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Teens abstaining from sex at higher rate than 10 years ago

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–More teenagers are abstaining from sexual activity now than a decade ago, according to a report this summer by Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, a study conducted every two years by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 1990, the YRBSS found that 54.3 percent of teens in grades nine through 12 had had sexual intercourse. By 2001, that number had dropped to 44.6 percent, a difference of nearly 10 percent.

Experts cite several reasons for the decline.

“They’re raising their standards,” Leslee Unruh, president of Abstinence Clearinghouse, told CNSNews.com. “They’re saying they know the difference between lust and love. And they’re choosing love.”

Others believe teenagers are more aware of the dangers associated with premarital sex as a result of the expansion of sex education since the mid-1990s. In 1996, Congress approved Title V of the Welfare Reform Act, providing $50 million in funding every year for five years to states where schools had programs teaching about abstinence from sex outside of marriage.

Funding for Title V expired last year, but the Bush administration has urged Congress to renew the funds. The U.S. House has approved the renewal, and a similar measure is pending in the Senate.

“There is no doubt that kids are responding to an unambiguous abstinence message,” Peter Brandt of Focus on the Family said in The Washington Times July 22. “The federal Title V abstinence program is having a tremendous impact.”

Despite the significant decline in teen sexual activity, Kristin A. Moore, president of Child Trends, Inc., said in The Washington Times, “I don’t think it’s strong enough to be a U-turn. It’s trending down, but even with improvements, we have a lot of kids who are having risky sex.”

Syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher took note of the key component of successful pregnancy prevention programs in a July 23 column: “You gotta tell the kids it is a bad idea to have a baby while a teenager. What works, in general, is responsible adults talking straight with teens. Many will listen and learn.”

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