As political headlines became dominated by stories of Trump’s sex life and administration shakeups, a new report detailed how the Department of Health and Human Services quietly removed lesbian and bisexual content from its women's health website last fall.
According to findings from the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit government watchdog group, 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” between September and October 2017.
The resource, called the "Lesbian and bisexual health" page, hadn’t been updated since 2012, but contained answers to LGBTQ-specific health questions like "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?"
In a statement about the removal, an HHS spokesperson said the LGBTQ health content was removed as part of an effort to "provide the most accurate health information" on the site. "As OWH updates its site, the outdated lesbian and bisexual health pages were removed and the health content was integrated into the relevant health topics pages across the website," the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 explained. "This aligns with how people search for content. You can now find lesbian and bisexual health content by searching for relevant health topics on the womenshealth.gov website."
The Sunlight Foundation’s Andrew Bergman, who helped lead the study, said that these changes stand out compared to similar removals of information on other HHS pages. “We’ve seen nothing this targeted at one HHS site,” Bergman said. “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.”
The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA), which had been listed as a resource on the now-defunct "Lesbian and bisexual health" page, issued a statement strongly condemning HHS' removal of the content:
“The erasure of lesbian and bisexual health content from WomensHealth.gov is tantamount to discrimination against a vulnerable population that already suffers significant health disparities and discrimination in healthcare," GLMA President Dr. Gal Mayer stated, adding that the removal is "yet another step HHS has taken to dismantle LGBTQ health initiatives over the past year under the Trump administration."