The four Catholic bishops in Massachusetts are calling on the state to eliminate funding for a sex education website for teens that critics say uses graphic language to describe sex acts and downplays the physical and emotional risks of abortion.
In a statement released yesterday by the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of the Boston Archdiocese and bishops George Coleman of the Fall River Diocese, Timothy McDonnell of the Springfield Diocese, and Robert McManus of the Worcester Diocese urged the state to eliminate a $100,000 grant that funds www.mariatalks.com, which is maintained by the independent AIDS Action Committee. The bishops also asked that the website be taken down.
The state Department of Public Health has defended the site as an important tool for providing accurate sexual health information to teens, but has also indicated that it would be willing to discuss concerns with critics and, if necessary, make changes to the content of the site.
The bishops criticized the site for using “demeaning and sexually explicit terminology.’’
The site features “Maria’’ and other fictional teens who discuss topics including sex, birth control, pregnancy, abortion, and sexually transmitted diseases.
The website refers to abortion in “misleadingly opaque terms,’’ according to the Catholic leaders, and provides teens with detailed information on how they can obtain abortions without parental consent. The bishops said it also does not acknowledge the possible long-term consequences of having an abortion.
Earlier this week, 62 members of the House of Representatives signed a letter to Governor Deval Patrick urging that state funds be eliminated if changes are not made to the website immediately.
Some legislators are defending the website, including Representative Byron Rushing, Democrat of Boston, who said it is thorough and speaks in terms young people can understand.
Supporters also point to a lengthy section about sexual abstinence on the website.