Rights for Pregnant Teens as the Sex Ed Debate Continues

Wednesday August 31st The National Assembly approved the amendments on Law 29 as part of the Bill 330  aiming for the prevention, care and protection of pregnant minors. 

Deputy Marylín Vallarino explains that the document seeks to ensure pregnant teens equal opportunities, dignities, protection and social security among other rights. The initiative states that pregnant teens are entitled to receive aid from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Social Development during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum. These ministries should provide comprehensive health care, evaluation and social counseling, as well as legal information. This legal information should be explained in simple language, offering the young mother a good understanding of her rights. 

 In the case of under age pregnancies mothers are entitled to receive a “prenatal pension” from the father of the child to aid the mother mother in the growth and development of a healthy pregnancy. 

The new amendment stresses that when information provided by a pregnant teen leads to the suspicion of a criminal offense that the health provider file a formal form of suspicion to the Public Ministry and the National Secretariat for Children , Youth and Family (SENNIAF), within 48 hours of the initial medical exam. 

While the fight to reduce teen pregnancy in Panama makes moves, the discussion on sexual education in Panama’s public schools is seemingly at a stand still. 

The conversations continued Thursday September 1st when the The Health Commission of the National Assembly continued talks on the bill. The commission, lead by Deputy Crispiano Adames, was attended by  representatives from various organizations, both for and against the proposal.

While the bill was previously approved, the full assembly returned the bill to debate further after it received criticism from various religious groups. 

In an effort to come to an agreement, sensitive to all sectors, including churches and non-governmental organizations the government aims build a consensus about the law. To do this they have created a "inter-institutional commission" to study the proposed law that would require the teaching of sexual education in public 

On the commission is Vice President and Foreign Minister Isabel de Saint Malo de Alvarado and officials from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Social Development, The Institute of Women, The Secretariat of Adolescents and Family, The Gorgas Memorial Institute and Social Security.