NYC chief medical officer calls whites 'birthing people,' blacks and Puerto Ricans 'mothers'

Mayor Eric Adams, by contrast, refers to "the mother's womb" for all races.

Updated: March 24, 2022 - 10:44am

The New York City Department of Health's first chief medical officer sees white women as "birthing persons" and black and Puerto Rican women as "mothers," according to her Wednesday afternoon tweet thread on the city's expanded "doula program and midwifery initiative to reduce maternal and infant health inequities."

Michelle Morse, who joined the department from Harvard Medical School a year ago, also used the term "birthing person" when not referring to the race of a given woman. Elite medical institutions have increasingly moved away from gender-specific terms for sex-based bodily functions, including pregnancy and menstruation.

"We need to support birthing people through all aspects of their birthing experience – perhaps the most beautiful and personal gift we can share with birthing people as they navigate the groundbreaking life changing experience of creating life," Morse wrote.

"The urgency of this moment is clear," she said. "Mortality rates of birthing people are too high, and babies born to Black and Puerto Rican mothers in this city are three times more likely to die in their first year of life than babies born to non-Hispanic White birthing people."

That tweet in the thread has drawn more than 700 comments and 300 quote-tweets as of Thursday morning, far more than any other.

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"Maybe I’m saying the quiet part out loud but it sounds like POC [people of color] women are mothers and white women are birthing people," one user wrote. "Why are you so transphobic against Black and Puerto Rican birthing people?" another said sarcastically. "The entire woke era summarized in one Tweet," according to a quote-tweet.

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Morse has not apparently responded to the criticism. She tweeted Thursday morning about the "Get the Good Stuff" program that doubles food stamp benefits for fruits, vegetables and beans.

The New York Daily News left out Morse's distinction between whites and nonwhites in its report on the city's announcement. But Mayor Eric Adams twice referred to "the mother’s womb," the latter word now frowned upon by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

ACOG's guide on language and abortion recommends "uterus" because "womb" is a "non-medical term that can be used to apply an emotional value to a human organ."