OMB Director Defends Controversial 'Birthing People' Reference in Biden's Budget

Shalanda Young is the first birthing person of color to lead the agency

June 9, 2021

Acting Office of Management and Budget director Shalanda Young on Wednesday defended President Joe Biden's decision to include woke terminology in his 2022 budget proposal.

Rep. Jason Smith (R., Mo.), the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, asked Young to explain the budget's use of the phrase "birthing people" to describe women and mothers.

"This is a shift from recent budgets, which referred to maternal health issues as women's issues," Smith said. "I've never heard the term [birthing people] before. Can you explain what it means?"

Young proceeded to explain. "There are certain people who do not have gender identities that apply to female or male and so we think our language needs to be more inclusive in how we deal with complex issues," she said.

The text of Biden's record-breaking $6 trillion budget, unveiled in May, includes a section highlighting more than $200 million in proposed spending to reduce the "high rate of maternal mortality and race-based disparities in outcomes among birthing people."

The term has been the subject of some controversy since last month, when Rep. Cori Bush (D., Mo.) used it during a speech on the House floor. Prior to her election in 2020, Bush worked as a faith healer for a religious group that claims to have cured thousands of people suffering from AIDS, cancer, and other ailments.

Left-wing activists have vigorously defended the term. "When we talk about birthing people, we're being inclusive. It's that simple," NARAL Pro-Choice America tweeted from its official account in response to the uproar over Bush's remarks. "We use gender neutral language when talking about pregnancy, because it's not just cis-gender women that can get pregnant and give birth. Reproductive freedom is for *every* body."

Biden's budget is, by all accounts, the first federal document to include the controversial term. If, as Young suggested, the federal government's goal is to "be more inclusive in how we deal with complex issues," it is not clear why the budget's language regarding paid-leave policies stresses the importance of keeping "mothers in the workplace."

Young, who is serving concurrently as deputy director and acting director of the OMB, is the first birthing person of color to lead the agency.