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CDC denies ban on words

by by Lisa Keen

The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is denying that there is any ban on words at the CDC. The denial came just two days after widespread media attention erupted around an article in the Washington Post, saying the CDC was instructing its budget officials not to use words like "transgender" and "diversity" in its upcoming budget proposals.

The Post report Friday quoted a CDC budget analyst as saying that a senior official at the CDC's Office of Financial Services informed a meeting of CDC budget officials Thursday, December 14, that the Trump administration was banning the use of seven words from official budget documents.

In addition to "transgender" and "diversity," words reportedly banned were "vulnerable," "entitlement," "fetus," "evidence-based," and "science-based."

The Post did not identify its source but said, "Other CDC officials confirmed the existence of a list of forbidden words."

A CBS News report three days later said budget analysts indicated the word ban was intended as a way of attracting greater congressional support for funding. And the New York Times said a "few" Health and Human Services officials "suggested that the proposal was not so much a ban on words but recommendations to avoid some language to ease the path toward budget approval by Republicans."

But the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBT rights group, was not convinced.

"The Trump-Pence administration's effort to eliminate entire communities from its vocabulary is a dangerous attack on LGBTQ people, women, and fact-based policy making," said David Stacy, HRC governmental affairs director. "The move is reminiscent of a time not long ago when the government tried to ignore the reality of the HIV and AIDS crisis to the detriment of millions."

And pro-LGBT Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) likened the reported word ban to the dystopia portrayed in George Orwell's classic "1984."

But CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald said in Twitter posts on Sunday "there are no banned, prohibited or forbidden words at the CDC, period."

CDC's current website includes a "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health" page with photographs of "Gay and Bisexual Men," "Lesbian and Bisexual Women," and "Transgender Persons," suggesting that, if there is an effort underway by the Trump administration to minimize the visibility of LGBT people, it has not yet permeated the agency. The opening statement on that website asserts, "The perspectives and needs of LGBT people should be routinely considered in public health efforts to improve the overall health of every person and eliminate health disparities."

But a similar page on the HHS website has been "archived" and is no longer available, noted ThinkProgress.org.

And the Trump administration has been systematically eliminating LGBT people from federal concerns. At HHS alone, the administration has removed, from at least two federal health surveys, questions that would identify data specific to LGBT people. It announced it would no longer interpret the Affordable Care Act to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. And, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality, President Donald Trump appointed a virulently anti-transgender person, Charmaine Yoest, as HHS assistant secretary for public affairs.

On Monday, Politico.com reported that HHS is refusing to release more than 10,000 public comments submitted in response to a proposal to reduce HHS regulations with regard to religious groups.

"While HHS received 10,729 comments on its proposal," noted Politico, "the agency has only posted 80 comments - less than 1 percent of all submissions - that overwhelmingly back the administration's anti-abortion policies or attack regulations advanced by the Obama administration, such as a rule forcing health care providers that accept federal funding to provide services to transgender patients. Sources with knowledge of HHS decision say the agency hand-picked the comments that it released."

Politico said HHS officials said they are not required to release all the comments because the comments were responding to a "request for information" and not a proposed rule change.

HRC's Stacy said the refusal to release all the comments "is part of a disturbing pattern across the Trump-Pence administration of refusing to even study the unique health care and other needs of LGBTQ people, jeopardizing science-based assessment of heath disparities, and undermining access to programs and services that are vital to the health and well-being of LGBTQ people."

The Trump administration's budget for the next fiscal year is due to be released in February.

Meanwhile, a team of researchers at UCSF launched a national long-term study in June to independently gather health data from individual LGBT participants. The PRIDE Study (Population Research in Identity and Disparities for Equality) seeks to collect health data from individuals through its website over the course of decades.

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