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President Joe Biden’s 2022 budget proposal uses language that supplants the word “mothers,” referring to women who both deliver a baby and raise the child, with the phrase “birthing people.”
“The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed nations, with an unacceptably high mortality rate for Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, and other women of color,” the provision reads. The section begins by incorporating gender-specific terms such as “maternal” and “women of color” but then reverts to gender-neutral wording later in the paragraph.
Biden’s budget would allocate over $200 million in funding “to help end this high rate of maternal mortality and race-based disparities in outcomes among birthing people.” The paragraph then jumps back to using “maternal health” and “maternal morbidity,” terms which refer to motherhood. Also included in that $200 million allotment are investments to “implement implicit bias training for healthcare providers.”
The Biden budget “birthing people” discovery comes after elected officials, such as Democratic Missouri representative Cori Bush, were slammed by conservatives for using the phrase “Black birthing people” to refer to Black mothers surrounding a House Oversight Committee hearing on black maternal health. The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, a pro-abortion non-profit organization, defended Bush in a statement claiming that “…it’s not just cis-gender women that can get pregnant and give birth. Reproductive freedom is for *every* body.”
A similar movement has emerged among some progressive circles, and in certain hospitals in England, to refer to “breast-feeding” as “chest-feeding.” In January, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi proposed a series of House rule revisions that include ditching the use of gendered terms and pronouns for more inclusive ones, namely “he” and “she” for “they.”
Critics of gender-inclusive terminology argue that it reduces women to their mechanical reproductive abilities, insults their special nurturing and child-rearing gifts, and diminishes the unique joys and challenges of the female experience.