Peers to Press UK Government to Replace ‘Person’ With ‘Woman’ in Proposed Maternity Bill

February 15, 2021 Updated: February 15, 2021

Peers are preparing to press the UK government to replace the word “person” with the word “woman” in a proposed Maternity Bill, The Telegraph reported on Monday.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath is in talks with fellow House of Lords peers and will be urging the government to revise the Ministerial and other Maternity Allowances Bill (pdf) amid worries that the wording used could be “taken as a precedent for future legislation,” according to The Telegraph.

“The problem is we’re seeing the introduction of an ideological language of public bodies trying to avoid the use of the word woman,” Lord Hunt told the publication.

“You need a mark in the sand. I don’t want to see women marginalised or discriminated against because we are now afraid to use the word.”

The bill, drafted to allow ministers to take paid maternity leave while remaining in government posts, will be put before the House of Lords for its second reading on Feb. 22.

Hunts’s concerns follow Scottish National Party MP Joanna Cherry last week highlighting fears over the “erasure of women” in the proposed law, which she said does not adequately tackle discrimination around maternity.

“Why does this bill make no mention of women?” she asked when addressing Parliament on Feb. 11.

“It is women who give birth and women who benefit from maternity leave,” she said.

“Why must we deny that there are two sexes and why must we deny that biological sex exists?”

Cherry suggested the wording of the draft legislation mimics “the ideological language which is now seen across schools, universities, and the NHS.”

She also said it fails to comply with the Equality Act 2010, which refers to pregnancy and maternity using the “day to day language of centuries—‘woman’, ‘she’ and ‘her’.”

“If this is an innocent mistake then let’s put it right quickly and easily by replacing the word ‘person’ with ‘woman’” she said.

Cherry said identity politics is causing conflict between politicians, with those who try to warn against “the erasure of biological reality and the reality of womanhood” within legislation often being pilloried.

“Many politicians are now so enthralled to those who wish to erase women for the purposes of advancing gender identity theory,” she said, “that they call those of us who advocate for women’s sex-based rights transphobic.”

She added that it is not transphobic to advocate for women’s sex-based rights.

“We must find a way to be inclusive without erasing women’s biology,” she said.

Cherry’s remarks came just a day after the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust announced, in an effort to promote gender inclusiveness, that midwives can replace the words “breastfeeding” with “chestfeeding,” “mother” with “birthing parent,” and “pregnant women” with “pregnant women and people.”

The trust noted, however, that the language was only being introduced for trans and non-binary midwifery service users.

“The trust recognises the vast majority of midwifery service users are women and already has language in place women are comfortable with. This is not changing. For example, we will continue to call them pregnant women and talk about breastfeeding,” the trust said in a statement.