Skip to main content

The CDC has been prohibited from using 7 words in documentation for next year’s budget

The CDC has been prohibited from using 7 words in documentation for next year’s budget


Seven dirty words

Share this story

cdc hq

The Washington Post reports that the Trump Administration has prohibited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from using seven words in official documents used for next year’s budget.

The agency is said to have been informed of the prohibition at a meeting on Thursday by those who oversee its budget. The forbidden words are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.” The Post says that policy analysts were provided with some alternatives to use: instead of “science-based” or ­“evidence-based,” the suggested wording was “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.” In some cases, the agency was not provided with alternative wording.

Following the Post’s report, CDC director Brenda Fitzgerald denied that the centers were banned from using any words and said the story mischaracterized discussions at a recent meeting. “As I have said previously, there are no banned, prohibited or forbidden words at the CDC — period,” Fitzgerald said in an emailed statement. She said that the “confusion” came from a discussion over “how to present CDC’s budget” and that “it was never intended as overall guidance for how we describe and conduct CDC’s work.”

The reported prohibition of the seven words from official documentation comes as the government begins work on the next year’s budget, in which individual agencies will submit proposals to the Office of Management and Budget, which in turn goes into the proposed national budget. A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services told the Post that the CDC “will continue to use the best scientific evidence available to improve the health of all Americans.” A representative from the CDC’s Office of Financial Services explained that in some cases, budget drafts with the words were being returned to the agency for correction.

Such constraints could limit the agency from effectively communicating its priorities to lawmakers for the coming year: prohibiting the word “fetus,” for example, would complicate the agency’s efforts when it comes to researching something such as the Zika virus, which can cause neurological problems in an unborn child. This appears to be part of a trend this year, as various government agencies have scrubbed certain words form their websites, such as “Climate Change” and “Global Warming,” while under the Trump Administration.

Update December 18th, 6:55PM ET: This story has been updated to include comment from the CDC.