LANSING – Staff for state representatives may have discovered over the last week, that they were unable to access certain sites related to HIV and reproductive health.
A spokesperson for Speaker of the House Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) says a recent software update is to blame.
“The nonpartisan Legislative Service Bureau manages web traffic for the entire legislature. Use of the Internet by staff and the public is subject to limitations to certain sites based upon content, which would include pornography, sexually explicit language, nudity or other suggestive information,” says Ari Adler. “The network service for website filtering was recently upgraded and now includes the category of ‘sex education.’ The websites HIVPlusMag.com and PlannedParenthood.org were deemed ‘sex education’ by the filter and were automatically blocked.”
The Legislative Service Bureau is overseen by a committee of elected officials from both chambers of the legislature, including Speaker Bolger and Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville.
An employee from a state representative’s office provided BTL with a screen shot of their attempt to access the nationally recognized website for HIV Plus Magazine. The employee had attempted to access the website, only to be notified it was blocked because it was deemed “sex education.” This information came to light Oct. 28.
BTL reached out to Katie Carey, spokesperson for Democratic Leader of the House, Rep.Tim Greimel.
“It is no surprise that house Republicans, who want to legislate birth control for women or require them to have an additional rider to cover abortions in the case of miscarriage or rape, would want to restrict access to legitimate medical articles in our building,” Carey said.
Then added, “In our building you can’t visit Planned Parenthood, but you can go to Right to Life. Guttmacher Institute is blocked, but abstinence.net isn’t.”
“I didn’t try to visit abstinence.net, but I know as of yesterday college.studentsforlife.org and studentsforlife.org were both blocked by the filter as ‘sex education,'” wrote Anna Heaton, a GOP communications staffer, in an email on Oct. 29. “It definitely was not just PP [Planned Parenthood].”
The problem has been fixed, Adler said.
“Because this was brought to our attention, LSB will now exclude the category of sex education from the filtering service and the sites mentioned above should be accessible,” Adler said. “As new software gets installed and new sites are developed, we are continuously reviewing and altering the filter service we use and will continue to address concerns that are brought to our attention.”