Missouri Democratic Rep. Cori Bush hit back Thursday at conservative critics who denounced her use of gender inclusive language rather than focusing on her story of nearly losing both of her children during childbirth.
Bush, a freshman lawmaker from St. Louis, testified at a House Oversight hearing on health risks faced by Black mothers.
They have the highest pregnancy related mortality rate among all races — 40.8 deaths per 100,000 births, a rate more than three times higher than white women, according to 2019 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Bush, 44, a nurse and the first Black woman to represent Missouri in Congress, gave a harrowing account of her pregnancies roughly two decades ago.
Bush complained to her doctor about severe pains during her first pregnancy, but was told she was fine and instructed to go home. The next week she went into preterm labor.
“At 23 weeks, my son was born. One pound, 3 ounces. His ears were still in his head. His eyes were still fused shut and his skin was translucent— a Black baby, translucent skin,” Bush said. “You could see his lungs. He could fit within the palm of my hand. We were told he had a 0 % chance of life.”
Her son was resuscitated and survived after spending his first month on a ventilator.
Bush became pregnant for a second time months later and again went into preterm labor. A doctor told her to go home where she would miscarry, Bush said.
She testified that her sister, who was with her at the hospital, threw a chair to get the attention of the nursing staff. The next day, she received treatment for cervical weakness, which enabled her to carry daughter, who is now 20, to term.
“This is what desperation looks like: That chair flying down the hallway. This is what being your own advocate looks like,” Bush said. “Every day Black women are subjected to harsh and racist treatment during pregnancy and childbirth. Every day Black women die because the system denies our humanity. It denies us patient care.”
But when Bush posted a video of the heart-rending testimony to Twitter Thursday afternoon, she faced swift backlash on social media for her use of the phrase “birthing people,” a term that includes transgender and non-binary people who give birth.
A slew of prominent conservative accounts criticized Bush.
“They’re called mothers. Calling them ‘birthing people’ is reducing them to a function--making them not human,” said Tim Carney, a columnist for the conservative Washington Examiner and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. “That’s what’s at the heart of this whole gender ideology. Reduce us to atomized autonomous individuals without a role or connection.”
Steve Cortes, who served on former President Donald Trump’s campaigns, also mocked Bush. “This upcoming Sunday is no longer Mothers Day, it’s Birthing Peoples’ Day,” Cortes said.
Bush responded to the furor Thursday and evening and chastised her critics, who she accused of racism and transphobia.
“I testified in front of Congress about nearly losing both of my children during childbirth because doctors didn’t believe my pain,” Bush said. “Republicans got more upset about me using gender-inclusive language in my testimony than my babies nearly dying.”