The CDC director is receiving pushback from conservatives for repeatedly referring to pregnant women as "pregnant people" in a brief speech Thursday about COVID-19 vaccines.
The comments by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky about a serious subject – vaccinations among pregnant women – quickly became overshadowed by what many viewers saw as an awkward phrase. Walensky said "pregnant people" six times within about 70 seconds during the remarks.
Walensky was encouraging pregnant women to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, saying new studies show no increase in the risk of miscarriage.
"For pregnant people who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, we are strengthening our guidance and recommending that all pregnant people or people thinking about becoming pregnant get vaccinated," Walensky said.
The new data, she said, builds "on previous evidence from three safety monitoring systems that did not find any safety concerns for pregnant people who are vaccinated late in pregnancy or for their babies." The new data "found no increase in the risk for miscarriage among people who received an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine before 20 weeks of pregnancy."
"Clinicians have seen the number of pregnant people infected with COVID-19 rise in the past several weeks," she said. "The increased circulation of the highly contagious Delta variant, the general low vaccine uptake among pregnant people, and the increased risk of severe illness and pregnancy complications related to COVID-19 infection among pregnant people make vaccination for this population more urgent than ever."
Walensky never said "women." A CDC press release used the phrase "pregnant people" 10 times and the phrase "pregnant women" only once.
The phrase "pregnant people" is used by some in the LGBT community to include biological women who identify as men. It also can include women who identify as non-binary.
Critics of the phrase, though, say it rejects science.
"People don't get pregnant – women do," R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said on his podcast The Briefing.
Syndicated columnist Mona Charen noted that National Public Radio also used the term.
"None of the hosts used the word 'woman' once. It was 'pregnant people' throughout," Charen tweeted. "This is not an accident. It reinforces the idea that women aren't the only people who get pregnant. Sigh."
Just listened to an NPR report about vaccines in pregnancy. None of the hosts used the word "woman" once. It was "pregnant people" throughout. This is not an accident. It reinforces the idea that women aren't the only people who get pregnant. Sigh.— Mona Charen (@monacharen) August 12, 2021
Daniel Darling, vice president at the National Religious Broadcasters, said the phrase is "incredibly demeaning and dehumanizing to women and the sacrifices they make in childbirth and motherhood."
"The fact that our key institutions are using this," he said, "is ridiculous."
I just hate the term "pregnant people." It's so incredibly demeaning and dehumanizing to women and the sacrifices they make in childbirth and motherhood. The fact that our key institutions are using this is ridiculous.— Daniel Darling (@dandarling) August 12, 2021
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Doble D.
Video courtesy: ©Forbes Breaking News
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.