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The Trump administration is prohibiting officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases — including “fetus” and “transgender” — in official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.
In some instances, the analysts were given alternative phrases. Instead of “science-based” or “evidence-based,” the suggested phrase is “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes,” the person said. In other cases, no replacement words were immediately offered.
Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden terms at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden terms are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”
At the CDC, the meeting about the banned terms was led by Alison Kelly, a career civil servant who is a senior leader in the agency’s Office of Financial Services, according to the CDC analyst, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly. Kelly did not say why the words are being banned, according to the analyst, and told the group that she was merely relaying the information.
At the CDC, several offices have responsibility for work that uses some of these terms. The National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention is working on ways to prevent HIV among transgender people and reduce health disparities. The CDC’s work on birth defects caused by the Zika virus includes research on the developing fetus.
The reaction of people in the meeting was “incredulous,” the analyst said. “It was very much, ‘Are you serious? Are you kidding?’ ”
The Post’s reports were largely based on an anonymous policy analyst, who took part in a 90-minute policy briefing with senior CDC officials, and an anonymous HHS official. Other outlets, including The New York Times and STAT, have since confirmed with other sources parts of the Post’s reports, notably that such lists and term swaps exist. But, the HHS and other sources say the Post’s reports misrepresented the language changes, which were not bans.
Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told STAT:
“So of course the administration and its defenders are going to argue that this is only about what goes into the budget. 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.”
So yes, this is still happening. It just seems all it takes is a change of terminology to make Trump supporters convinced it isn't happening.