Lawyer Addresses PHS Students About Costs of Teen Pregnancy

Attributions: 
By Krystal K. Baker

Over 40 percent of babies born in the United States each year are born to unwed mothers, and although data reported by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, reports that Utah has the 8th  lowest teen pregnancy rate in the nation, these statistics do not mean Utahans can afford to ignore the growing teen pregnancy problem in the youth population.

On Tuesday Oct. 19 Payson High School’s Latinos in Action group brought in Utah County Attorney Scott Card to address Payson teens about “The Legal Consequences of Teen Pregnancy.”

According to Card, unwed pregnancy costs the justice system $19.3 billion dollars annually, and $27.9 billion dollars in Medicaid costs. While the costs to unwed mothers and fathers are great, the cost to the illegitimate child is incalculable.

Illegitimacy leads to poor health at birth, emotional and mental health problems, poor cogitation and verbal development, behavioral problems, crime and drug usage and low academic performance. In addition, 7 out of 10 youth in juvenile detention centers are children of unwed mothers. According to Card, many of these pregnancies occurred while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“There were drugs or alcohol involved which made the woman or girl’s ability to choose minimal,” Card said.

Addressing how teens can stop this from happening to them, Card said, “Don’t have sex, bingo. Don’t do it--that’s the easy way.”

After discussing welfare costs and poverty rates for unwed, teen mothers, Card specifically addressed the males in the audience. He discussed the responsibilities of paternity, from legal costs of DNA testing to paying child care.

“The biggest thing I learned was just how much child care costs,” said Payson High School student Kyle Sherman.

“If you make $100,000 a year, child care costs will equal a full year’s salary by the time the child is 18. I was also shocked to find out that only 25 percent of fathers actually pay the full amount of child care,” Sherman said.

Bryan Lopez, Payson High School sophomore added, “I learned not to get a girl pregnant, it is a lot of responsibility.”

Card said his message to Payson High School was not that you are already lost if you come from a single parent family, or even if you are currently in a teen pregnancy situation now, but that the cycle can be stopped. He urged youth to not have children before they are married, and to get their education. Statistics show a strong correlation between graduating from high school and going to college and a low rate of unwed births.

“Only 12 percent of college grads have a first birth that is illegitimate,” Card said. “This is in contrast to high school dropouts that have a rate of 83 percent of first births that are illegitimate.”

Card reminded the boys that girls can get pregnant from a one-time sexual encounter, and told the females not to be lured in by messages of romance.

 

“ If you get involved in adult activities, there are adult consequences,” Card said.