Lankford Wants Answers on Why “Mother” Was Replaced with “Birthing People” in President’s Budget Request
CLICK HERE to watch Lankford’s Q&A on YouTube.
WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today questioned Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on the President’s Fiscal Year 2022 Budget. Lankford asked Becerra for an update on several requests he sent regarding data on the number of Unaccompanied Minors (UAC) crossing the border. He also questioned Becerra on why the department is working to eliminate the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within the Office for Civil Rights at HHS and on language in the President’s proposed budget regarding maternal health that referred to “birthing people” instead of mothers even though the science is clear that women give birth. He also questioned Becerra about federal funding for research on human-animal hybrids using fetal tissue.
Lankford has been long outspoken about the crisis at the border and is working to show the effects of President Biden’s open border crisis on our public safety and national security. Lankford took a trip to the Arizona border in March, during which he visited the unfinished border wall system on the southern border that was halted by the Biden Administration. Lankford also traveled to Texas with a delegation of Senators to tour the Rio Grande Valley area of the southern border as part of his ongoing work to provide necessary oversight of the crisis. Lankford spoke about the situation at the southern border on the Senate floor and sent a letter to GAO Comptroller General Gene Dodaro highlighting President Biden’s suspension of border wall funding and construction without lawful justification.
Lankford opposed Becerra to serve as HHS secretary because of his hostility toward conscience protections and his lack of experience to lead such a critical agency. During his confirmation hearings, Lankford pressed Becerra on how he plans to protect the conscience rights of Americans and ensure faith-based entities receive fair treatment. Earlier this year, Lankford reintroduced the Conscience Protection Act of 2021 to protect health care providers, including health insurance plans, from government discrimination if they decline to participate in abortions.
Lankford has been an unabashed advocate for life in his time in Congress. During debate of the American Rescue Plan Act, Lankford offered an amendment to ensure long-standing Hyde protections, which bars the use of federal dollars to pay for abortion, were included in the bill. President Biden’s proposed budget calls for the elimination of the Hyde amendment. Lankford has stood in opposition to expanding funding for abortion providers and earlier this week called for Senator Schumer and McConnell to bring the Protecting Individuals with Down Syndrome Act to the Senate floor for a vote during the June work period. He also offered an amendment to outlaw animal-human hybrids research during debateon the United States Innovation and Competition Act, which failed on a party-line vote.
On the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division
Lankford: …I was surprised to see the language in the budget stripped out much of that language that had existed in previous budgets about freedom of conscience, about freedom of religion, and it also seems that you’re eliminating the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division. Is that true?…
Becerra: We are going to continue to do the work to protect the religious civil constitutional rights of all Americans under HHS purview. We are going to continue to be a solid organization through the office of Civil Rights that we have to make sure we’re protecting everyone’s rights, including religious conscience rights.
Lankford continued to press: But you’re taking away that division as a priority and putting it under something else or where is going?
Becerra: It continues to function, the work continues to be functioning under the office of civil rights.
Lankford: So it has not changed or it has changed?
Becerra: The work will not change. We continue to have a responsibility to protect the religious freedom of all Americans when it comes to any of the health care programs that are out there…
On language changing “mother” to “birthing people”
Lankford: I also noticed you changed a term in your budget work. You shifted from using the term “mother” to “birthing people,” rather than mother. Can you help me get a good definition of “birthing people”?
Becerra: 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…I don’t know how else to explain it to you other than…
Lankford: I was a little taken aback when I just read it and saw that the term mother was gone in spots and it was replaced with “birthing people”…is this a direction you are going…regulatory changes that are happening or what the purpose of that is.
Becerra: 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 again it simply reflects the work that’s being done.
Lankford: The language is important always…would you at least admit that calling a mom a “birthing person” could be offensive…that they don’t want to get a ‘Happy birthing person card’ in May. Can you at least admit that term itself could be offensive to some moms?
Becerra: Senator, I’ll go back and take a look a look at terminology that was used and I could get back to you, but again if we’re trying to be precise in the language that’s used.