Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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Health Department Removes Info on Lesbian, Bi Women's Health Concerns

Woman in medical office

The Department of Health and Human Services has delivered another blow to LGBT Americans, removing a page with information specifically for lesbians and bisexual women from its women’s health website, a new report has found.

“A webpage devoted to lesbian and bisexual health, links to LGBT topics and other references were removed between September and October 2017 from WomensHealth.gov, a website maintained by HHS’ Office on Women’s Health,” Politico reports in an article based on studies by the Sunshine Foundation, released today. 

The page featured several “multiple LGBT-specific questions — such as ‘What are important health issues that lesbians and bisexual women should discuss with their health care professionals?’ — that are not explicitly addressed elsewhere across the website,” according to Politico.

“Remnants” of the previously available information remain on the site but are hard to find, the Sunshine Foundation notes. “Searching for ‘lesbian’using the website’s search bar, for example, yields a ‘Lesbian and bisexual health’ fact sheet, which has been unavailable for months at its previous URL and was quietly put up at a separate URL. The document was last updated in 2009, compared to the removed lesbian and bisexual health webpage which was last updated in 2012. The fact sheet is also not linked from any other pages on the website, remaining inaccessible by navigating through the website.” The information that remains available is also less comprehensive than that which was removed, according to the foundation’s report.

Some of the removed information is accessible at the Federal Depository Library Program Web Archive, but WomensHealth.gov does not mention that archive or link to it, the foundation adds

Removal of the pages, the foundation reports, has not been “proactively communicated on the website publicly, as is required by federal record keeping guidelines.”

Another sign that HHS is deemphasizing LGBT health is the lack of tweets on the topic, according to the foundation. The WomensHealth.gov Twitter account did not tweet about lesbians or bisexual women’s health during LGBT History Month last October; its last tweet on LGBT health was in October 2016.

This comes on top of many other moves that show hostility toward LGBT Americans, including formation of a Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom within its Office of Civil Rights. The new division, announced in January, will investigate complaints from health care workers who say they’ve been forced to participate in procedures that go against their religious beliefs. Civil rights advocates expect that many of these complaints will involve serving LGBT people and may come from workers only peripherally involved in care. They see the division as enabling and encouraging discrimination.

Also, HHS unveiled a proposed rule outlining how it will enforce so-called conscience protections and providing for penalties against institutions that it finds to have violated employees’ religious freedom. HHS is taking public comments on the rule until next Tuesday.

Advocates for LGBT and women's health denounced the removals detailed in today's report. “No matter how hard it tries, the Trump-Pence administration cannot erase our lives or humanity,” said a statement released by Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Eliminating important information about LGBTQ health is dangerous. Implementing a rule that would allow health care providers to discriminate against women and LGBTQ people is downright despicable. The Trump-Pence administration will stop at nothing to push its own beliefs and objectives to deny people access to lifesaving care.”

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