The nation’s health protection agency is being censored by the Trump administration, according to a report from The Washington Post.
Seven words — “diversity,” “transgender,” “evidence-based,” “science-based,” “vulnerable,” “entitlement” and “fetus” — have all reportedly been banned from use at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in documents relating to next year’s budget.
An analyst who attended a briefing on the new requirements told The Post that in some cases a different phrase was provided. “Science-based” and “evidence-based” can, for instance, be replaced with “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.” Not every banned word received a new option.
CDC officials have disputed the claim. CDC Director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald in a series of tweets said “there are no banned words at CDC.”
Matt Lloyd, a spokesman for the department of Health and Human Services, provided a statement to multiple media outlets also rejecting the notion that there are “banned words.”
“The assertion that HHS has ‘banned words’ is a complete mischaracterization of discussions regarding the budget formulation process,” Lloyd said. “HHS will continue to use the best scientific evidence available to improve the health of all Americans. HHS also strongly encourages the use of outcome and evidence data in program evaluations and budget decisions.”
The analyst who spoke with the Post insisted that it is in fact a ban.
“What would you call it when you’re told not to use those words?” the analyst questioned. “If that’s not a ban, maybe I need to improve my vocabulary.”
And according to health experts, to ban words could prove deadly.
An official with Planned Parenthood told STAT that the directives will put “millions of lives in danger.”
“You cannot fight against the Zika virus, or improve women’s and fetal health, if you are unable to use the word ‘fetus.’ You must be able to talk about science and evidence if you are to research cures for infectious diseases such as Ebola,” said Dana Singiser, the organization’s VP of public policy. “You must be able to acknowledge the humanity of transgender people in order to address their health care needs. You cannot erase health inequities faced by people of color simply by forbidding the use of the words ‘vulnerable’ or ‘diversity.’”
Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said that the ban will likely extend beyond the budget report.
“So of course the administration and its defenders are going to argue that this is only about what goes into the budget,” Jha reported to STAT. “But we know that the signal to the agency is much stronger than that. And it’s going to change behavior of people who work there. And that’s much more damaging than any direct censorship.”
Dr. Sandro Galea, dean of Boston University’s School of Public Health, told The Associated Press that banning certain words speaks volumes to the administration’s priorities.
“If you are saying you cannot use words like ‘transgender’ and ‘diversity,’ it’s a clear statement that you cannot pay attention to these issues,” Galea said.
The news came from Alison Kelly, a senior in the CDC’s financial office, according to the analyst.
The Trump administration has previously tried to control how certain agencies communicate with the public, tailoring their messages to fit his agenda.
Earlier this year, officials with the Environmental Protection Agency were banned from speaking with reporters. The agency was also instructed by the administration to take down its web page pertaining to climate change.
In March the Energy Department was forbidden from using “climate change” and “Paris agreement” in their communications.
Following Trump’s inauguration, the White House scrubbed from its website all references to LGBT rights, deleted the civil rights page and erased any mention of climate change. A report called “Advancing LGBT Workplace Rights” also disappeared from the Department of Labor website.