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Teens Who Choose to Wait

Fewer teenagers are being influenced by the suggestive messages of sex so increasingly pervasive in American media and culture. And that's good news.

The percentage of high school students who say they have had sexual intercourse dropped from 54 percent in 1991 to 46 percent in 2001, according to a recent government report.

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It's a trend the Bush administration hopes won't go away. In fact, the president proposes to boost spending on abstinence education to $135 million - up from $60 million in 1998.

Abstinence programs do more than warn about risky sexual behavior. They also aim to help teens improve self-worth, set goals, discover values, and talk about personal relationships.

Many abstinence groups, such as "True Love Waits," sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention, place a Christian influence behind reasons to delay sex until marriage. But teens also can benefit by hearing an abundance of true-life examples, such as those in Newsweek's current cover story.

With fearless openness, a group of young men and women willingly explain their diverse reasons for postponing sex. One Wellesley College sophomore explains how abstinence allows her to assert herself against social pressures to conform. Other students point to concerns about pregnancy, or becoming too emotionally committed at an early age.

While parents and religious leaders can provide advice and counseling, more teen voices like these can be a powerful force in helping young people realize they can still be hip if they choose abstinence.