A group of Senate Democrats is demanding answers from HHS and the Office of Management and Budget on a reported "word ban" at the CDC and other agencies.
The Washington Post reported that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other Department of Health and Human Services agencies had been banned from using certain words in budget documents by the Trump administration. Words banned at the CDC included "evidence-based," "fetus," "transgender," and "vulnerable."
Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., the CDC's director, denied the story, saying there were no words banned at the CDC and that it would continue its public health mission. HHS Spokesman Matt Lloyd also said the Post's report "mischaracterized" the situation.
The letter (PDF)—penned by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Brian Schatz and Ed Markey—asks HHS and OMB to clarify their policies and explain how the word bans, if they exist, would be enforced or punished.
The senators acknowledge in the letter that Fitzgerald has denied there is a word ban in effect. But the words in question are potentially central to allowing the CDC to complete its mission, they said.
"Such an agenda, especially if motivated by political factors, threatens to undermine the tremendous scientific progress at CDC and the public's faith in government more broadly," the senators wrote.
The report was met with concern from healthcare industry and scientific community groups, along with others in the Democratic Party. Michael Munger, M.D., president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, said a ban could have a "chilling effect" on how the CDC uses science in public health work.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the ban amounted to "thought control" from the Trump administration, and Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wisc., called it "deeply disturbing and offensive."