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Senators Demand Answers on Banned Words at CDC

December 21, 2017, 9:44 AM HST (Updated December 21, 2017, 9:44 AM)
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Following reports that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and potentially other agencies were directed to avoid using certain words or phrases in official budget documents, U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) are demanding answers from the CDC, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Management and Budget.

“We write regarding concerning reports that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and potentially the Department of Health and Human Services, are discouraging the use of specific words or phrases in official FY19 budget documents,” the Senators wrote. “Such an agenda, especially if motivated by political factors, threatens to undermine the tremendous scientific progress at the CDC and the public’s faith in government, more broadly. If true, this guidance is not just a mere change to vocabulary, it is a fundamental shift of direction and a reflection of flawed ideology.  While Director Fitzgerald has recently denied the existence of such a ban, we request clarity on your policies via specific answers to the questions below.”

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According to reports, words to avoid in official budget documents at the CDC include “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.” In their letter to the CDC, HHS and OMB, the Senators ask about the development and dissemination of any discouraged words, the legality and enforcement of such a policy and the policies in place to ensure the scientific integrity of the health agencies.

“We must ensure that the actions of our federal agencies—particularly those so important for maintaining the health and safety of our citizens—adhere to the highest standards of research and scientific integrity,” the Senators wrote. “Given that the Trump Administration has already shown a propensity to defund, silence, and eliminate agencies and programs that serve medically vulnerable communities and promote research rooted in science, we are particularly alarmed by even the possibility that the administration would direct a federal scientific agency to avoid the use of medically accurate language.”

For a copy of the senators’ letter, click here.

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