Thanks to the Trump administration, there are now significantly fewer resources about both breast cancer and LGBTQ health on womenshealth.gov, including services that are covered by the Affordable Care Act.
A new report from the Sunlight Foundation’s Web Integrity Project showed that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has removed the breast cancer website and related resources, which, according to Politico, included information about "ACA provisions that require coverage of free mammograms for some women" and a "free CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] screening program for low-income women."
The foundation also discovered that the administration removed pages related to LGBTQ health issues.
The HHS told Politico that it deleted the pages because people weren't visiting them. "The pages were removed on Dec. 6, 2017 because [the] content was not mobile-friendly and very rarely used," a spokesperson said. "Our sister HHS agencies, NCI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have the same information in a much more user-friendly format on their websites."
But critics believe the scrubbing was too targeted to pass for routine site-maintenance work. "Make no mistake, the Department of Health and Human Services' removal of information about life-saving preventative breast cancer treatment from its official site for women’s health is yet another example of disregard for women and their health and wellbeing by the Trump administration," Elizabeth Renda, the Democratic National Committee's Women's Media Director, told Refinery29. "The department's paltry excuse for removing this site is truly inexcusable."
While there's still some content about mammograms on the site, "informational pages and factsheets about the disease, including symptoms, treatment, risk factors, and public no- or low-cost cancer screening programs, have been entirely removed and are no longer found elsewhere on the [Office on Women's Health] site," according to the foundation's report.
The most telling fact: "Among the material removed is information about provisions of the Affordable Care Act that require coverage of no-cost breast cancer screenings for certain women, as well as links to a free cancer screening program administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," the report said.
"The office did not proactively announce or explain the removals."
As for the LGBTQ health content, the HHS said it was "integrated into the relevant health topics pages across the website." But the Sunlight Foundation noted that the existing pages don't appear to have been updated with this information. Questions such as, "What are important health issues that lesbians and bisexual women should discuss with their healthcare professionals?" are now not specifically addressed on the website. Also, "bisexual and lesbian health" was removed from the site's listing of over 100 different topics.
The Sunlight Foundation questioned the administration's lack of transparency. When a change like this happens unannounced, the foundation said, it leaves people in the dark around whether the now-missing information had been inaccurate or outdated, the website was undergoing maintenance, the content was added elsewhere — or, perhaps, "There was a quiet change in underlying policy, unrelated to the accuracy of the information itself, that motivated the removal, but which has not been communicated transparently to the public."
Our new @SunWebIntegrity reports document the removal of breast cancer and LGBT health info from @HHSGov's @womenshealth website. This censorship sows real doubt about health considerations for populations of vulnerable women throughout the country: https://t.co/G2nlCRB5Td— Andrew Bergman (@andmbergman) April 2, 2018
"This censorship sows real doubt about health considerations for populations of vulnerable women throughout the country," tweeted Andrew Bergman, the foundation's policy director.
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