Trump’s CDC word ban: Banning words won’t deny the science
Forbidding the use in of crucial words in policy and budget health documents will virtually exclude vital, often life-saving, information being shared related to birth defects, abortion, sexually-transmitted infections, and disparities and vulnerabilities related in race, poverty and sexual orientationeditorials Updated: Dec 21, 2017 11:01 IST
The Trump administration has banned the US’ apex health protection agency from using seven words and phrases — including ’foetus’, ‘diversity’ and ’transgender’ — in documents being prepared for the budget and the Congress. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) more than 12,000 employees in the US and around the world have also been forbidden from using ‘vulnerable’, ‘entitlement’, ‘evidence-based’ and ’science-based’ in official documents. The administration did not explain the thinking behind the ban, but unhelpfully suggested ‘science-based’ or ’evidence-based’ be replaced with “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes”.
The CDC’s raison d’être is using science- and evidence-based research to guide US health policy, prevent and control diseases and outbreaks (ebola, H1N1, zika, to name just a few), fund research and train scientists, researchers and public health specialists to save lives. Forbidding the use of these words in policy and budget health documents will virtually exclude vital, often life-saving, information being shared related to birth defects, abortion, sexually-transmitted infections, and disparities and vulnerabilities related in race, poverty and sexual orientation.
Issues related to abortion, sexual orientation, gender identity and abortion rights have consistently been sidelined since Mr Trump took office. The US also restricted federal funding to organisations that provide abortion information and services overseas, affecting services related to women’s health and safe parenthood worldwide.
This is not the first accusation of censorship of federal agencies being levelled against the Trump administration. Environmental watchdogs accuse it of altering language and deleting scores of links to materials on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website to play down the effects of global warming and climate change. Among the missing pages were plans states could adopt to curb emissions and adapt to extreme weather, such as Hurricane Katrina, which displaced 600,000 households and resulted in damages worth $108 billion.
Some federal departments — including health and human services, justice, education, and housing and urban development— have dropped questions from surveys and website information about and for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Science is evidence-based and cannot be held hostage to the consideration of the community and a president’s wishes.