In the wake of the Biden administration’s decision to change a budget proposal’s wording from mother to “birthing person,” Senator James Lankford slammed the wording changes, saying that they may be “offensive” to said mothers.
“I also noticed you changed a term in your budget work. You shifted in places from using the term “mother” to “birthing people” rather than mother. Can you help me get a good definition of birthing people?” Lankford asked secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra during a Senate Appropriation Committee hearing this week.
“I’ll check on the language there, but I think if we’re talking about those who give birth, I think we’re talking about…” says Becerra before trailing off. “I don’t know how else to explain it to you other than…” But he can’t complete the sentence.
“I was a little taken back when I just read it and saw it, that the term mother was gone in spots, and it was replaced with birthing people, and I didn’t know if this was a direction that you were going, if there were shifts, if there are regulatory changes that are happening related to that or what the purpose of that is,” said Lankford.
“I think it’s probably, and again I’d have to go back to take a look at the language that was used in the budget, but I think it simply reflects the work that’s being done,” replied Becerra.
Lankford understood that language is important and that “we don’t want to offend in our language,” but pointed out that the change in wording may be offensive to some moms. “They don’t want to get a happy birthing person card in May.”
“Senator I’ll go back and take a look at the terminology that was used and I can’t back to you, but again, we’re trying to be precise in the language that’s used,” said Becerra.
“Mom’s a pretty good word. That’s worked for a while, and I think that’s pretty precise,” Lankford stressed.
Becerra isn’t the only Biden administration official who has taken up the term “birthing person” as though there were never another term that could describe this phenomenon.
Earlier this week, Deputy Director of OMB Shalanda Young defended the Biden administration’s use of the term “birthing people” to replace “mothers,” saying that it’s “inclusive.”
“There are certain people who do not have gender identities that apply to female and male,” Young said, “so we think our language needs to be more inclusive on how we deal with complex issues. I think the underlying issues… is to try to ensure those of color who are giving birth are leaving the hospital alive.
“That’s the issue rather than the verbiage. Verbiage matters, but the underlying issues are extremely important, and a lot of your colleagues are working hard on this. Because all of those giving birth are should have access to the same quality of health.”
The change in wording of a Biden budget proposal was revealed earlier this week, in a section looking to reduce maternal mortality.
“To help end this high rate of maternal mortality and race-based disparities in outcomes among birthing people—and in addition to the investment in maternal health included in the American Families Plan—the Budget includes more than $200 million to: reduce maternal mortality and morbidity rates nationwide; bolster Maternal Mortality Review Committees; expand the Rural Maternity and Obstetrics Management Strategies program; help cities place early childhood development experts in pediatrician offices with a high percentage of Medicaid and Children’s health Insurance Program patients; implement implicit bias training for healthcare providers; and create State pregnancy medical home programs,” states the budget proposal.