The language we use to talk about pregnancy and abortion is changing.But not everyone welcomes the transition


from patient waiting room To parliament buildingthe language used to talk about reproduction is changing.

Across the United States, mainstream organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and CNN choose gender-neutral terms such as “pregnant,” “aborted,” and “birth parent.” trend is intensifying. Supports “woman” when referring to pregnancy, fertility, and abortion.

These terminology changes demonstrate an effort to include transgender and nonbinary people who may become pregnant. But the change has also caused a backlash. republican politician open person hostile to LGBTQ people as well as from some Cisgender Women who identify themselves as LGBTQ allies and support abortion rights (women whose gender identity matches the gender they were assigned at birth).

“We’re not just talking about the same people as before,” said Kristen Sillett, associate professor of linguistics at Rutgers University. I think people will be more uncomfortable because it’s so different from how they’ve thought for a long time.”

Arguments about language can very often seem arbitrary. Abortion services are no longer available in their hometown. But at the heart of these debates is the question of who is subject to restrictive laws and policies, who is affected, and who participates in the conversation.

Jillian Brunstetter, communications strategist for the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project and LGBTQ & HIV Project, said using blanket language to talk about abortion reminds us that not only cis women can get pregnant. says he recognizes it.

Just like cis girls and trans boys, some trans men and non-binary people can get pregnant too. Not all women can get pregnant. While some cis women struggle with fertility, trans women do not have a uterus. You can express the nuances that cannot be expressed.

Because the U.S. health care system tracks transgender and nonbinary people as women, there is little data on the number of transgender and nonbinary people who become pregnant and have abortions.a 2019 study from Rutgers University It has been suggested that up to 30% of transgender men experience unplanned pregnancies. A 2020 study by researchers at the Guttmacher Institute and Planned Parenthood An estimated 462 to 530 transgender and nonbinary people had abortions in 2017 (CDC report In total, about 609,000 abortions were performed that year).As Growing number of adults who identify as transgender or nonbinaryexperts say such estimates are likely to be underestimated.

Still, these figures pale in comparison to the number of cis women accessing reproductive health care. Branstetter acknowledges this reality, stating that 99% of people who are trying to conceive or need contraception or an abortion are women.

But that’s exactly why we need to make room for transgender and non-binary people. significant barriers They are facing reproductive health care, she added. “It’s important to remember that trans people have no right to pretend we don’t exist.”

Others worry that not using the word “woman” obscures what is driving the attacks on abortion rights: misogyny.

Carey Baker, a professor of women and gender studies at Smith College, believes that gender-neutral terms such as “pregnant person” are imprecise and imprecise. also includes cisgender men whose bodies are immune to abortion restrictions, she said.

Baker recognizes the importance of being inclusive and strives to refer to different groups affected by abortion restrictions when possible. She said she emphasized emphasizing women because she considers them to be the main targets of the abortion ban.

Otherwise, Baker said, the underlying sexism in laws that seek to control women’s bodies will disappear.

“‘Pregnant person’ doesn’t refer to who we are talking about. (Pregnancy) sounds like a gender-neutral phenomenon, or a sex-neutral phenomenon,” she added. “I believe abortion bans are motivated by sexism and prejudices against women, cisgender women, or simply femininity.”

Some abortion rights advocates now Equal Rights Amendment To establish the constitutional right to abortion, Baker said clarity on the role of sexism in restricting abortion was necessary to challenge such laws. So to do it effectively is What does it mean to name a woman.

“I think we need to talk about it, otherwise I think we need to essentially do what the right-wingers who are trying to erase the significance of the discriminatory impact of abortion bans do,” Baker said. I was.

Some even went so far as to suggest that women as a class are being obliterated. Pamela Paul Condemning the use of terms such as “pregnant person” in the work, he wrote: It is also a matter of moral harm and an insult to our own senses. of the Atlantic Helen Lewis He accused the left of “declaring war on the word ‘woman'”.

“By replacing women with people, we lose the ability to talk about women as a class. We break them apart, into functions, into commodities,” she argued.

Sillett, a linguist at Rutgers University, understands where these anxieties come from, but encourages people to reflect on what they’re communicating with their word choices.

“For some, it seems natural to feel that this is taking something away, or perhaps it is disrespecting some of the things that have long been associated with femininity. “This is about taking a step back and talking about ‘women’ vs. ‘women’ vs. ‘people of reproductive potential,’ regardless of your position or your experience with reproductive issues.” This is an opportunity to ask the meaning of .”

For ACLU’s Bran Stetter, claims that women are being erased are exaggerated.

Progressive organizations are choosing terms like “pregnant” in their public messaging campaigns, but who is forcing women to stop describing themselves as such? Neither, she said. Moreover, the word “woman” has been used in many national conversations about abortion, from the Women’s Health Protection Act, which sought to codify Roe v. Wade, to the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Agency Supreme Court ruling that overturned it. remains at the center of

“I think the demise of the word ‘woman’ is greatly exaggerated,” Branstetter said. “And I don’t think there’s any harm in making room for more people than women who need this care.”

Proponents of more inclusive terms feel that such arguments present a false dichotomy.

Oliver Hall, director of trans health for the Kentucky Health Justice Network, said critics of terms like “pregnant” miss the way transgender and nonbinary people are hurt by misogyny. Recognizing what limits abortion and creating spaces for transgender and non-binary people are not mutually exclusive, they added.

“I think people feel that just saying ‘women’ doesn’t speak to the role misogyny plays in these laws,” Hall said. “But I think it also penalizes not only those laws, but trans people who are affected by misogyny as a whole.”

Including transgender and nonbinary people in the fight for abortion rights doesn’t mean taking anything away from cisgender women, Hall said. has the potential to strengthen the rights movement of

At the heart of the abortion ban, Brunsetter compares it to attempts to ban it, is the desire to preserve traditional gender roles. gender affirming care.

“What the efforts to ban abortion and the efforts to exclude transgender people from public life have in common is the enforcement of very strict gender dichotomies based on the exploitation of reproductive labor,” she said. Told. “It’s a more complicated story than ‘I do it because I hate women.’ But it’s more true.”


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