At first ridiculed, it has gained the support of many.

At first, no one took Sen. Jeremiah Denton (R-Ala.) seriously when he introduced the Adolescent Family Life Bill. It was ridiculed as “the chastity bill.” But the tenacious freshman senator refused to give up, and his legislation passed Congress after gaining endorsements from groups as disparate as the National Right to Life Committee and the National Urban League. Currently awaiting its first slice of the federal budget, the new program provides an alternative to federally funded teen-age “family planning” services, which primarily dispense contraceptives and provide abortion counseling.

The programs authorized by the act will emphasize abstinence from premarital sex and encourage family dialogue about teen-age decisions regarding sex. A unanimously favorable Senate committee report on the bill points out that “many adolescents need to be reassured that it is all right and normal to postpone sexual relations until they are married.”

Earlier attempts to curb the increasing incidence of teen pregnancy have only made matters worse, Denton asserts. He wrote in the Washington Post that “millions of dollars have purchased America’s adolescents sex education, contraceptives, and abortion counseling, without the knowledge or consent of parents. A new morality is always implicit and sometimes explicit in this policy: it teaches that sexual activity among teen-agers is inevitable and acceptable so long as pregnancy does not result.”

Percentage Of Never Married Women Engaging In Sex

SOURCE: Melvin Zelnik and John F. Kantner, “Sexual Activity, Contraceptive Use and Pregnancy Among Metropolitan Area Teenagers, 1971–1979”; Family Planning Perspectives, vol 12, no. 5, Sept.–Oct. 1980

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