Last Thursday, the Trump administration warned the Centers for Disease Control, an agency which is tasked with saving and protecting the lives of the most vulnerable, not to use 7 words in future budget proposals.
These words are: “vulnerable,” “diversity,” “fetus,” “transgender,” “entitlement,” “science-based” and “evidence-based.”
Though the CDC later insisted that there is no list of banned words, Trump’s “recommendation” is clearly a threat. Regardless of what the center says, the message has been sent. The damage is done.
When funding determines whether research and programs live or die, many scientists at the CDC will likely modify their language out of fear of losing their backing. They know certain words and topics will endanger their work.
Essentially, Trump’s continuing his long-held pattern of suppressing facts.
Because he can only do so much to muddle the truth — through his favorite tactics like invoking claims of “fake news” — Trump is trying to censor facts at the source. He’s manipulating the language, dialogue and perceptions around critical data.
The effects of such censorship are incredibly dangerous, particularly when it comes to the lives of transgender people, who already face backlash, erasure and inhumane treatment in some scientific and medical communities.
“To pretend and insist that transgender people do not exist, and to allow this lie to infect public health research and prevention is irrational and very dangerous,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, in a written statement.
Similarly, how can the CDC improve women’s fetal health, if they can’t even use the word fetus?
How is the CDC supposed to serve vulnerable — yes, vulnerable — groups like women and transgender people if researchers and scientists can’t talk about them fully and accurately?
To put it simply, they can’t — and Trump knows this.