Rep. Cori Bush is not here for your racism or transphobia. The Missouri legislator pushed back on false outrage at her use of gender-inclusive language in a Capitol Hill testimony about her birthing experiences.
Bush pointed out that people were more hyped up over gender-inclusive language than her account of near-death experience and mistreatment during childbirth.
Bush testified Thursday before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Birthing While Black: Examining America’s Black Maternal Health Crisis. Occurring a few weeks after Black Maternal Health Week, the hearing brought forth testimony about the maternal mortality and morbidity crisis.
By using the phrase “Black birthing people,” Bush followed an emerging norm within birth justice spaces. Black Women Birthing Justice defines birth justice as part of the broader movement to dismantle reproductive oppression. The organization also recognizes the varying experiences and needs of various groups, including queer and transfolks.
Recently named vice-chair on Children, Families, and Communities for the Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity for the 117th Congress, Bush recalled her experience as an unhoused mother of two.
“It is our duty as representatives in Congress to do the most for everyone we represent, beginning with those who have the least,” Bush said in a statement. “Poverty is a policy choice, and together we will fight for a future where our families and children have what they need to live a good and joyous life.”
Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who also testified alongside her colleague, used the phrase in a tweet announcing the reintroduction of the MOMMIES Act with Sen. Cory Booker.
Hearing co-chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s opening statement also contained gender-inclusive language. Dr. Joia Crear-Perry also used the phrase Black birthing people in her testimony.
As an OB-GYN and founder of the National Birth Equity Collaborative, Crear-Perry laid out the stark realities of Black maternal health. She also pointed to issues that can increase birthing complications, including police violence and climate change. One example was Black birthing people having greater exposure to extreme heat than their white counterparts, increasing the likelihood of hospitalization in the third trimester.
Crear, along with Monica R. McLemore Ph.D., and Jamie Hart, Ph.D., MPH, wrote an op-ed challenging the White House to adopt a reproductive justice approach to healthcare. President Biden announced the creation of the White House Gender Policy Council in early March. Crear, McLemore, and Hart want Biden to establish the White House Office of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Wellbeing under the Domestic Policy Council.
“By reframing policy design to start with sexual and reproductive health and wellbeing, we can integrate health equity and the social supports that ensure good public health, such as housing, employment, and educational attainment,” wrote the trio. “Reproductive Justice is the foundation of wellbeing in all aspects of individuals’ lives.”
The Office of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Wellbeing would provide the infrastructure to promote and ensure fair health services for all.
By her testimony and adjusting for inclusive language, Bush showed her continued commitment to ensuring children and families get the help they need and deserve. Better to upset social media trolls than continue to disregard all those who give birth.