In yet another case of confected culture war outrage, Minister for NDIS and Government Services Bill Shorten has announced the term “mother” will replace “birthing parent” on a government form for new parents. The change follows a story in The Daily Telegraph which features Sall Grover, a new mother who said she was “outraged” by the term.
The new mother, Sall Grover, has a long history of anti-trans posting online. She is the founder and CEO of Giggle, an “female-only” social networking app that allegedly uses AI to discriminate against trans people and women of colour.
In a tweet posted on July 19, Grover stated: “On the form to put our newborn baby on our Medicare card, we are referred to as ‘birthing parent’. Enough is enough.”
“This absolute bullsh*t is exclusionary, alienating and derogatory towards every woman wants to be and is called ‘mother,’” the post read.
Inclusion of all does not come at the exclusion of anyone else. As Member for Brisbane Stephen Bates tweeted today, “Primary caregiver, birthing parent, etc are all terms used for accuracy and to ensure the inclusion of trans and non-binary people, intersex folk, and same-gender couples. is an example of inclusive language meant to apply to all people who have given birth.”
According to 7NEWS the term “birthing parent” was being used on a new Medicare form intended to replace the usual process of Medicare enrolment of a newborn. According to Bill Shorten the form was a “pilot program launched in three hospitals under the previous Coalition government.”
As per The Daily Telegraph, as many as 55 men in Australia gave birth in 2014-2015. Using terms like “birthing parent” on public forms is a simple but effective way to be more inclusive of different gender identities and family structures — for example, families with two mothers. Using inclusive language is a small demonstration of respect and does not threaten womanhood, motherhood, or any other gender identity.
Being a mother is incredibly special. Giving birth to a child is a unique, intense and sometimes traumatic experience. If you find that birthing a child empowers you and gives you a heightened sense of your own femininity — that’s awesome. It is entirely within your rights as a woman to feel as such.
However embracing your own sense of womanhood shouldn’t come at the cost of these small but important public-facing language checks. In order to suit as many individual situations as possible, medical forms should be utilising inclusive language. “Birthing parent” is nothing more than a medical term that in no way imposes on ones’ own personal sense or definition of motherhood or womanhood.
According to a 2021 study as reported by Crikey, News Corp publications (including The Daily Telegraph) include more reporting on trans people than any other Australian news outlet. Up to 90 per cent of the articles studied framed the issue in a “negative way”.
“In our initial sample of 53 articles from The Australian published between April and October 2019, over 90 per cent of the articles framed transgender people and issues negatively,” researcher Joshua Badge told the publication.
“What we’re seeing is the normalisation of anti-trans attitudes in the press. What started as a fixation at one broadsheet in particular has developed into a broader hostility toward trans people, especially trans women”.