What’s So Scary About “Birthing People?”

Conservative hysteria over gender-inclusive birth language reveals how hard they cling to outdated, sexist ideas of family.

Jude Ellison S. Doyle
5 min readMay 11, 2021

A child, horrified by progress.
If you type “gender neutral baby,” you get this. I admit that I cannot gender this child. Photo by Jenean Newcomb on Unsplash

Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) didn’t intend to spend last week as a flashpoint for trans rights. The fact that she did comes down to two fatal words. The phrase came at the end of an impassioned, deeply personal speech about how medical racism caused her to give birth to one severely premature child and nearly miscarry another: “I am committed to doing the absolute most to protect Black mothers, to protect Black babies, to protect Black birthing people, and to save lives,” Bush concluded.

The conservative Internet lit up. “How incredibly insulting to call mothers ‘birthing people,’” tweeted anti-choice activist Lila Rose. (Bush said “Black mothers.”) “You mean women or moms?” tweeted Rep. Nancy Mace. (Bush said “Black mothers,” and she also said “Black women” at a different point in the speech.) “Why are you smearing bio-women to virtue signal to trans women?” tweeted Rose McGowan. (At no point were cisgender women — a group that includes Cori Bush — impugned.)

Cori Bush herself eventually had to respond to all this on Twitter, noting that all these commentators were missing one fairly obvious point:

It hardly registered. By that time, conservatives had moved onto a new, and equally imaginary, target: The insidious transgender mission to erase the word “Mother” from Mother’s Day.

Jude Ellison S. Doyle

Author of “Trainwreck” (Melville House, ‘16) and “Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers” (Melville House, ‘19). Columns published far and wide across the Internet.