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Censorship

has been imposed on government websites and documents, as well as health care providers themselves, for topics like abortion

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Why It Matters

  • The Trump-Pence administration censored or altogether erased sexual and reproductive health care resources from government websites — especially information around women, communities of color, LGBTQ+ people, and undocumented people. 

  • Censorship also affected important reports — for example, the State Department stripped all mentions of sexual and reproductive rights from its annual human rights report.

  • The administration also imposed censorship through a Title X “gag rule,” which blocked certain health care providers from sharing information about abortion with their patients.

Key Players

Donald Trump

President of the United States

Elected to Office: 11-8-2016
Mike Pence

Vice President of the United States

Elected to Office: 11-8-2016
Alex Azar

Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS)

Nominated by Trump: 11-13-2017
Mike Pompeo

Secretary of State

Nominated by Trump: 3-13-2018
William Barr

U.S. Attorney General (DOJ)

Nominated by Trump: 1-3-2019
Scott Lloyd

Former Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS)

Resigned: June 2019
Diane Foley

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs (HHS)

Appointed: 5-29-2018
Valerie Huber

Senior Policy Advisor at the Office of Global Affairs; Former Senior Policy Advisor for the Assistant Secretary for Health (HHS)

Appointed: 6-6-2017
March Bell

Chief of Staff for the Office of Civil Rights (HHS)

Appointed to post: 4-15-2017

Timeline

  • 12-15-2017

    White House tells CDC to avoid certain words in official document

  • 7-19-2018

    It’s revealed that HHS removed info on sex discrimination from its website

  • 3-22-2018

    It’s revealed that HHS removed info on lesbians, bisexual women from its website

  • 4-20-2018

    State Department strips reproductive rights from human rights report

  • 12-16-2019

    Republican leaders in Congress block protections in the 2020 government spending bill that would have ended the Title X gag rule and the global gag rule

“We are troubled by [the administration’s] recent actions, which... reveal a pattern of censorship that fosters discrimination and undermines access to evidence-based health care resources …”

Words Matter

People rely on both the government and doctors for accurate, unbiased information — such as advice on women’s health issues and LGBTQ+ health resources. Erasing information and muzzling clinicians threatens people’s human rights and puts patients’ health at risk.

Deleting information from government websites affects anyone looking for facts from the government, particularly the people who make roughly 135 million visits monthly to HHS websites.

Background on Censorship

Censoring Info on LGBTQ+ Women

During President Trump’s first year in office, information on lesbian and bisexual women’s health disappeared from the Health and Human Services (HHS) website on women’s health.

Politico
Censoring Health Care Providers on Abortion

The administration’s nationwide "gag rule" forced Planned Parenthood out of Title X, the federal program for affordable birth control and other preventive reproductive health care. The Title X gag rule blocks Title X-funded health care providers from telling their 4 million patients where they can go for a safe, legal abortion. The gag rule prohibits Title X providers from giving patients full information about all of their sexual and reproductive health care options — even if patients ask, and even if it’s medically necessary.

Tracking Trump: Title X Gag Rule
Censoring Sex Education

The administration rebranded abstinence-only-until-marriage programs as "sexual risk avoidance." But a new name doesn’t change the fact that these programs are harmful and ineffective — whereas evidence-based sex education programs have been proven as effective at helping avoid unintended pregnancy and STDs.

Washington Post
Censoring Public Comments on Abortion, Transgender Care

The administration, very selectively, published just 80 of the more than 10,000 public comments it received about abortion access and transgender people’s health access in a request around religious refusals.

Politico
Eliminating Sexual and Reproductive Health services for Rape Survivors

The Trump administration threatened to veto two UN Security Council resolutions over abortion access for rape survivors.

CNN
Pushing Anti-Abortion Agenda in International COVID-19 Response

In spring 2020, USAID demanded that the U.N. and World Health Organization (WHO) take out abortion as an essential service in their global humanitarian response plan to fight COVID-19. USAID also wanted the U.N. and WHO to stop explicitly supporting sexual and reproductive health in their international guidance for countries and health program leaders on how to keep people as healthy as possible amid the pandemic. The U.N. and WHO maintained that sexual and reproductive health services, including safe access to abortion, are at risk and must be protected while countries respond to COVID-19.

The Hill
Censoring Info on Sex Discrimination

Censorship on government websites continued throughout the Trump presidency. For example, in 2018 it was revealed that the Trump-Pence administration deleted language about prohibiting sex discrimination from the HHS Office for Civil Rights website.

Sunlight Foundation
Censoring Info About Obamacare

Without telling the public, the HHS Office of Population Affairs — which oversees Title X — removed 10 pages about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from its Title X website. Before, the pages had: information on birth control coverage; the benefits of the ACA for Title X patients; a record of Title X-funded research; and instructions to help Title X-funded health centers follow the ACA’s rules. The deletions mirrored the administration’s efforts to dismantle Title X, repeal the ACA and its no-copay birth control benefit, and remove critical health information across its websites.

Sunlight Foundation
Censoring Words Like ‘Transgender’ and ‘Fetus’

The administration banned staff at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from using seven words and phrases in official budget documents: "evidence-based," "science-based," "transgender," "fetus," "vulnerable," "entitlement," and "diversity."

USA Today
Looking for Where to Get Health Information?

For accurate information on reproductive and sexual health, go to PlannedParenthood.org’s “Learn” page. It has facts on general health care, birth control, and more for women, men, and nonbinary individuals.

PlannedParenthood.org/Learn
US to UN: Don’t Talk About Birth Control

A Trump administration diplomat argued to remove all mentions of modern contraceptives from official UN documentation, even though part of USAID’s mission is to increase global access to these services.

The Independent
USAID Policy Erases LGBTQ+ People from Gender Equality Policy

In January 2021, the outgoing Trump administration released its final USAID gender equality policy. The revised policy erased sexual orientation, gender identity, and other basic characteristics from the definition of gender. Meanwhile, it denied the critical role that comprehensive reproductive health care services and information — including abortion, sex education, and modern methods of contraception — play in achieving gender equality around the world. What the policy did include: misleading language about “unalienable rights,” which has been linked to discrimination.

Devex

Related Issues

The Title X Gag Rule

Global Gag Rule

Refusal Policies

The Health Agenda

Sex Education

LGBTQ+ Rights