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How Cori Bush Exposed the Endless Cruelty of Transphobes

Rep. Cori Bush shared her encounters with medical racism, and enraged a swath of transphobes in the process.

Cori Bush testifies about Black maternal mortality before the Committee on Oversight and Reform
Screenshots via RepCori/Twitter

There is no topic too grave that transphobic commentators won’t police the hell out of it, even if it features someone recalling their racist encounters with the healthcare system.

On Thursday, Missouri Rep. Cori Bush, along with other members of Congress, advocates, and medical professionals, testified before the Committee on Oversight and Reform for a hearing on Black maternal health, mortality, and morbidity. Bush’s testimony was particularly stirring, as she recalled the near-death of both of her children while she was pregnant.

Bush said that she was twice told by her doctors that there was nothing wrong with her pregnancies, despite feeling something was wrong herself, or that nothing could be done to prevent her from miscarrying. She said one doctor even told her that it would be fine if she lost her baby because she could just get pregnant again, “because that’s what you people do.”

Bush said that the last-ditch effort to advocate for herself ahead of miscarrying one of her children actually came from her sister, who threw a chair down a hallway to get the attention of nurses and her doctor. Both of her children wound up being born prematurely.

Bush’s testimony was shocking, but Black pregnant people have long faced this kind of racist and callous treatment. Black maternal mortality and morbidity is a crisis, and it’s long overdue that it be treated as such. But despite Bush’s testimony being so moving, and the subject matter of this hearing being so serious, conservatives across Twitter — and even people claiming to be on the “left” — have clung to one phrase that Bush used in her speech to be more inclusive to nonbinary people and trans men: “birthing people.”

“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,” Bush closed her speech. “I sit before you today as a single mom, as a nurse, as an activist, and as a Congresswoman. And I am committed to doing the absolute most to protect Black mothers, to protect Black babies, to protect Black birthing people, and to save lives.”

Yes, not even while Bush is talking about the near-death of her children because of medical racism can TERFs and transphobic trolls find some grace.

There are many similar responses, but I will spare you the rest. This was always going to be the reaction from people who think trans people are invalid, and who understand the role of cis women to be inherently tied to childbirth. They have no concept of motherhood and pregnancy outside of cis women, despite the fact that some trans men and nonbinary people are capable of having children. And so instead of processing a piece of information that doesn’t fit their worldview, they chose to dunk on Bush and other people who use inclusive language around pregnancy and reproductive healthcare for an easy, self-validating win.

Cori Bush had so many genuinely upsetting things to say about what she had been through— about the very concept of life that many of these people claim to care about — but her critics flew right past that. They didn’t care about the racism she faced and the harm that the healthcare system has caused her and other Black pregnant people. They just cared that she dared expand the circle of people that she was advocating for. And that, to me, is all you need to consider when questioning if any of these right-wing and centrist reactionaries actually really care about Black maternal mortality and morbidity, or racism in healthcare. They don’t care about pregnant people and whether they can safely carry their pregnancies to term with the healthcare they need — they only care about policing what people can and can’t do with their bodies, trans men and nonbinary people included.