If you'd logged onto the Department of Labor's Women's Bureau Web site in 1999, you would have found a list of more than 25 fact sheets and statistical reports on topics ranging from "Earning Differences Between Men and Women" to "Facts About Asian American and Pacific Islander Women" to "Women's Earnings as Percent of Men's 1979-1997."
Not anymore. Those fact sheets no longer exist on the Women's Bureau Web site, and have instead been replaced with a handful of peppier titles, like "Hot Jobs for the 21st Century" and "20 Leading Occupations for Women." It's just one example of the ways in which the Bush administration is dismantling or distorting information on women's issues, from pay equity to reproductive healthcare, according to "Missing: Information About Women's Lives," a new report released Wednesday by the National Council for Research on Women.
You've probably heard about some of the other examples in "Missing" -- for instance, the time the Centers for Disease Control removed an online guide to condom use and changed the fact-sheet language to indicate that studies on condom use were inconclusive, focusing instead on abstinence. But the power of "Missing" comes not from its dozens of individual examples, but from the depth and breadth of its findings about the small ways in which the Bush administration is draining the well of dependable public scientific and sociological information. [...] When it comes to issues of women's health, agencies like the CDC, FDA and the Health and Human Services Administration don't fare much better than the DOL or the Census Bureau with the NCRW researchers. One of their chief battle cries -- and arguments about why a study like "Missing" can be valuable in the future -- is over the changed language on a National Cancer Institute Web site. "Missing" cites the case of the 1997 New England Journal of Medicine study that conclusively proved that there was no link between breast cancer and abortion, a favorite claim of anti-abortion advocates. The NCI had a fact sheet with reference to the study posted on its Web site until November 2002, when the Web site was changed to indicate that studies about the link had been "inconclusive," an assertion that lent implied credence to the claims of the anti-abortion advocates. According to "Missing," members of Congress forced the convention of a panel of experts who reinforced the New England Journal's findings, and the NCI again posted information that there is no link between breast cancer and abortion.
Over at the Centers for Disease Control, the NCRW researchers claim, posted fact sheets were revised to suggest studies on the effectiveness of using condoms to prevent the spread of HIV and other STDs were "inconclusive." Instead, the revised fact sheet focused on abstinence -- a favorite of the family values crowd -- as the only effective path to sexual health. As was reported at the time, the CDC also removed an online guide to proper condom use (replacing it later with a revised edition) as well as a list of successful sex education programs and studies that showed no rise in sexual activity among teens taught about condoms. "These are debates that scientific research has closed," said Riche. "The people who provide the information are now reopening those debates, taking away the scientific certainty. It's more subtle than putting out wrong information or simply removing all the information -- and, frankly, more effective."
MISSING: Information About Women's Lives (National Council for Research on Women, Misinformation Clearinghouse)
The fact that the administration is doing this isn't in the least bit surprising. That it is so comprehensive, and that they actually managed to be subtle about it, is truly amazing.Posted by iain at April 30, 2004 05:44 PM