication, known to induce abortion. Anyone caught selling or using them can face up to six years in prison. In a back street of a poor urban community, an abortionist says a prayer. Fearing prosecution, she doesn’t want to be identified. “I light a candle for the fetus because it’s already a human being.” “I also ask for forgiveness from the Lord for the sin I committed.” “I’m scared that the police will come for me. But I muster all my courage because I really need the money.” The woman tells us she’s performed more than a thousand abortions. Most of them on teenagers who were about five months pregnant. She charges them up to $80 depending on how advance the pregnancy is. She says she uses a combination of the illegal ulcer drug and deep massage to push the fetus out. “I tell them if you shout, you did that in pleasure. Don’t complain now.” “If I see that there’s a sudden gush of blood that means some thing has ruptured inside.” “That’s when I ask them to run to the hospital.” They’re on their own. I don’t go with them. I just stay here at the house because we already had a deal.” Every year, it’s estimated that more than half a million women resort to abortion in the Philippines. About a hundred thousand, almost half of them teenagers end up in hospital due to complications. And many die. – So this is ward 4. Here at Doctor Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in Manila, one of the busiest maternity hospitals in the world, there’s a ward dedicated to post abortion patients. – Most patients are reluctant to tell us that they have had an abortion. So, there are telltale signs that they have aborted. And if it’s infected or septic, they come in here heavily bleeding, without a blood pressure, without a pulse. And you do not have any choice but to treat them. Or else they will die. Obstetrician and gynecologist, Dr. Asuncion, sees teenage abortions as a serious health issue. And believes the alarming numbers of teenagers getting pregnant needs to be addressed urgently. “I’d say it’s a crisis because lot of teenagers are getting pregnant. And without finishing their school, the cycle of poverty is never broken. She says each year the hospital delivers thirteen thousand babies. More than two thousand to teenagers. – My goodness, there are a lot of people. Most of them ending up in the cesarean ward. There are a lot of complications for teenage pregnancies like, preterm labor, and usually they would undergo cesarean section because their pelvis are untested. Hypertension is a problem. Hemorrhage is a problem. – So you had your baby just yesterday. Allihah is just 15 years old. Her little boy is now in intensive care with respiratory problems. A common issue for babies born to teenage mothers. Allihah says she got pregnant to her first boyfriend. But that the 25-year-old left her soon after. – Hello, Jolina. On the other side of the ward, is 18-year-old Jolina. – Is this your first baby? – And what about your first baby? What happened? She says after her first pregnancy, she had a contraceptive implant. But had it removed when her 21-year-old partner wanted a baby. – I think really the education is key for solving the problems here. Like having a curriculum in reproductive health and sexuality. – Our stand is to let the teenagers have options regarding contraception. But with no comprehensive sex education curriculum in schools, the Catholic church has a loud voice when it comes to what’s taught to teenagers. Joay Villas’s group, Live Pure, is in the home of one of the country’s most powerful church organizations: Couples for Christ foundation. And works in partnership with the education and social welfare departments. Today they’re at this middle class Catholic high school just outside Manila. After a song, the lesson begins with self worth. – Can you tap the person beside you and tell that person “you are amazing”. Then comes the difference between the sexes. – Every microphone is a male. Because it has penis just like a male. A male organ. – This one, is a female. Because just like a female organ, it’s like that. That’s why only a man and a woman can be one. – If you got it, say “I got it”. But it all goes back to one message. Abstinence is the only way. – When two people does the marital act of sex the woman gives herself and not only herself but also her fertility. The reason why we as a movement, we don’t believe in contraceptives and all that, why? ask me why? – Why?
– Because we believe in our innate capability to control ourselves. – Everybody say “yes”. – Say it louder, say “yes”. – Now even louder say, “yes”. – You know what, chastity, is a yes, prophetic love. Why? – What happens today was amazing. Because at this age our curiosity is triggering. We’re starting to be thirsty. We’re starting to starve for things that shouldn’t be done by us at this young age. The students endorsement of Live Pure is one thing. But their curiosity has many of them turning to social media and pornography. – Why do I watch it? Because I’m incapable of doing it. – Sad to say that it’s normal for us to know that a man is watching pornography. – So with pornography, will you learn about sex? – Yeah.
– Yes. When it comes to contraception, the jury is still out. – Well, natural contraception has a higher risk of of, of pregnancy. But I don’t really have any idea about that. I’m just having— – What about you two girls, like if you did have sex, what do you think you would use to protect yourself? – Stop doing it. – Stop doing it. *laughs* – For me I will never use contraceptives or any birth control because I’m a Catholic person. – I do agree in contraception. I think should be bought. Because not all of us, not everyone of us, can control ourselves. There are people who are weak. Back in Palawan, there’s help for those teenagers who some consider weak. – I think we need a preparation. In the room of the local NGO, Roots of Health, a team of youth advocates prepare to battle the teenage pregnancy epidemic. – I think we need to talk with (..) to get the contraceptives because I have a lot of experience that most of the young people doesn’t want to avail the contraceptives. – Because their partners doesn’t want to get it. Their weapons, contraceptives and sex education. Taking to the streets they visit a popular teenage hangout in Puerto Princesa. Not faraway, at home in her community, thanks to Roots of Health, Teril is now protected from another pregnancy. “I got an implant for 3 years because I’m scared of giving birth again.” She’s also hoping to start vocational educational classes. Having only got to graduate grade six at school. “I want to work hard for my baby. That’s all.” “I want to raise her well.” “I will try my best to send her to school so she won’t be ignorant. So she won’t end up like me who got pregnant at a young age.” And 23-year-old Angela will not be having a fifth baby. She, too, has turned to contraception. Getting an IUD from Roots of Health. “This would be the last one. I don’t want more kids. I might die if I give birth again.” But for 13-year-old Maymay, living in a Manila slum with her 22-year-old boyfriend, the risk of another pregnancy is high. Health coworkers say her contraception injections have lapsed. and fear she’d become yet another of the hundreds of thousands of young Filipino girls whose lives are jeopardized every year by unplanned pregnancies.