Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, who in June 2021 grinned and refused to use the word “mother” when asked about the Biden administration using the term “birthing people,” called the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade “despicable” on Tuesday.
Over the weekend, Becerra indicated that HHS might help transport women across state lines in order to get an abortion.
On Tuesday, Becerra sneered, “On Friday, June 24, five Americans decided to use the vast power bestowed upon them by our democracy and our Constitution to unconscionably put at risk the life and health of millions of our fellow Americans. They chose to unconscionably limit Americans’ established freedom and autonomy to control their own body. Decision usually made in consultation with their doctor, not a politician. And they chose to unconscionably strip away the fundamental health care protections that every American of child-bearing age has known all their lives.”
“Friday’s Supreme Court decision was despicable, but it was not unpredictable. HHS has been preparing for this for some time,” he sniped.
In June 2021, speaking before the Senate Finance Committee hearing about the Biden administration’s fiscal year 2022 HHS budget request, Becerra was confronted by Oklahoma GOP Senator James Lankford about the removal of the word “mother” and the insertion of the term “birthing people.”
Lankford cornered Becerra about the elision of the word “mother,” asserting, “I also notice you changed a term in your budget where you shifted in places from using the term ‘mother’ to ‘birthing people’ rather than ‘mother.’ Can you help me get a good definition of ‘birthing people?’”
Becerra deflected, “Well, I’ll check on the language there, but I think if we’re talking about those who give birth I think we’re talking about —” Unable to bring himself to say “mother,” Becerra grinned, “I don’t know how else to explain it to you other than …” as his voice petered out.
Lankford pressed, “I was a little taken aback when I just read it and saw it that the term ‘mother’ was gone and it was replaced with ‘birthing people” and I didn’t know if this was a direction you were going, if there were shifts, if there were regulatory changes that are happening related to that or what the purpose of that is.”
Becerra dodged, “I think it’s probably — and again I’d have to go back and take a look at the language that was used in the budget, but I think it simply reflects the work that is being done.”
“I definitely get that; I would only say the language is important always; we don’t want to offend in our language; I get that,” Lankford said. “But would you at least admit calling a mom a ‘birthing person’ could be offensive to some moms? They don’t want to get like a ‘Happy Birthing Person’ card in May. Can you at least admit that term itself could be offensive to some moms?”
Becerra still wouldn’t admit Lankford’s argument, instead laughing, “Senator, I’ll go back and take a look at the terminology that was used and I can get back to you, but again, if we’re trying to be precise in the language that’s used.”
Lankford fired, “Mom’s a pretty good word. That’s worked for a while and I think that’s pretty precise as well.”
Becerra refusing to say “mother”:
Becerra calling SCOTUS decision “despicable”: