The percentage of high school students who said they had had sexual intercourse fell from 54% to 46% between 1991 and 2001.
Six high school and college students from around the country were interviewed for “Choosing Virginity,” the cover story, in which teens highlight their reasons for not having sex — ranging from fear of pregnancy and STDs, to religious convictions, to “renewed virginity,” the commitment to stop having sex until marriage. A companion piece, titled “The Battle Over Abstinence,” examines some of the forces driving abstinence-only education. ~700 programs in all 50 states (such as Chandler, Ariz.-based “Passion and Principles”) promote an abstinence message, and President Bush hopes to increase spending on these programs next year to $135 million, up from $60 million in 1998. But proponents of comprehensive sex education (i.e. “safe sex”), such as Human Rights Watch Researcher Rebecca Schleifer, say an abstinence-only curriculum poses a “threat to adolescent health” by excluding complete health information and potentially “ostracizes sexual abuse victims”. [Downey/Juarez, Ali/Scelfo, Newsweek 12/9; Kaiser report, 3Dec02]