Massachusetts: Maria Talks Website Still Promotes Abortion

State   Steven Ertelt   Jun 14, 2011   |   1:40PM    Boston, MA

The Massachusetts state health department has responded to some of the concerns pro-life advocates presented regarding the pro-abortion Maria Talks web site that is funded with taxpayer funds. But the web site still suggests abortions to teenage girls.

The AIDS Action Committee produced the web site in 2008 using a $100,000 grant 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.

Massachusetts Citizens for Life brought the concerns about the Maria Talks web site to light and it informed LifeNews.com on Monday that it “commends the Massachusetts Department of Public Health for adding suggestions that children talk to their parents to the abortion page of their website Maria Talks. This is a positive first response to the concern of parents across the state.”

But MCFL says “numerous and substantial problems” remain.

“The site still tells minors how to get abortions without telling their parents, still gives minors contact information to find a lawyer for the judicial bypass, still helps minor girls obtain abortifacient drugs, also known as “emergency contraception”, which involves potentially concealing statutory rape, and still refers minor girls to Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the state (nearly 2/3 of all abortions in MA in 2009),” MCFL president Anne Fox said.

In its initial complaints, MCFL indicated 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.”

Fox says the Maria Talks web page says, “If you are not yet a teen, you might not want to visit my site,” which she explains, “conforms to MDPH documents which state that this material is designed for teens.” At the same time, materials from the state health department show Massachusetts officials propose “to expand the MariaTalks.com website and helpline to better serve high-risk, vulnerable youth and families in Latino communities in the urban areas of Holyoke, Lawrence, and Springfield, MA.”

“Officials at the MDPH told representatives from MCFL that the hotline has been the key to the program, receiving most of the $100,000 in state funding for salaries for the people answering the phones and that the website was designed to bring youngsters to the hotline,” Fox explained. “These officials also said that the people answering the phones do not ask the ages of the children to whom they speak.  Sexual activity with a minor is statutory rape, which must be reported by state law.  Obviously, this law is being ignored.”

Fox pointed to other state health department documents showing “The MDPH will also work with Planned Parenthood League of MA to design the web-based and classroom-based curriculum modules.” That is concerning, she says, given the multiple incidents at Planned Parenthood centers nationally showing the abortion business not properly reporting cases of statutory rape to officials.

“There is an ongoing national scandal, including at least one indictment, about Planned Parenthood refusing to report statutory rape and encouraging girls to cover up the abuse.  The links on Maria Talks are invariably to Planned Parenthood,” she said.

She concluded, “We believe the MDPH worked in good faith to add references to parents to Maria Talks.  Unfortunately, this does not make the site any more acceptable to the parents of the state nor does it make the content any more appropriate for the teens of the state.  We urge the Department to remove the site entirely.”

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.

ACTION:  Complain about the web site to Governor Deval Patrick here and your legislators at https://www.malegislature.gov