In its 2022 budget proposal, the Department of Health and Human Services sometimes uses the locution “birthing people” in place of “mothers,” apparently to include females who present themselves as men but have not been surgically rendered infertile. Cole Aronson seeks to explain why this linguistic contortion betrays something more sinister than politically correct absurdity:
If a mother is just a birthing person, a mere channel introducing into the world an otherwise rootless individual, then a mother’s child is not hers in any morally thick sense. If children are raised to believe parental authority is arbitrary, and if lawyers and policymakers ingest the same vision, then the rich network of claims and duties binding parents to children will become publicly unintelligible. Those interested in defending parenthood should explain its basis, rather than just sputtering their umbrage at the latest progressive assault on our language and thought.
Motherhood is (like fatherhood) sourced in biology, but not exhausted by it. It’s a thickly normative office. You can be a better or a worse mother, dutiful in your maternal obligations or negligent of them. . . . What would it even mean, by contrast, to be a good birthing person, or to act like one? The nomenclature refers to an hours-long event, and indicates no deeper prior bond, nor any relationship to follow.
Why would they allow youngsters to remain tyrannized by the caprices of birthing people and (I dunno) sperm bearers? And why would young adults who might otherwise raise families feel any obligation to the human beings their bodies disgorge? . . . Why, in short, would anyone choose motherhood in a society that holds motherhood in contempt?