In a win for women and biological reality, the federal government has agreed to replace a government health form that calls mothers “birthing parents” after new mum and Giggle social media app founder Sall Grover decried the language as “exclusionary, alienating and derogatory” towards women.
Grover was recently the subject of a discrimination claim due to taking another stand for women. She had refused to allow Roxy Tickle – a male who identifies as a woman – to use her women-only networking app. The vexatious claim was dropped just a couple of weeks before she was due to give birth.
Then, after giving birth to her daughter Isabelle last week, Grover noticed that the form to include her daughter on her Medicare card asked for the “birthing parent’s name” instead of the “mother’s name”. She tweeted on Tuesday:
“Attention women in Australia:
On the form to put our newborn baby on our Medicare card, we are referred to as “birthing parent”.
Enough is enough.
This absolute bullsh*t is exclusionary, alienating and derogatory towards every woman wants to be and is called “mother”.”
The following day she added:
“Having to sign my name next to the title “birthing parent” on a government form is just too close to a Handmaids Tale dystopia for me to feel relaxed & “inclusive” to be honest, & I’m quite apprehensive of anyone who is happy to be called “birthing parent” on a government form.”
Speaking to the Today Show, Grover said the “dehumanising, ridiculous language” on the form was an example of the erosion of women’s rights and language, that has become so pervasive in our society as a result of gender ideology.
“The birth is this one day. Motherhood is about so much more than that. It’s every other day from then. And when you’ve got your first few days of excitement of being part of that and then you just see ‘birthing parent’ and you’re reducing me to the act of getting her here? No.”
Grover’s story sparked backlash from other mums, and was picked up by the Daily Telegraph, prompting Minister for NDIS and Government Services Bill Shorten to promise to scrap the term “birthing parent” and replace it with “mother”.
In a series of tweets this morning, Shorten said that the form “was part of a pilot program launched in three hospitals under the previous Coalition Government.” He said that as soon as he was informed of the situation he “instructed the responsible officials they should cease using the previous government’s forms” and confirmed that “they will be replaced with new forms that use the word mother, not birthing parent, which is consistent with other Medicare forms.”
Grover said she’s “very happy with Bill Shorten’s statement and plan” and that she “hope[s] this win inspires more women to speak up when our rights, language, spaces and sport are under attack.” She added: “We just have to stand up for ourselves.”
However, others on social media have lashed out saying the reversion to “mother” is “exclusionary” and “bowing to transphobia”.
A news.com.au piece has further responded with the obfuscatory claim that “[e]ach year in Australia, several men give birth to children”, which is “possible because not everyone’s gender identity matches the reproductive organs they were born with” and that “government records should reflect the fact that some people identify with a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth.” In other words, each year in Australia, several women who identify as men give birth to children. The piece notes that "using gender neutral language such as 'birthing parent' can help include people who would otherwise be excluded."
Services Australia, the agency responsible for the forms, said they had tested the term "birthing parent" in advance, and received “positive feedback”. Yet one has to wonder who they asked, given that a poll in today's Daily Telegraph asking "Do you agree with mothers being referred to as 'birthing parents'?", has received a resounding NO.
The fact of the matter is, the form should never have been changed in the first place. There is nothing exclusionary or transphobic about wanting a government record to accurately reflect biological reality and to show some respect to the hundreds of thousands of mothers who give birth in Australia each year. Men cannot give birth. At the end of the day, no matter how a person ‘identifies’, only women can give birth and only women can be mothers. As Grover has noted:
“The fact is, this ideological language is being introduced to appease a very fringe group of people, many of whom are lobbyists and activists. It’s only ‘inclusive’ of gender identity ideologues who want to detach themselves from all traces of femaleness but still want to be pregnant and give birth – a uniquely female act.”
Thank you, Sall, for continuing to stand up for women and girls. Your little girl is going to grow up in a better world, thanks to women like you.
Women’s Forum Australia is an independent think tank that undertakes research, education and public policy advocacy on issues affecting women and girls, with a particular focus on addressing behaviours and practices that are harmful and abusive to them. We are a non-partisan, non-religious, tax-deductible charity. We do not receive any government funding and rely solely on donations to make an impact. Support our work today.
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