CDC can say 'fetus,' insists there's no ban on words

Bryan Strickland
December 21, 2017

The Human Rights Campaign had an interesting response to reports that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is barred from using certain words in documents for next year's budget.

Last week, analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were told to stop using seven words in official papers, including the word "transgender".

The seven words and phrases the departments are reportedly discouraged from using are "vulnerable", "entitlement", "diversity", "transgender", "fetus", "evidence-based" and "science-based". She spoke on condition of anonymity, according to the Associated Press.

"The assertion that H.H.S. has "banned words" is a complete mischaracterization of discussions regarding the budget formulation process", Matt Lloyd, an agency spokesman, said in a statement. HHS officials gave different accounts of how that took place. The officials suggested an alternative: "CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes".

"I think this is more the bureaucracy trying to react to what they think the new administration wants to hear", Cole said, adding that while he still plans to talk to CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald about the matter, it appears to him that "this is not any effort to impose any effort to impose parameters on research or blinkers on science".

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The Atlanta-based CDC is in charge of responding to infectious disease outbreaks, like Ebola and Zika, and tracking a wide range of chronic diseases and other health problems.

The report prompted widespread outrage, especially on social media among members of the science and public health communities who raised concerns about censorship of the nation's flagship public health agency, the politicization of science, and the adverse impact on certain groups. "Here's a word that's still allowed: ridiculous", Rush Holt, CEO of AAAS (Science's publisher), told the Post.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, said in a phone interview Monday that while he was "alarmed" by reports about the budget guidance, he speculated that "what we're looking at is more silly than sinister". They're saying not to use it in your request for money because it will hurt you. She said she was informed of the meeting but she was not there, and did not know who made the language suggestions.

"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". It was restored after an outcry by advocates for the LGBT community. She reiterated the HHS statement, which also said the department also strongly encourages the used of outcome and evidence data in program evaluations and budget decisions.

Another HHS official who was not present for the conversation gave a different account of the CDC meeting.

Other reports by GlobalViralNews

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