Discourse

NARAL abandons 'mothers' in advance of mothers day

Women’s advocacy groups are unwilling to say that those who give birth, who have natural breasts, and bodies that accommodate babies and maternal reproductive functions are exclusively women.
Libby Emmons
Libby Emmons Brooklyn, NY
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NARAL joins other leftist organizations that have been stalwart defenders of women's rights to self-determination who now shame women for taking ownership over their own bodies and the language used to describe them.

"When we talk about birthing people, we're being inclusive," they wrote on Twitter. "It's that simple."

NARAL, which is short for the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, said that their use of "gender neutral language when talking about pregnancy" is "because it's not just cis-gender women that can get pregnant and give birth."

To further clarify, they wrote that "Reproductive freedom is for *every* body."

And they linked to a video of Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) giving her testimony before congress. "I am committed to doing the most to doing the absolute most to protect black mothers, to protect black babies, and to protect black birthing people," Bush said.

Women's bodies are not exclusionary to those who don't have them. But that doesn't stop women's advocacy groups from obfuscating women's bodies behind increasingly absurd language. Birthing people is the latest term used to describe, well, those who give birth, who are exclusively women. Menstruators, chestfeeders, uterus-havers, are fabricated words that are meant to make men and gender non-conforming females feel better about not being women.

Men aren't women. And women who aren't stereotypically feminine are women. There should be no issue saying or believing either of those things. But here we are, in a landscape where women’s advocacy groups are unwilling to say that those who give birth, who have natural breasts, and bodies that accommodate babies and maternal reproductive functions are women, and that it is exclusively women who do that.

Gender nonconforming women, who wear their hair short, opt for pants not skirts, prefer the terms they or them to describe them, are still females, which makes them, once they are grown, women. There should be no value judgement associated with the noun "woman." It should not hold within it any powers to make people feel left out, or included into something they don't want to be part of it. A woman is simply the female half of the species. The only reason that a person who is one would want to not be identified as such is because of the social value placed on being one.

Nowhere was this more evident this week that in Rep. Cori Bush's (D-MO) testimony to congress about her experience giving birth. The hearing was about women, about mothers, and about maternal mortality during childbirth. There was a racial aspect, as there is so much of the time today, as the hearing was concerned with black mothers’ experiences and rates of mortality during childbirth.

Congress has recently implemented rules as regards the language that is allowed to be used in the House chamber. Words that describe relationships with biological sex designations, such as mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, have been taken away and replaced with parent, sibling, parent's sibling. It is under these new language guidelines and with this new glossary that women were meant to speak about being mothers and the experiences of giving birth with their female bodies.

After Bush spoke to congress about her experience as a "birthing person," gender critical women's advocates were somewhat horrified, both to learn about how difficult birth was both for her children and herself, and to hear her describe expectant mothers as "birthing persons." But NARAL doubled down on this misguided and confusing terminology.

The hearing was on "Birthing While Black: Examining America's Black Maternal Health," and was intended to "examine the maternal mortality and morbidity crisis experienced by [b]lack birthing people in America." Bush upheld the new language erasing mothers from childbirth and NARAL seems to think that's a really good idea.

On their website, under the heading "pregnancy discrimination," NARAL upholds the fact that it is women who give birth. They write "Protecting pregnant women from workplace discrimination is an essential part of reproductive freedom. This advocacy is a crucial part of the work we do every day to ensure a woman's choices are her own—not warped by unfair and discriminatory workplace policies."

So why on Twitter are they happy to say that women are not the ones who give birth, but "birthing people" are? In their quest to gain reproductive freedom for women, why are they so willing to divorce women from the fact of their bodies?

Women experience childbirth in America with difficulty. We are a wealthy nation, with a massive medical infrastructure, yet women, black women, white women, women of all races and ethnicities, encounter a complex medical system that often treats them like they are secondary to their own bodies.

In her testimony, Bush talked about how important it is to be an advocate for yourself with doctors and hospitals. This is a valuable lesson for women who are so often taught to remain silent and compliant, and it was obfuscated by the "birthing person" rhetoric. Congress undermined itself in erasing mothers from a conversation about mothers.

Mom's all have their birth stories, and inspired by Rep. Bush, here's mine. My son arrived three weeks early. He was breech, and I underwent an emergency c-section after I went into early labor. I asked the doctor not to give me demerol for the pain and was rushed into surgery. I saw my son in passing as he was taken away and I passed out. They’d given me demerol. When I came to, I found myself vomiting in a dark room, freezing cold. There was a receptacle for me to vomit into. There was no one around. Every time I tried to call out I vomited instead.

I couldn't stop shivering, my teeth were crashing together as my jaw would stay neither open nor closed except when puking when it would be wrenched open. I was there in a bed throwing up for hours, with no idea where I was, where my son was, or what was wrong with me. When I finally stopped vomiting, and was taken to another room, I asked to see my son.

Hours and hours went by before they brought him to me. I was angry, I was crying, I was in pain. It turns out that after my son was born I came down with hypothermia, and the best solution, apparently, was to leave me alone in the dark vomiting. I left the hospital as soon as we were able, and have had little trust in the medical infrastructure since.

To be a woman is to have a female body, organs, chemicals, and all, and there's nothing wrong with that, it is neither good nor bad, neither exclusionary nor inclusive, it is simply a fact. If we are to ask women to advocate for themselves, we need to let them know, too, that there is nothing wrong with being a mother, with being female, or with being a woman and owing that, no matter how you dress, what you think, or how you want to be perceived.

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