How would you feel if you learned that your state government was promoting a medical procedure to your teenage daughter – one that carries risks of blood clots, infection, pelvic inflammatory disease, injury to her cervix (including cervical lacerations), injury to her other organs, future miscarriages and complicated pregnancies, infertility, hysterectomy, hemorrhage, depression, anxiety, increased risk of future drug and alcohol abuse, and even death (from the procedure or suicide) – and was coaching her on how to avoid informing you or seeking your permission to obtain it? As preposterous as it may sound, the State of Massachusetts is doing exactly that – promoting abortion and guiding teens on how to avoid state-required parental consent – and is using taxpayer funds to do it.
The website www.mariatalks.com funded through grants from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, provides dangerously incomplete information about abortion to minors. The website, written in the voice of a teenager, “Maria,” describes an abortion as: “when the contents of the womb (uterus) are removed, so that the uterus goes back to how it was before a woman got pregnant.” The description curiously fails to mention that the “contents of the womb” include an unborn baby.
Perhaps even more troubling, under the question heading “Is it safe?,” Maria writes: “Yes. My Aunt Lucia says that abortions are safe and effective, though some people may experience temporary discomfort. She also says that early abortions have less risk than those done later in the pregnancy.”
It is quite unfortunate that “Aunt Lucia” – described on the site as an OB/GYN who states that “there’s lots of information on the internet, but not all of it is accurate . . . [therefore, she is] happy to provide . . . honest and real information on sex and sexual health” – fails to mention the list of possible complications of abortion including those discussed above. “Aunt Lucia” also does not disclose that teens are at greater risk for many of these complications than older women. It is striking that she fails to even advise teens that if “temporary discomfort” following an abortion continues or becomes worse, they should tell their parents or go to a hospital since some of these complications can be life-threatening. Maria and her friends would be well-counselled to find another OB/GYN.
Maria advises teens that “the reality of getting an abortion is much easier than it sounds . . . 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.” While Maria gives lip service to involving parents in an abortion decision, she fails to emphasize the unique quality of the parent-child relationship, and the fact that parents usually possess information essential to a physician’s exercise of his or her best medical judgment concerning their daughter. Further, parents who are aware that their daughter has had an abortion are generally better equipped to ensure that she receives sufficient follow-up care, particularly if she has post-abortive complications. Instead, Maria advises teens on how to obtain a free lawyer to go through the state’s judicial bypass process (which she claims is nothing more than a mere formality).
Maria’s advice also offers no help to teens who are facing coercion, abuse, or duress. While she flippantly says that “it is your right to decide what to do without feeling judged, pressured or criticized,” she does not address what a teen should do when a boyfriend, boyfriend’s parent, or even her own family are coercing her to have an abortion against her will.
In a strange twist, Maria’s adoption advice includes the observation that “going through [the adoption] process can be pretty tough for some people, especially emotionally.” However, she offers no such warning about abortion. So much for the website being unbiased.
At Americans United for Life, we are committed to helping states enact new and strengthen existing laws that require parental involvement in teens’ abortion decisions. This legislative session, we are actively assisting three states with passing and improving these laws. For more information on the need for parental involvement laws, including documentation of the risks that abortion poses to minors, please see AUL’s written testimony supporting a parental consent law under consideration in Nebraska.
Defending Life 2011: