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April 14, 2004

Column #1,181

"True Love Waits" Lowers Teen Birth Rate

by Michael J. McManus

Ten years ago Southern Baptist churches began asking their teenagers to sign a "True Love Waits" pledge of chastity. This was derided by groups like Planned Parenthood who argued that it was unrealistic to expect teenagers to remain chaste till marriage. 

Planned Parenthood's answer is comprehensive sex education which assumed teens would be sexually active, and urged them to have "safe sex" with condoms. It did not work. In 1970, only 29 percent of females aged 15-19 had premarital sex. By 1991, the figure shot up to 54 percent. The greatest increase was among the youngest teens. In 1970, less than 5 percent of 15- year-olds had experienced sex. That soared five-fold to 26 percent by 1988.

The consequences have been devastating. There were only 59,000 births to unmarried teens in 1950 which skyrocketed ten-fold to 522,000 by 1990. And that is in spite of 364,000 abortions to teenagers in 1990, which were virtually zero before 1970. 

When teaching contraception increased teen pregnancy, sex educators got birth control clinics opened nearby, then moved into the schools, finally simply handed out condoms. All of this with federal funding. 

The emotional impact of premature sex has been devastating. Teen rates of depression have soared and teen suicides quadrupled from 2.7 per 100,000 in 1955 to 11.1 in 1995.

Amidst this moral chaos, Southern Baptists lit a candle of hope, that teenagers might be persuaded to remain chaste. Specifically, Baptist youth groups were urged to sign a "True Love Waits" pledge card that states:

"Believing that (ital) true love waits, (close ital) I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, those I date, my future mate, and my future children to be sexually pure until the day I enter a covenant marriage relationship."

In 1994 I remember seeing a sea of 211,643 pledge cards displayed in neat rows of plastic holders over acres between the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol. 

Ten years later, a total of 2.5 million teens have pledged "True Love Waits." 

What has been the impact of this inspiring commitment of young people to moral lives?

First, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the percentage of sexually active high schoolers has fallen from 54 percent to 46 percent. And the greatest drop has been among boys!

Second, teen birth rates have fallen 31 percent. Chastity is the only real form of "safe sex."

Third, teen suicides have fallen 13.5 percent. 

Fourth, True Love Waits launched an abstinence revolution, moving Congress to appropriate funds for sex education programs that not only make a case for chastity, but teach skills to teenagers on how to resist the lines of the MTV culture:

"You would, if you loved me" can be countered, "If you loved me, you would not ask." 

Unquestionably, the declines in teen sexuality are partly due to providing $144 million to promote abstinence. For example, there is now an Abstinence Clearinghouse that provided many of the statistics you are seeing in this column (abstinence.org)

Yet federal and state governments still spend $1.73 billion to promote contraception.  "Overall, government spent $12 to promote condoms and comprehensive sex-ed for every dollar to encourage abstinence," reports Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation.

These priorities are upside down, according to parents. A Zogby poll found that 85 percent of parents said the emphasis placed on abstinence for teens should be equal to, or greater than the emphasis on contraception.

What can be done? 

First, more parents need to attend School Board meetings to demand that abstinence education replace comprehensive sex ed. 

Second, citizens ought to swing behind the President's attempt to nearly double federal funds for abstinence which are a part of the welfare reform bill that died on the Senate floor two weeks ago, thanks to Democratic opposition. This is the same bill which provides the first major funding for marriage education. The bill will surface again in June. Write Democratic Senators. 

Or better, send teenage pledgers to meet their Senators!

Most important, religious youth group in other denominations should go to truelovewaits.com to order pledge cards, father-daughter rings and other material to promote God's plan of chastity. 

Southern Baptists are organizing an international display of commitment cards on August 22 at the Olympics. Two hundred thousand have already been collected in South Africa. 

Will your teenagers or those from your church have their pledges displayed in Athens?

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