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P.O.V.: New fathers must take responsibility

Unfortunately, kids in America and even in Utah have sex outside of wedlock. According to national statistics from the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative, 66.4 percent of all 12th-graders report having had intercourse. That means chances are, people you know are making potentially life-altering decisions.

I recently visited the Teen Mother's Program offered in the Jordan School District. Currently 133 young women are working to graduate from high school through this innovative and very successful program. But reading statistics on a page pale in comparison to seeing more than 100 girls my age or younger who are either pregnant or who have a baby.I applaud their efforts in making a commitment to succeed and provide a better life for their babies, but at the same time I wonder how many of the men who had so vital a role in the baby's creation are still around.

According to the recently published Utah Department of Health "Report on Adolescent Pregnancy in Utah," about two-thirds of the fathers identified on Utah birth certificates of infants of mothers 15-19 were more than 20 years of age. So it isn't just teenagers having sex with teenagers; it's teenagers having sex with adults.

I spoke with an 18-year-old young man whose girlfriend is enrolled in the program. Ty's (not his real name) girlfriend found out that she was pregnant one month ago. She is a junior in high school; Ty was a senior but dropped out and got his GED certificate so that he could work full time in order to provide for his baby.

"Life for me is a lot of sacrifices. I can't go out and buy a hamburger now because I need that money for my baby more than I need that hamburger," he said.

Though life for Ty isn't easy, he is doing what he needs to do to be "a stand-up guy." To be a stand-up guy means to accept responsibility for your actions. Following is a list of things a teen father can do to be a stand-up guy:

1. If a young man is going to have sex, despite all the warnings against it, he should remember that sex doesn't involve just him and his partner. It potentially involves a new life. If you aren't ready for that (ready means you're old enough to be educated and gainfully employed), either don't have sex or use precautions to protect against pregnancy.

2. A man who is significantly older than his girlfriend should realize she might not be as ready to have sex as he is. If he truly cares about her, he won't risk taking away her childhood for his pleasure.

3. When a girl becomes pregnant, the father is just as pregnant as she is. He must now support her in whatever she chooses to do.

4. If the couple chooses to keep the baby, the father has an obligation to play an active role in the baby's life. The baby and its mother need the young man to be there.

Single parents can do a great job raising children, but there is nothing that can replace two loving parents. There is no excuse for not being involved in your child's life. Teenage pregnancy affects everyone.