House Democratic leaders and their allies were panned on social media this week after multiple representatives used the phrase “birthing people” – a term supported by some members of the LGBT community – instead of “women” or “mothers.”
The phrase was used Thursday during a House Oversight Committee hearing on “America’s Black Maternal Health Crisis.” Although Democrats and Republicans alike said the issue is serious – the maternal mortality rate for Black women is more than twice as high as it is for white women – the language used during the hearing became a separate issue on social media.
Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (N.Y.), a Democrat and the chairman of the committee, began an opening statement by asking, “How does one of the most medically advanced nations in the world continue to fail Black birthing people at such high rates?
Rep. Cori Bush (Mo.), during testimony, also used the phrase.
The House Oversight Committee website posted a 200-word announcement about the hearing that included “birthing people” four times. “Women,” “mother” and other gender-specific terms were not used. The announcement said the hearing would “examine the maternal mortality and morbidity crisis experienced by Black birthing people in America.”
The committee’s Twitter account argued that “Health equity for Black birthing people is attainable.”
NARAL, a pro-choice group, defended the use of the phrase.
“When we talk about birthing people, we’re being inclusive. It’s that simple,” NARAL argued in a Tweet. “We use gender-neutral language when talking about pregnancy, because it’s not just cis-gender women that can get pregnant and give birth. Reproductive freedom is for *every* body.
But NARAL and Democrats received plenty of criticism.
“Why do u never listen to the many women who tell you clearly that this language does NOT feel inclusive to them?” one critic asked in a tweet directed to NARAL. “This language obscures the group of people who are responsible for Hundred points symbol of reproductive labor.
Another person tweeted, “Can you give an example of someone other than a woman who can get pregnant & give birth? I’ll wait….
Still, another person wrote, “This language doesn’t feel inclusive at all. I believe in live & let live, but the woman who gave birth to me is my mother. And this Sunday is not Birthing People’s Day, it’s Mother’s Day. It has gotten to the point of where women feel under attack for being naturally born women.