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Beyond Abstinence-Only: Speaking Out on Adolescent Sexuality

The United States may be raising some of the most sexually confused adolescents in the world. Movies, advertising, web sites, music, and television shows give teens the message that “everyone is doing it,” while the official policy of the federal government and 46 states is abstinence-only until marriage. And most parents, schools, and religious institutions say little to nothing to adolescents about their sexual behaviors, sexual orientation, and sexual health, even though one recent report revealed that the vast majority of Americans have been having sex before marriage for decades.

Caught between “just do it” and “just say no,” with little moral guidance for making healthy decisions, more than six in 10 adolescents engage in sexual intercourse by the time they leave high school. Each year, about 800,000 of them become pregnant and approximately 25 percent contract a sexually transmitted disease.

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