With Senate Presiden Mike Haridopolis, R-Melbourne, at his side, House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, gavels the joint session of the 2011 Legislature to a close. (Photo by Meredith Geddings.)

By Ralph De La Cruz
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

It’s been a summer of refusal here in Florida.

According to the Orlando SentinelFlorida lawmakers have turned down more than $50 million in healthcare-related money since last fall. The reason? It was tainted by association with the Affordable Health Care Act of 2010, so-called ObamaCare.

State Rep. Mike Horner of St. Cloud told the newspaper that because the state has filed a lawsuit alleging that the AHCA was unconstitutional, the legislature felt it wasn’t “appropriate,” and it would be “inconsistent,” to accept money from the federal program.

As a result, they gave up money that would have provided preventative counseling to families deemed to be at a high risk of child abuse. The legislature also turned down more money to aid  seniors transition from assisted living facilities into their homes.  Rejected money for community health centers and hospice care for children. Even shunned money for monitoring rising insurance rates.

All turned away in the name of “principle.”

Then came this nugget yesterday: Florida officials have accepted $2.5 million in AHCA money for abstinence-only sex classes.

What happened to “appropriate” and “inconsistent?”

Katie Betta, the communications director for Speaker of the House Dean Cannon, told the Florida Independent that this money was different than the other money because it was for an established Florida program.

Established or not, there are significant doubts about the effectiveness of abstinence-only programs — unlike some of the other programs whose AHCA funding was rejected.

There’s at least one study – by the University of Pennsylvania – that found abstinence-only programs delay the onset of sex. But others have found otherwise.

A 10-year study commissioned by the U.S. Congress followed 2,000 students from elementary to high school, and found that abstinence-only programs had no measurable effect. And researchers at the University of California, San Francisco compared abstinence-only programs to comprehensive sex education programs and concluded: “Not only is there no credible evidence that these millions of dollars have any positive effect, there is reason to be concerned that young people who receive abstinence-only curricula in school will not have the tools to protect themselves in sexual situations.”

Meanwhile there were no such questions about the effectiveness of the child abuse prevention program that was denied AHCA funding.

A five-year Florida study found that 95 percent of children in the Healthy Families program were free of abuse and neglect one year after completing the program. And it’s cost effective: $1,700 per year for each family in the program, versus $64,000 to pay the annual legal and health care costs per abuse case.

But Florida turned down federal funding for Healthy Families while accepting funding for an abstinence-only program with questionable results.