The Biden administration’s 2022 fiscal year budget request, released Friday, introduced for the first time the term “birthing people” to effectively replace “mothers” in an unprecedented move which drew derision from many.
In a section outlining plans for public health funding titled “Investing in public health infrastructure,” the recently released budget calls attention to strengthening the infrastructure and “meeting crisis-related needs.”
The passage begins by noting the high maternal mortality rate in the U.S., “with an unacceptably high mortality rate for Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, and other women of color.”
The document then proposes various means to assist in combating the “high rate of maternal mortality and race-based disparities in outcomes among birthing people,” adding that the budget includes more than $200 million dedicated to various assistance and programs.
Usage of the phrase “birthing people” instead of the traditional “mothers” drew a wave of criticism.
Republican Rep. Jason Smith, a top-ranking member on the House Budget Committee, challenged the budget’s use of the phrase, saying, “This is a shift from recent budgets that referred to maternal health issues as women’s issues. I’ve never heard the term before, can you explain what it means?”
In response, acting Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Shalanda Young stood by the budget’s terminology, claiming, “We think our language needs to be more inclusive in how we deal with complex issues.”
.@RepJasonSmith on 'birthing people': "I've never heard the term before. Can you explain what it means?"
Acting OMB Director Young: "There are certain people who do not have gender identities that apply to female or male so we think our language needs to be more inclusive." pic.twitter.com/0SgO1r7AMR
— CSPAN (@cspan) June 9, 2021
Many also emphasized the insult to women inherent in the phrase.
“How many women like being referred to as ‘birthing people?’” asked syndicated talk show host Joe Pags.
How many women like being referred to as "birthing people?"https://t.co/TkxpveJDNz
— Joe Pags Pagliarulo (@JoeTalkShow) June 10, 2021
“Yeah. That doesn’t objectify women at all, does it?” Pastor David Armstrong quipped .
“We need to #ProtectMotherhood and not rob mothers of the title that they deserve,” former California congressional candidate Amy Phan West wrote .
“The term ‘birthing people’ is a slap in the face to mothers like myself,” she added.
“Biden’s budget would literally erase the word ‘mother’ and replace it with the woke and watered-down term ‘birthing people’ in relation to maternal health,” Heritage Action Executive Director Jessica Anderson wrote .
“Why does Biden want to cancel mothers?” she asked.
Biden’s budget would literally erase the word “mother” and replace it with the woke and watered-down term “birthing people” in relation to maternal health.
Why does Biden want to cancel mothers? pic.twitter.com/SiZGqmmxkX
— Jessica Anderson (@JessAnderson2) June 7, 2021
“If you think calling mothers ‘birthing people’ is logical, you need your head examined,” former congressional candidate Mark Gonsalves wrote .
“You know this is yet another fraud,” he added.
“Does any sane person believe the term ‘birthing people’ is a respectful way to refer to women?” conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza asked.
Does any sane person believe the term "birthing people" is a respectful way to refer to women?https://t.co/qqmcjGZSFp
— Dinesh D'Souza (@DineshDSouza) June 9, 2021
“Anyone who calls Women ‘Birthing People’ does not respect women at all,” GOP Congressional Candidate Vic DeGrammont wrote.
“We need a complete and total ban on the term ‘birthing people’ until we find out what’s going on,” political commentator Charlie Sykes wrote .
Some highlighted how the budget ironically still retained the term “maternal,” despite its implication.
“‘Maternal mortality rate… among birthing people.’ L O L,” wrote conservative commentator Allie Beth Stuckey.
"Maternal mortality rate… among birthing people." L O L https://t.co/QScwb7kyxv
— Allie Beth Stuckey (@conservmillen) June 7, 2021
“This from the Biden budget is so weird. ‘Maternal’ throughout, ‘women of color,’ but ‘birthing people’ in a place where the phrase is totally unnecessary,” wrote journalist Cathy Young.
This from the Biden budget is so weird. "Maternal" throughout, "women of color," but "birthing people" in a place where the phrase is totally unnecessary — "disparities in outcomes" would be fine. Clearly someone decided a nod to gender-neutral language re: birthing was needed. pic.twitter.com/i3MP17IiS7
— Cathy Young (@CathyYoung63) June 8, 2021
“In its hurry to rename ‘mothers’ as ‘birthing people,’ it appears the White House forgot that ‘maternal’ literally means ‘of, relating to, belonging to, or characteristic of a mother.’ Oops,” one Twitter user wrote.
The term “birthing people” was used last month by Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) in a floor speech where she claimed black women are “subjected to harsh and racist treatment during pregnancy and childbirth” on a daily basis and she was committed to protect “black birthing people” as a result.
“Black birthing people and our babies die because our doctors don’t believe our pain,” she added in a tweet.
In response, the pro-abortion National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) defended Bush, claiming, “When we talk about birthing people, we’re being inclusive. It’s that simple.”
“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,” the group added.
Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.