Sen. James Lankford, Oklahoma Republican, grilled Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra over the decision to use “birthing person” instead of “mother” in the Biden administration’s $6 trillion budget.
At Thursday’s Senate Finance Committee hearing, Mr. Lankford said he “noticed you changed a term in your budget, where 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’?” he asked.
The secretary managed to reply without using “mom” or “mother,” saying, “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 — I don’t know how else to explain it to you.”
In what appears to be a first, the administration’s proposed Fiscal Year 2022 budget used the term “birthing people,” saying that the proposal includes funding for maternal health to “help end this high rate of maternal mortality and race-based disparities in outcomes among birthing people.”
The term has been increasingly employed on the left to avoid offending, for example, transgender people who give birth but do not identify as women, prompting eye-rolling on the right.
Mr. Lankford said he was “a little taken back when I just read it and saw it,” noting that the phrase may well be offensive to women who give birth and identify as women.
“I would only say, the language is always important always, we don’t want to offend in our language, I get that, but would you at least admit calling a mom a ‘birthing person’ could be offensive to some moms?” asked Mr. Lankford. “They don’t want to get a ‘happy birthing person’ card in May. Can you at least admit that term itself could be offensive to some moms?”
Mr. Becerra replied: “Senator, I’ll go back and take a look at the terminology that was used, and I can get back to you, but again, we’re trying to be precise in the language that’s used.”
The Republican had a suggestion: “Mom’s a pretty good word,” he said. “That’s worked for a while, and I think that’s pretty precise, as well.”