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Florida legislators okay funds for abstinence education

While the state Legislature has turned its back on millions in health care grants from the federal Affordable Care Act, it appears there's an exception to the rule: Programs aimed at teaching kids to say no to sex.

Appropriations authorized by the federal law give Florida $2.6 million per year from fiscal year 2010 through 2014 to fund the state's Abstinence Education Program. And the state will match those funds with nearly $2 million more.

Florida's statewide campaign, "It's Great to Wait," encourages youths between ages 9 and 18 to abstain from sex before marriage.

While the grant doesn't explicitly prohibit lessons on contraception, it requires programs to teach that "abstinence from sexual activity is the only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and other associated health problems."

Programs also educate young people how to reject sexual advances and how alcohol and drug use increases vulnerability.

Abstinence-only education has been favored by conservative groups, but it is controversial among scientists who say there isn't solid evidence that it is effective in curbing teen pregnancy.

For at least two other programs, the Legislature refused funds, even though the governor's office and the Agency for Health Care Administration requested them.

The Money Follows the Person Grant would give Florida $37.5 million to help transition the elderly and the disabled out of nursing homes and back into the community. The Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting grant would have initially awarded $3.4 million, with more to come. It would have provided nurses and case workers to visit the homes of new and expectant mothers to give them support.

Thirteen organizations received abstinence education funding, including the Pinellas Crisis Pregnancy Center, with locations in Pinellas Park, Largo and Dunedin.

HealthyState.org is a public media project of the Corporation of Public Broadcasting at WUSF in Tampa.

Florida legislators okay funds for abstinence education 08/03/11 [Last modified: Thursday, August 4, 2011 12:12am]

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