A A growing number of abortion rights advocates have abandoned labeling the procedure a “women’s rights” issue in favor of more gender-neutral terminology, a move that could alienate moderate Democrats.
The lexicon of the abortion rights movement has changed to incorporate terms such as “pregnant people” and “persons capable of conceiving”.
The high-profile exchange between Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and University of California, Berkeley law professor Khiara Bridges during a Tuesday hearing on abortion access, underlined the abandonment of the term “women” among proponents of abortion rights.
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Hawley asked Bridges about his use of the term “people with pregnancy capacity,” asking to clarify, “Would that be women?” Bridges called her question transphobic, saying she excluded transgender men and non-binary people.
She said last month’s Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade affects cisgender women, as well as other groups.
Bridges’ response angered conservatives.
“Now they dehumanize women by denying the existence of women (and “women” as a term that only applies to women), instead referring to women by their bodily functions or ability – “capable of being pregnant” or “birthing” — or as possessors of anatomical parts — “vaginas,” said Mary Rice Hasson, a fellow at the conservative Center for Ethics and Public Policy. “This kind of language is dehumanizing, but very much in the character of pro-abortion/pro-choice activists.”
In a separate hearing before the Senate Health Committee last Wednesday, Dr. Jamila Taylor, director of health care reform and senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a progressive policy think tank, used the term “birth of people” in his opening statement before lawmakers.
In another high-profile case, Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) used the term “people giving birth” in her personal testimony before the House Oversight Committee last year. Shortly thereafter, in the Biden administration’s 2022 budget proposal, the words “mothers” and “women” were removed and replaced with “people in labor.”
Abortion rights groups have also eliminated terms that include “women”, choosing gender-neutral language instead. In 2020, for example, official NARAL guidelines advised abortion activists to refer to abortion as a “woman’s choice.” Two years later, that advice had changed to advising people to use “gender neutral language” instead.
Reproductive rights and transgender issues are two of the hottest political topics, and the shift in language surrounding pregnancy has caused the two to intersect. It also carries the risk that Democrats will confuse their audiences and push back against moderates in favor of popularity among the far-left base.
The messaging problem surrounding pregnancy can be likened to a shift from using the term “illegal immigrants” to “undocumented workers,” a Democratic strategist told the Washington Examiner. It is crucial that politicians and voters speak the same language. In an attempt to be more inclusive, the party could sacrifice clarity, she said.
“The Democratic Party is increasingly becoming an elite, liberal, white party. And he leaves behind working-class voters and anyone who was culturally conservative, even if they don’t consider themselves Republicans,” said Mike Shields, Republican strategist and former Republican National Committee chief of staff.
Democrats have increasingly
become a party
educated, upper-class voters concerned primarily with social and civil rights issues such as gun control and abortion, while Republicans have an advantage among working-class voters who are most concerned by inflation and the economy. Shields suspects Republicans, who are expected to win big in November, will be able to curry favor with centrist Democrats on the close of the Republican vote.
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“This forced acceptance on voters and working-class voters who feel they are unrepresented,” Shields said. “The Republican Party does a much better job of opening its arms and saying, ‘You’re away from them, you have a home here, we’re listening to you.