In a rather terrifying turn of events, the Trump administration has prohibited the nation’s top health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases in official budget documents next year, according to The Washington Post.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is banned from using words such as transgender, fetus, vulnerable, diversity, science-based, evidence-based and entitlement.
The government has provided alternative words and phrases only for some of the prohibited words. For instance, instead of “science-based” or “evidence-based," experts preparing the official documents were advised to write the “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes."
Other agencies within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have also been instructed to make similar changes, such as using “exchanges” instead of “marketplaces” when referring to venues that sell health insurance.
No replacement has been suggested for some words on the list.
The news has confused public health agencies about whether the ban originated at the agency’s parent department, HHS, or inside the CDC itself — and whether such a ban would apply beyond budget documents.
A spokesperson for the department, Matt Lloyd, stated "the assertion that HHS has ‘banned words’ is a complete mischaracterization of discussions regarding the budget formulation process."
"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," he said.
The State Department has also been affected by a push to avoid certain phrases from the documents.
For example, the department has been encouraged to use “sexual risk avoidance” instead of “sex education." The former is defined in congressional funding bills "as abstinence-only practices until marriage, as the primary form of sex education."
Critics and pundits have described this sinister change of lexicon as “stupid and Orwellian.”
Not only does this move erase the experiences of trans people and those who are vulnerable and require a helping hand from the state, it also removes the idea that policies are guided by scientific findings — allowing politics to step in.
Governmental policies will obviously be influenced, with Jean Kates, vice president and director of global health and HIV policy at Kaiser Family Foundation, predicting more funds may now be directed toward ineffective abstinence-only education.
Since the report came out, Twitter users have pointed how conversations around issues like reproductive rights may now change with this move.
Wow, they are literally trying to force doctors and scientists to pretend a fetus is a baby. https://t.co/pMUnBCG7pL— Amanda Marcotte (@AmandaMarcotte) December 16, 2017
“Evidence-based” on the banned list. Post-facts, post-truth, post-experts - everyone working in every scientific field needs to resist this. https://t.co/ZudJTgq4v6— Sarah Noëls ???? (@dr_know) December 16, 2017
Planned Parenthood also weighed in on the issue and called the move “unimaginably dangerous.”
It also pointed out how the prohibition inhibits medical health professionals, as they “cannot fight against the Zika virus, or improve women’s and fetal health, if [they] are unable to use the word ‘fetus.’”
The fact these proposed words are being banned in a country that prides itself on freedom of rights and equality is perturbing.
Only time will tell the consequences of this word ban on the medical practitioners.
Thumbnail/Banner: Reuters, Tami Chappell