The American Thoracic Society has erased its previous statements on Roe v. Wade and the murder of George Floyd.


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On January 8, 2024, an ATS member incidentally discovered that two previously-issued ATS statements had been removed from the ATS web site:

   (1) ATS' statement on the rollback of Roe v. Wade and its threat to women's health [June 28, 2022], and

   (2) ATS' statement on the death of George Floyd and subsequent protests [June 1, 2020].

Both links from ATS' archive of press releases were found to lead to 404 File Not Found errors. ATS was notified immediately; but, as of January 20, 2024, both links have remained broken.

Archived snapshots of previously viewable web pages: Roe v. Wade statement; George Floyd statement; and, archived press release list (as of 9/30/23). Screenshots of 404 errors may be found here and here (collected Jan. 10, 2024).



Redaction appears deliberate

Of the 189 archived ATS statements from the same web page, no other statements were erased on this date. Additionally, links to other statements stored in the same file folders and on the same server as the redacted statements remained fully functional and accessible, making an inadvertent technical error appear unlikely.

The 187 remaining statements (i.e. those that were not redacted) address a broad array of topics including the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, neo-Nazi demonstrations, a protest against an oil pipeline, environmental concerns, and regulatory policy.

The two redacted statements comprise 1.07% of statements archived since 2019.

As of a January 10, 2024 indexing: Of the 189 links to archived ATS statements found on this web page, the two redacted statements are the only links that led to 404 File Not Found errors. 26 unredacted statements (i.e. those with functional links) reside in the same file directory as the redacted statement on Roe v. Wade, and 57 unredacted statements reside in the same file directory as the redacted statement on the death of George Floyd. 6 links for press releases housed on a different web server led to connection timeouts. Response codes for all 189 links (188 unique URLs, as one URL is erroneously repeated) are available here (csv file).


No official explanation

ATS has not provided any explanation for why these two statements have been redacted from its web site. Both e-mailed and social media inquiries have gone unanswered.


Jan. 20, 2024 update: On or shortly prior to this date, ATS restructured its press release web page and removed an additional 158 statements and press releases from the previous list of 189 (see archived version for previous list). However, the above findings of Jan. 8, 2024 remain unexplained.

Moreover, the source code for the same web page (archived 1/20/24) still contains commented-out links for 187 of the 189 previous statements and press releases. In other words, ATS programmers kept all but two of these 189 links "in storage." The ONLY two links that were purged from the source code were those linking to the statements on Roe v. Wade and the murder of George Floyd (see analysis of linked-to URLs in source code (XLSX)).

This evidence demonstrates that ATS has 100% been aware of the issue under scrutiny, yet has chosen to remain silent.

Earlier today, ATS President Rivera released a statement saying, "Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) is a moral imperative and a strategic business decision." Is it truly a moral imperative if ATS feels compelled to treat its prior statements on women's lives and black lives with some sort of special "memory hole" treatment? Or, is all of ATS' talk about DEI just "a strategic business decision"?

If ATS were in fact just "cleaning up" its archive of prior statements, why erase the statements on Roe v. Wade and George Floyd so long before other statements were similarly swept away? And, why are those two links the only ones that were permanently purged from the web site's source code?


Jan. 21, 2024 update: ATS replies to my e-mailed inquiry, claiming that the two statements were archived as a part of a larger "migration" of web content.

However, the reader should note that this fails to explain why the statements on Roe v. Wade and the murder of George Floyd were erased WEEKS BEFORE any other content was removed from the ATS web site, as evidenced by indexing logs (CSV) collected between 1/8/24 and the 1/20/24 redesign.


Jan. 24, 2024 update: What I was told by ATS today, in a video chat with Kevin Tuerff (who directs communications for ATS):

1. My attempts at reaching out to ATS earlier this month fell through e-mail/SoMe cracks, and they are very sorry for that. (The e-mail went to this person who sent it to that person and then nothing, etc.)

2. The 2 statements in question (on Roe v. Wade and the murder of George Floyd) were "unpublished" on Nov. 9, 2023, at the directive or action of somebody at ATS who remains unnamed, in the aftermath of upheaval over ATS leadership's attempts at issuing a statement about the Israel-Hamas War. According to ATS' IT team, there were additional statements intentionally "unpublished" on that same date that were not linked to from the list of 189 links I analyzed but that were allegedly linked to from other pages (which I could not find despite very diligent efforts, although it is true that the web site is a bit of a mess). I maintain, and ATS did not dispute, that among the 189 statements linked to between the two principal press release pages (here and here), these were the only two that were subject to erasure. The process by which statements and releases were selected for "unpublication" remained quite unclear even after our conversation; however, I was told that the intent was indeed to boil the list down to "on‑mission" statements in the aftermath of controversies over statements on the Israel-Hamas War.

3. ATS is preparing for a large web site redesign that will lead to further "unpublished" statements due to the cost-per-page of migration (we are seeing that).

4. ATS is currently developing new processes for if/how to respond to events pertinent to its advocacy goals.

In addition to advocating for more transparency and consideration in all of these processes, I strongly urged ATS to reconsider what "on‑mission" means given the values we espouse, the current state of our world, and the multitude of ongoing threats to health equity. I also made the point that this sort of haphazard redaction strategy is ultimately harmful and damaging to health equity, particularly in light of the fact that forced continuation of pregnancy and the murder of George Floyd are very much on‑mission for a society that represents such a large number of critical care medicine practitioners.

               •     •     •

We could talk a long time about all of that, but I have 3 take-home points that I ask ATS leadership to consider (and have communicated to ATS President Dr. Rivera by e-mail):

 1   ATS needs more robust, equity-informed processes for formulating societal positions. This is an urgent need, and one that calls for much more transparency.

 2   Health equity MUST be core to ATS' mission, and we MUST readily accept the costs of defending it. For instance: the murder of George Floyd by asphyxiation, and what his murder has come to represent, is very much ON‑MISSION and very much "in our lane."

 3   We need a LOT more transparency as a professional society.

Lastly, I wish to clarify that I never meant to imply that the president of ATS, Dr. Patricia Rivera, is herself a racist or misogynist. Rather, the crux of my concern is that ATS has failed and is failing to be the consistent voice for equity that it needs to be. I hope we find ways to fix that, and soon.


Dear @atscommunity,

Of the 189 Official ATS Statements linked to on the page below, two links (1%) now result in a 404 File Not Found error:
– the 6/2022 ATS statement on Dobbs
– the 6/2020 ATS statement on George Floyd

What's up?#ATSSafe4Allhttps://t.co/xFMJky1D89

— Bob Lee MD MS (@BobLeeMD) January 8, 2024


This #MLKDay, please note the American Thoracic Society's decision to ERASE its prior statements on the reversal of #RoeVWade and on the death by asphyxiation of #GeorgeFloyd.

Details: https://t.co/RYRVKv42pH#MedTwitter #ATSSafe4All #BLM #AbortionIsHealthcare @atscommunity pic.twitter.com/dLxcmA5RsQ

— Bob Lee MD MS (@BobLeeMD) January 15, 2024


What I was told by ATS today, in a video chat with Kevin Tuerff (who directs communications for ATS):

1. My attempts at reaching out to ATS earlier this month fell through e-mail/SoMe cracks, and they are very sorry for that.


— Bob Lee MD MS (@BobLeeMD) January 24, 2024


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The opinions on this web page are the author's, and do not represent the positions of the University of Washington or UW Medicine.