The Department of Health and Human Services quietly eliminated lesbian and bisexual content material from its women’s health website final fall, in line with a new report from the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit authorities watchdog group.
The findings, launched on Wednesday, famous that the HHS-operated Office of Women’s Health (OWH) “removed a webpage with extensive information about lesbian and bisexual health, and links that correspond to that webpage.” The removing, in response to the report, occurred between September and October 2017.
The eliminated “Lesbian and bisexual health” web page, which had final been up to date in 2012, contained solutions to LGBTQ-specific health questions, together with “What factors put lesbians’ and bisexual women’s health at risk?” and “What challenges do lesbian and bisexual women face in the health care system?” What was as soon as the URL for this web page now results in a “page not found” error. A hyperlink that had beforehand led to the “Lesbian and bisexual health” web page from the OWH’s “A-Z Health Topics” web page has additionally been removed.
The OWH website, womenshealth.gov, supplies all kinds of resources for women, from info on bronchial asthma to recommendations on wholesome consuming. Since May 2017, OWH has altered or eliminated a number of hyperlinks and webpages from the website, which has been visited approximately 700,000 times over the previous 30 days. The removing of different content material would be the topic of subsequent reviews, in line with the Sunlight Foundation.
In a press release, an HHS spokesperson stated the LGBTQ health content material was eliminated in an effort to “provide the most accurate health information” on the location.
“As OWH updates its site, the outdated lesbian and bisexual health pages were removed and the health content was integrated into the relevant health topics pages across the website,” the spokesperson stated. “This aligns with how individuals seek for content material. You can now discover lesbian and bisexual health content material by looking for related health subjects on the womenshealth.gov website.”
The chlamydia web page, for instance, consists of “Can women who have sex with women get chlamydia?” amongst its contents.
‘TANTAMOUNT TO DISCRIMINATION’
LGBTQ health advocates, nevertheless, are not totally satisfied the content material’s removing was benign.
The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA), which was listed as a useful resource on the now-obscured “Lesbian and bisexual health” web page, issued a statement strongly condemning HHS’ removing of the content material.
“The erasure of lesbian and bisexual health content material from WomensHealth.gov is tantamount to discrimination towards a weak inhabitants that already suffers vital health disparities and discrimination in healthcare,” GLMA President Dr. Gal Mayer stated, adding that the removal is “yet one more step HHS has taken to dismantle LGBTQ health initiatives over the previous yr beneath the Trump administration.”
GLMA can also be calling on health professionals throughout the U.S. to take motion towards a current HHS proposal, titled “Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care,” that would allow health care providers to “refuse to carry out, accommodate or help with sure health care providers on spiritual or ethical grounds.” This proposal would, in line with GLMA, be a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
A CALL FOR TRANSPARENCY
Toly Rinberg, a co-author of the Sunlight Foundation report and director of the group’s Web Integrity Project, advised NBC News that HHS’ choice to take down the “Lesbian and bisexual health” webpage might generate confusion amongst guests of the location, and the division ought to supply clearer communication to the general public.
“What we’re seeing is that federal workplaces and businesses are not proactively disclosing why they’re altering web sites,” Rinberg said. “The authorities must be minimizing confusion, particularly at a time when there’s such uncertainty in shifting priorities.”
Rinberg stated the Sunlight Foundation screens hundreds of net pages throughout HHS with software program that flags modifications within the pages’ contents. If a change is critical sufficient, Rinberg stated it’s reported on. Sunlight Foundation makes use of the Way Back Machine, an web archive software, to confirm the modifications.
“Was the very fact sheet eliminated as a result of it was outdated?” Rinberg requested, referring to a useful resource that had been on the “Lesbian and bisexual health” web page. “Was it eliminated on account of upkeep? Was it the results of an untransparent coverage determination? The public can’t differentiate these with out clear communication and superior discover, which on this case was not offered.”
LGBTQ health specialists additionally emphasised the necessity for transparency from authorities organizations offering resources to at-risk populations.
“There are a variety of misconceptions about health associated to sexual and gender minority individuals,” stated Dr. Alex Keuroghlian, director of the National LGBT Health Education Center and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.
“There’s a scarcity of coaching of clinicians on this space, and each sufferers and clinicians are determined for resources to have the ability to make sure that lesbian and bisexual women obtain [adequate] care,” Keuroghlian said. “I’m of the opinion the extra available and seen we make these resources, the higher our public health technique is for sexual minority women.”
LGBTQ HEALTH DE-EMPHASIZED?
The Sunlight Foundation report raised considerations relating to “different indications” that HHS has “deemphasized entry to LGBTQ health” beneath the Trump administration.
The report additionally famous an HHS Draft Strategic Plan launched in October 2017 made “no point out of LGBTQ health,” and that very same month an HHS division withdrew a 2014 proposed rule that might have ensured Medicare- and Medicaid-participating health amenities deal with same-sex married couples equally.
In one other transfer that some advocates took to be indicative of a deemphasis of LGBTQ health, the White House did not mention gay and bisexual men or transgender women — teams disproportionately impacted by HIV — in President Trump’s World AIDS Day proclamation.
LGBTQ CONTENT REMOVED FROM OTHER FEDERAL WEBSITES
HHS just isn’t the one authorities division that has scrubbed LGBTQ-related content material from its website.
Most notably, maybe, was the removing of the White House’s LGBT web page, which had previously been discovered at whitehouse.gov/lgbt. Under the Obama administration, the web page said the administration’s dedication to the LGBTQ group and offered resources on bullying, AIDS and the now-defunct “do not ask, do not inform” policy. Now, however, it leads to a “web page not discovered” error.
“We have the instruments to watch our federal authorities on this means,” Rinberg said of tracking changes to federal websites. “But on the similar time, we shouldn’t need to.”