The website of the Department of Health and Human Services should probably include information and resources for all parts of the U.S. population, right? Well, thanks to the Sunlight Foundation, a government transparency project, we now know that all mentions of health concerns for lesbian or bisexual women have been removed from the HHS website.
Now, chances are women are not flocking to the HHS website for all their health information, but that’s not the point. This is yet another example of the current administration further marginalizing already marginalized groups.
The Sunlight Foundation released two reports that tracked the removal of a webpage devoted to lesbian and bisexual health, links to LGBTQ topics and other references from Womenshealth.gov, a site maintained by HHS’s Office on Women’s Health. These changes were made between September and October 2017.
HHS responded to these reports, telling Politico that these pages and links — some of which date back to 2012 — were taken off the site as part of a routine content update, saying: “The outdated lesbian and bisexual health pages were removed and the health content was integrated into the relevant health topics pages across the website.”
But according to the reports from the Sunlight Foundation, these pages have not yet been updated nor has the information they contained been incorporated into other parts of the HHS site.
An example of one of the now-missing pages is a landing page dedicated to health concerns for lesbians and bisexual women. The page read: “All women have specific health risks, and can take steps to improve their health through regular medical care and healthy living. Research tells us that lesbian and bisexual women are at a higher risk for certain problems than other women are, though. It is important for lesbian and bisexual women to talk to their doctors about their health concerns.”
In addition to that, there was a drop-down menu answering more specific questions on lesbian and bisexual women’s health, including the group’s risk for sexually transmitted infections (a topic typically left out of sex ed class), the specific challenges lesbian and bisexual women face in the health care system and what they can do to protect their health.
Andrew Bergman of the Sunlight Foundation, who was one of the leaders of the study, told Politico that similar purging of LGBTQ information has happened on other HHS pages, but these stand out.
“We’ve seen nothing this targeted at one HHS site,” he told Politico. “The removal of lesbian and bisexual health materials in particular, without advance notice and in a targeted way, raise concerns that they’ve targeted information for vulnerable populations.”
Fortunately, there are other existing (and more comprehensive) resources for health information for lesbian and bisexual women, including those from the National LGBT Health Education Center, the Centers for Disease Control, Planned Parenthood, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, the Bisexual Resource Center and Scarleteen, among others.