Newsweek Cover Story Examines Abstinence-Only Education
The Dec. 9 issue of Newsweek examines the trend of fewer teens reporting that they are sexually active and an increase in abstinence-only sex education programs bolstered by millions of dollars in federal funding. The percentage of high school students who said they had had sexual intercourse fell from 54% to 46% between 1991 and 2001, and the Bush administration is aiming to fund even more abstinence education initiatives, according to Newsweek. 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 sexually transmitted disease to religious convictions to "renewed virginity," or a commitment to stop having sex until marriage (Ali/Scelfo, Newsweek, 12/9).
A companion piece, titled "The Battle Over Abstinence," examines some of the forces driving abstinence-only education. Seven hundred programs in all 50 states -- such as the 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, Newsweek reports. According to Newsweek, the idea is politically "an easy win: it resonates with conservative voters, but doesn't upset pro-choice moderates." But proponents of comprehensive sex education, 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," Newsweek reports (Downey/Juarez, Newsweek, 12/9).