This week, the Centers for Disease Control revealed its guidance on COVID vaccinations for what it called “pregnant and recently pregnant people.” Earlier CDC guidance for pregnant women has now been altered to reflect the new dispensation to erase any mention of women or mothers: Old links on the CDC’s website take you to pages that replace the word “women” with “people.” Mainstream media outlets like the New York Times and ABC News dutifully repeated the CDC’s new “pregnant people” phrase in their coverage of the vaccine announcement.
The substitution of “people” for “women” is not innocuous. Indeed, it is part of a broader effort by the Biden administration to change how the federal government not only talks about its citizens but devises policies that impact them. In February, the administration announced its intention to stop using words like “alien” to describe illegal immigrants, for example, and as the New York Times noted, “across the government, L.G.B.T.Q. references are popping up everywhere. Visitors to the White House website are now asked whether they want to provide their pronouns when they fill out a contact form: she/her, he/him or they/them.”
The effort is government-wide. It includes the words that can appear in news releases, executive orders, federal forms, and online portals used by Americans for an array of government services. Even history is being altered to reflect the new ideological demands: the White House changed references to past presidents from “he” to “they.”
The Times was clearly enthusiastic about the change and made no pretense of hiding its bias in its own reporting on the subject. “It is all part of a concerted effort by the Biden administration to rebrand the government after four years of President Donald J. Trump,” the paper’s dispatch read, “in part by stripping away the language and imagery that represented his anti-immigration, anti-science and anti-gay rights policies and replacing them with words and pictures that are more inclusive and better match the current president’s sensibilities.”
But these supposedly “inclusive” efforts erase women and mothers. In June, during testimony before the Senate Finance Committee, Senator James Lankford questioned Biden’s Health and Human Service Secretary Xavier Becerra about why the word “mother” had been replaced by “birthing people” throughout his agency’s proposed budget. Becerra could not offer a reasonable response; indeed, he could not even bring himself to say the word “mother” at all. Nor could he offer a reasonable definition of “birthing people.”
The Biden administration and its liberal elite supporters assume that, because their motivation in making these alterations to language is inclusivity, these changes are largely innocuous (and anyone who opposes them must be a bigot). As University of California, Los Angeles, anthropologist Norma Mendoza-Denton told the Times, “Biden is trying to reclaim the vision of America that was there during the Obama administration, a vision that was much more diverse, much more religiously tolerant, much more tolerant of different kinds of gender dispositions and gender presentations.”
But these seemingly innocuous word alterations signal controversial ideological positions, which is why the “pregnant people” Newspeak so glibly used by the CDC generated an immediate and understandable backlash, just as “birthing people” had done earlier in the summer.
The use of “people” deliberately erases motherhood and devalues women. “People” can’t get pregnant. Only those who are born biologically female can have babies. Particularly in the case of a government agency that claims to offer health guidance and wants Americans to “follow the science,” it’s absurd to suggest, as the CDC is doing with this language change, that men can become pregnant.
While there have been a few cases of trans men giving birth, it’s far from a mainstream occurrence (indeed, in a less politically correct time, it used to be the stuff of comedy). Shouldn’t language standards used by the federal government reflect most Americans’ experience? Especially given that the changes made to them effectively erase half the population (women)?
The list of things one is not allowed to say so as not to offend trans rights activists (mother, woman, vagina) without caveats or at all is growing daily. The monitoring of speech is often an early signal of a government’s willingness to act on such ideological motivations (as liberals argued the Trump administration’s use of phrases like “illegal alien” reflected on its immigration policies).
A diverse and truly tolerant society can recognize two things at once about trans people. As Helen Joyce, the author of Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality, recently told Spiked, most people have “no objection to people who find it difficult to live in the world while presenting as members of their sex. Any decent society should try to accommodate all sorts of different people.”
But trans activists are pursuing something else, the claim that “biological sex either doesn’t matter or isn’t real, and that it is something that we should be allowed to overwrite.” The results of those specious claims are far from innocuous. “If you abandon the material reality of sexed bodies, particularly women’s sexed bodies,” Joyce added, “you have no basis on which to argue for women-only spaces.”
You also have a vanishing basis for advocating for what mothers need and force the government to monitor speech in a way that is incompatible with the values of a free society. Most people don’t think or speak this way; and it’s unlikely they can be forced to, even if activists insist that refusing to do so is evidence of transphobia and violates the civil rights of trans people.
But as Joyce notes, “Civil-rights movements point out distinctions without differences. For example, there is no reason for not letting women vote except prejudice.” Trans activists’ claims are something else: “Male and female are really different things in many senses. When it comes to women’s bodies and who gets pregnant, who’s stronger, who commits most of the violent crime and sexual offenses, it’s clear that there is a difference. Therefore, the trans movement is demanding that we ignore a distinction that is based on difference.”
The federal government’s denial of sex differences in the language it uses won’t lead more Americans to embrace that denial. Rather, this language manipulation is more likely to needlessly exacerbate the culture war and sow further doubt about government institutions that are already dangerously low on public trust.