Are the scientists of the CDC pandering to the right in order to gain congressional approval? And if so, what could be next?

OPINION: Today, as I was scrolling through Facebook to pass the time, I came across an article written by The Hill. I didn’t think much of it at first, but after the first read, I found myself frantically searching the web, hoping that it wasn’t true. After getting the same information from the Chicago Tribune and AOL, I had to admit that what I was seeing was, in fact, real.

What was being reported is a direct attack on the first amendment to the constitution. This amendment grants protections in respect to establishment and the exercise of religion, the right to peacefully assemble, the freedom of the press, and even the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. The one protection that most people remember, however, is the one the article threatened: freedom of speech.

On December 14th, officials with the CDC circulated a list of words that they are now forbidden to use in official budget policy documents for the 2019 year, which is due to be released in February. These words are: evidence-based, science-based, vulnerable, entitlement, fetus, diversity, and transgender. According to the articles, these banned words may also be excluded from official documents in other branches of Trump’s health department.

An analyst who attended the CDC meeting told the Washington Post that the CDC was given alternatives to some of these words. In place of “evidence” or “science-based” they were instructed to use the following: “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes”.

It is widely known that the Trump administration is doing everything in its power to stifle the media. From calling reports that aren’t flattering “fake news” to denying the smallest of facts when confronted, great lengths have been taken to keep us from the truth. Even the repeal of net neutrality is a way for the people to only see what the government wants us to see. By allowing corporations to control our access to the internet, then the decision of what we learn is left in the hands of those that can profit from our ignorance. For them to directly ban words like this is a direct contradiction to what the first amendment protects. How far will Trump go to change the way we think? If we no longer call an unborn child a fetus, will it be easier to ban abortion? If we no longer refer to research as science-based, will it be simpler to replace the truth with what they want us to believe? Already we see Republicans citing the bible as if it were verified fact, and as if we all should believe as they do. If we don’t openly use the word transgender, then how will we ever receive equal treatment in life?

First, official documents in the CDC. What’s next? Modifying scientific facts our children are taught in their science classes? Many people want to believe that we possess an awareness of the world around us and the current events in our country. In the end, however, how can we know that the news we hear every day isn’t information that has been filtered and edited to be more palatable?

Update: A memo sent to NBC News from CDC Director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald stated that no words had officially been banned from the CDC. The statement read:

“The CDC remains committed to our public health mission as a science- and evidence-based institution, providing for the common defense of the country against health threats. Science is and will remain the foundation of our work … As I have said previously, there are no banned, prohibited or forbidden words at the CDC — period.”

Dr. Fitzgerald went on to explain that the discussion of verbiage had been a topic of discussion at a staff-level meeting to find the best way for 2019 budgets to pass the Republican-led Congress. However, as Dr. Sandro Galea, who serves as dean of Boston University’s School of Public Health, stated to the Associated Press, “If you are saying you cannot use words like ‘transgender’ and ‘diversity,’ it’s a clear statement that you cannot pay attention to these issues.” This could be seen as applicable, even if the words are simply be dismissed from budgetary discussions to win a right-sided vote. 

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Ian Townsley
Ian Syder-Blake is an outspoken advocate for the Trans community. He is an award-winning Drag King Illusionist who performs for numerous benefits to serve the trans community in obtaining gender-affirmative surgery.