Within just hours of an inquiry from the Daily Wire, an infamous right-wing website co-founded by conservative extremist Ben Shapiro, Virginia’s governor quietly removed LGBTQ+ youth resources from state websites.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin continued an apparent pattern of quietly removing certain health resources from Virginia websites by taking down a dozen resources for LGBTQ+ youth just as Pride Month was about to begin.
Records show that these youth resources were removed from the state website after the Daily Wire, a right-wing extremist media outlet, questioned them. They were the basis of two headlines, and the website’s conservative audience generated a flurry of online reactions.
According to the Washington Post, Youngkin has quietly removed health information from state websites at least three times without consulting his own experts on the topics since taking office just a year and a half ago. All three instances involved the same office in the Virginia Department of Health: the Office of Family Health.
The first instance occurred in February 2022, when the manager of the office’s web team was directed to remove a certain question from the sexual health FAQ page. That question was, “Where can I learn more about sexual health and pregnancy/STI prevention?” and the response recommended an online chatbot powered by Planned Parenthood and two other sites with information catered toward teenagers.
Then in May 2022, one day after the draft of the US Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade leaked to the public, the head of the state’s health department directed the removal of a list of five Virginia-based organizations that can provide financial assistance for those seeking abortions. A request for the removal of a definition of reproductive justice – “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities” – from the department’s family planning website was also made that day.
Internal emails indicate that none of the experts on these issues employed by the Virginia Department of Health were consulted before removing these pages and items. One of the department’s directors specifically expressed concern that these removals were “in response to a politically motivated inquiry.”
A Youngkin spokesperson claimed that the recent decision to eliminate LGBTQ+ youth resources was part of the governor’s focus on “parents’ rights” and characterized the deleted information as part of an alleged effort to “sexual[e] children.”
Equality Virginia, a state LGBTQ+ rights group, decried taking down the resources as “craven and politically motivated.”
“This is part of a pattern with this administration, where it’s more important to appeal to an anti-LGBTQ+ political base rather than serve LGBTQ+ Virginians in any capacity,” said Narissa Rahaman, the organization’s executive director.