A Department of Health spokesperson says the controversial Massachusetts taxpayer-funded web site MariaTalks.com will remain online in its current format despite promoting abortions and Planned Parenthood.
The AIDS Action Committee produced the web site in 2008 using a $100,000 rant from the state Department of Public Health.
But the web site goes on to tell teenage girls, “The reality of getting an abortion is much easier than it sounds here” while also telling them adoption “can be pretty tough for some people, especially emotionally.” Another page has “Maria,” the web site guide, telling girls that a friend who had an abortion found it to be a “difficult decision” but decided the abortion was the “best choice … for herself, her boyfriend, her family and her future.”
Gov. Deval Patrick has declined to remove funding for the website, though he has promised he would listen to concerns from state legislators about it. His office referred reporters to the Department of Health and spokeswoman Julia Hurley provided a statement to the Boston Pilot newspaper.
“The goal of the Department of Public Health is to ensure that medically accurate health information continues to be available and accessible to individuals across the Commonwealth, and we believe that this website hosted by the AIDS Action Committee is an important tool to help us do just that,” the statement said. “We understand that some members of the legislature have some concerns about the presentation and content of the Maria Talks website, and we are eager to meet with them over the next few days to listen to their concerns and understand what steps, if any, should be taken to improve upon its content.”
Lawmakers have been outraged ever since Massachusetts Citizens for Life alerted them to it. Rep. Marc Lombardo, a Republican, is one of those who are seeking to lobby Patrick to yank funding for it.
Also, the Pilot indicates Daniel Avila, the public policy director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, is encouraging Massachusetts residents to continue contacting the governor and state legislators opposing the website.
“I think it’s just important for those concerned about parental rights and governmental communications directed to kids that people keep trying on this issue to have the state take the website down and to address the process that resulted in the website produced with our tax dollars,” Avila said.
The web page also urges teens to bypass parental involvement, saying, “It may be really hard for you to imagine talking to either your parents or a judge about getting an abortion, but there are people who can help you through it.” Current state law requires that children under the age of 18 receive permission from a parent or guardian for an abortion, but the web site urges girls to get around with a judicial bypass: “I know it sounds crazy . . . this really can be done and young women do this all the time here in Massachusetts.”
But IDS Action Committee chief Rebecca Haag has defended the contents of the web page.
“We feel strongly that the issues that are addressed through the Maria Talks Web site are essential in safeguarding the general, sexual health of youth by informing them of their risk for unintended pregnancies, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections,” Haag said.
Anne Fox, president of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, says the web page is inaccurate and deliberately misleading.
“It literally coaches minor girls on how to obtain abortions without their parents knowing,” Fox complained in an email to LifeNews.com.
“Besides closing the site, there must be a public accounting of the funding and the decision making that lead to this serious violation of the public trust,” she said. “Tax-payers need to know who in the administration authorized these funds, who approved the one-sided and misleading content of the website, who chose the group involved in creating and maintaining the website, and how it was determined that this group was qualified to counsel minor girls.”