US health agency reportedly banned from writing ‘transgender,’ ‘fetus’
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US health agency reportedly banned from writing ‘transgender,’ ‘fetus’

Health professionals express outrage over Centers for Disease Control and Prevention word blacklist

The headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Druid Hill, Georgia. (CC BY-SA 2.5, 	Nrbelex, Wikipedia)
The headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Druid Hill, Georgia. (CC BY-SA 2.5, Nrbelex, Wikipedia)

The Trump administration has reportedly instructed officials at a top Federal health agency to stop using seven different words or phrases, among them “transgender” and “fetus.”

According to a Friday report in The Washington Post, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, learned on Thursday of the planned changes, which were included in documents for the 2018 budget.

In addition to “fetus” and “transgender,” “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “evidence-based” and “science-based” will also be forbidden. No reason was given for the words being places out of bounds.

For some phrases, such as “science-based” or “evidence-based,” officials were advised to use alternate wording such as “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.”

No options were suggested for other words.

A CDC analyst present at the meeting when the agency was informed of the changes said other agency officials were “incredulous.”

“In my experience, we’ve never had any pushback from an ideological standpoint,” the analyst told the Post.

Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told the Stat news website that the rules would have a chilling effect on what CDC researchers could publish or say.

“There’s as much of a risk of self-censorship that comes out of this than actual direct censorship. … This is the part that’s much more pernicious than any direct pronouncement,” Jha said.

A spokesman at the Department of Health and Human Services, of which the CDC is a part, told the newspaper the agency “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 spokesperson said.

The spokesperson later told Stat the idea that the agency had banned words was a “a complete mischaracterization of discussions regarding the budget formulation process.”

Last month, US President Donald Trump nominated Alex Azar to head HHS, but he has yet to be confirmed. The department is currently run by Acting Secretary Eric D. Hargan.

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