In the past few weeks, the sexual health education website MariaTalks.com has come under attack for the accurate and destigmatized language it uses to discuss abortion. The attacks have come not only from conservative anti-abortion organizations and the Catholic church in Massachusetts, but ultimately 63 members of the Massachusetts State House of Representatives, all of whom signed a letter to Governor Deval Patrick urging him to eliminate state funding for this important project.
Please sign our petition to the Massachusetts State Government, including the House of Representatives, the Senate, and Governor Patrick in support of MariaTalks.com.
Here are some fast facts on MariaTalks from AIDS Action, the nonprofit organization that runs the site:
All of the content on MariaTalks.com has been developed in collaboration with public health and pediatric experts.
The goal of the site is to help young people make healthy, informed decisions about sex. Research shows thatwhen comprehensive sexual health information is made available to young people, they will delay sexual activity and make safer choices once they are sexually active. [SOURCE: Underhill, K., et al. 2007a. Sexual abstinence only programmes to prevent HIV infection in high income countries: systematic review. British Medical Journal; Underhill, K., et al. 2007b. Systematic Review of Abstinence-Plus HIV prevention programs in high-income countries. PLOS Medicine 4(9):1471-1485.]
Information on the site encourages young people to talk with their parents, or another trusted adult, about the decisions they are making, and to see a medical provider for contraception and STD testing if they are sexually active.
The site is made up of 50 pages; 30 of them are focused on delaying sex or making decisions to prevent unintended pregnancy. One page provides information about abortion; this page comes at the end of the chapter on pregnancy and follows pages on teen parenting and adoption.
In 2009, 48 percent of high school students in Massachusetts (grades 9-12) were sexually active, with 66 percent of all high school seniors reporting that they were sexually active. Only 43 percent of sexually active high school students, and 50 percent of sexually active high school seniors reported using a condom the last time they had sex. [SOURCE: Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System.]
The issues that are addressed through the Maria Talks website are essential in safeguarding the general, sexual health of young people by informing them of their risk for unintended pregnancies, HIV, and other sexually transmitted infections.
We urge you to support continued funding for MariaTalks.com.
Critics focus solely on the discussion of abortion on MariaTalks, without acknowledging the information the site provides on sexual anatomy, birth control (including emergency contraception), issues of sexuality and coming out, discussions of abstinence and determining if you are ready for a sexual relationship, sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV/AIDS), sexual violence, and - importantly - how to find local healthcare services. When it comes to discussing pregnancy, MariaTalks provides medically and legally accurate information about reproduction, and includes sections on parenting, adoption, and abortion. The site is made up of 50 pages; 30 of them are focused on delaying sex or making decisions to prevent unintended pregnancy. One page provides information about abortion.
Additionally, MariaTalks encourages young people to seek the advice of their parents, medical providers, and other adults with whom they feel comfortable when making decisions about their sexual health. For those young people in need of abortion services and without such an adult in their lives, it provides legally accurate information on the process of judicial bypass.
This website represents an invaluable resource to the youth of Massachusetts, who are often flooded with inaccurate information about sex from the media and their peers. Providing a space where they can go for good, accessible answers to protect their health, prevent pregnancy, and become empowered decision-makers is a worthy investment of the Commonwealth, and we strongly believe it should continue to be funded.