Stop the presses, people! Teenagers are on the Internet … reading about sex … and how to do it safely. SCANDAL, right? It is in Massachusetts. MariaTalks.com is a race-, gender- and sexual-orientation-inclusive sex ed website for teens created by the not-for-profit AIDS Action Committee with a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The site provides fact-based information about emergency contraception, birth control, STDs and sexual coercion. In short, it covers all the ground you’d hope a 16- or 17-year-old (or 14- or 15-year-old) would read before getting sexually active. But, oh yes, some politicians have a problem with the website.Both Republican and Democratic state representatives want to shut down MariaTalks.com for “using graphic language,” as well as “teaching teenage girls how to avoid parental involvement in the abortion decision while downplaying risks,” according to The Boston Herald. At a press conference this morning, State Rep. Marc Lombardo, refused to use any of the words on Maria Talks — you know, like “penis” or “vagina” — in public, claiming, “I wouldn’t read these words in the company of women, never mind the chamber of a special body.” Ugh. Let’s not even touch that one.
Moving on, the lawmakers really take issue with this page from MariaTalks.com, which explains Massachusetts’ abortion law as it relates to young women under the age of 18:
“Ok, I totally know that this information can sound pretty intimidating and overwhelming, but I promise you the reality of getting an abortion is much easier than it sounds here. 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.
If a woman is under age 18, has never been married and decides she wants to have an abortion, Massachusetts law requires both her consent, and either (1) the consent of one parent or legal guardian, or (2) authorization by a judge.
Again, I know it sounds crazy, but just keep reading … this really can be done and young women do this all the time here in Massachusetts.
A woman under 18 who is married or has been married (and is now widowed, separated or divorced) does not need to get parental consent or a judge’s approval. They kind of figure that if you’re old enough to be married, you’re old enough to make the decision for yourself.
If you are under 18 and have decided that abortion is right for you, you can call the Planned Parenthood Counseling and Referral Hotline at 1-800-258-4448 (option 3). They can either help you talk to your parents, or if you decide that you can’t or don’t want to do that, they will provide you with a free lawyer who will help you go to court and talk to a judge. These hearings are scheduled quickly, are kept completely confidential and so far, no minor who’s gone through this process has ever been denied access to an abortion by a judge.”
I guess one man’s “teaching girls how to get abortions without telling their parents” is another man’s “explaining to people how the law works,” huh? And “downplaying the risks” means “not scaring the bejeebus out of you,” right? (I also want to note my surprise that it matters under Massachusetts law whether a young woman under 18 has been married or not. So, if you have or have had a husband, you no longer need parental consent? Can you say “paternalistic”?) Regardless of what your thoughts on parental consent or parental notification laws are (and my thoughts — I’m completely against them both — are clear), it makes me ill to think people don’t want young women to be empowered to make decisions about their own bodies, period. That, too, is paternalism.
I can understand why some people think a parent should know about or consent to an abortion. Yet it boggles the mind when lawmakers outright state an intention to provide less information to women and girls to make choices about their health and their own bodies, presumably so young women will carry all pregnancies to term. And to shut down a website like Maria Talks and cut off access to all the other sexual health information to meet that end? It’s gross is what it is. Besides, an enterprising pregnant 17-year-old could go look this all up online anyway (and possibly find misinformation). The idea that some politicians think it’s better to keep women in the dark about stuff so we can’t do what they don’t want us to do gets into some serious The Handmaid’s Tale s**t.
Some teens have sex. Abortions sometimes happen after sex, for anyone. And some teens who have sex can’t talk to their parents about sex, or needing an abortion, for whatever reason. Deal with it.