American Oversight and the Sunlight Foundation today sued the Department of Health and Human Services to shed light on why the agency removed information about lesbian and bisexual women’s health from an HHS website.
In 2018, the Sunlight Foundation’s Web Integrity Project documented HHS’ removal of publicly available information on the Office on Women’s Health website. The website’s unannounced overhaul included obscuring a fact sheet about lesbian and bisexual health and removing a website about breast cancer, which contained information on how to access free or low-cost breast cancer screening programs.
Following a Sunlight Foundation report and other media coverage, HHS added a single webpage on breast cancer. However, it did not publicly announce the addition of a new page, and the lesbian and bisexual health fact sheet remains offline. The Web Integrity Project has continued to find instances in which the administration has removed public information about services and rights for the LGBTQ community and other vulnerable populations.
“Both removals of public information happened without advanced notice or explanation from the office,” said Web Integrity Project Director Rachel Bergman, “which makes it unclear whether the information was removed by mistake; the removed information was actually inaccurate or outdated; or there was a quiet change in underlying policy, unrelated to the accuracy of the information, that motivated the removal but which was not communicated transparently to the public.
“The fact that there is doubt about whether the information is still accurate has a real impact on vulnerable populations who must now consider if their health needs and considerations may be different.”
The Sunlight Foundation is seeking records of communications regarding the Office of Women’s Health website, as well as communications with the firm that manages the website. HHS has failed to respond to all three of the Sunlight Foundation’s request. “Removing vital information about breast cancer and LGBTQ health from a government website has never made sense,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight. “The public has a right to know the motive behind the puzzling, and perhaps troubling, decision to delete public health information.”
See the complaint below: