During a congressional hearing Wednesday, Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Shalanda Young defended the 2021 Biden budget proposal’s redefinition of mothers as “birthing people.”
Republican Representative Jason Smith, a top-ranking member on the House Budget Committee, noted that the replacement of the word “mother” for the gender-ambiguous phrase, in reference to funding maternal health care, was unprecedented for a budget plan.
“The budget requests $26 million to reduce maternal mortality and eliminate race-based disparities in outcomes among ‘birthing people.'” Smith said. “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?”
“There are certain people who do not have gender identities that apply to female and male, so we think our language needs to be more inclusive on how we deal with complex issues,” Young responded.
Incorporating jargon of both gender and racial inclusivity, Biden’s budget stipulates that over $200 million in funding will be allocated to reduce the high rate of maternal mortality and “race-based disparities in outcomes among birthing people.” The latter term is instead of “mothers,” which encompasses the strictly female capabilities of both child delivery and child-rearing.
“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 should have access to the same quality of health,” Young added.
“So is the administration’s official policy to replace the term ‘woman’ with ‘birthing people’?” Smith asked.
Young replied, “I think our official policy is to make sure that when people get service from their government that they feel included, and we’re trying to use inclusive language.”
Young’s update on the Biden budget’s use of progressive language comes after Missouri Democratic representative Cori Bush was lambasted by conservatives for calling black mothers “black birthing people” at a House Oversight Committee hearing on black maternal health.
Opponents of gender-inclusive terminology contend that neutralizing words meant exclusively for women devalues and diminishes the female experience, a key part of which is often motherhood.