Most organisations choose to be fluid in how they approach inclusive language around abortion. ‘Women and people’ is definitely a mouthful but then any of us who have worked in think tanks have had worse jargon to try and fit into a 280 character tweet (my personal favourite: ‘democratising the knowledge economy’). In very practical terms, I tend to include ‘women and people’ at the beginning of my piece, switch between ‘women’ and ‘people’ throughout, and then end by acknowledging ‘women, trans men and non-binary people’ to cement who I’m talking about. This allows the reader to acknowledge that abortion rights are an issue for women, and one that they have been historically persecuted for, but that there are others who face the same problems of accessing abortion who happen to not identify as women.
Furthermore, as Laura highlights, it plays into the hands of anti-choice groups who frame their arguments around ‘life at the point of conception’ and push women/people to become mothers without any choice. The narrative already falls into their favour with what they call themselves – pro-life- so it’s important not to feed further into this.
For any communications people who find themself using mother, I would ask yourself why? Is it that mother allows readers to form some sort of empathy with the person you are describing and therefore you get them on board? Or is it just a bias we all have from seeing this word tossed around for years in the dialogue around abortion? Either way, it’s a process of unlearning in our writing and language choices that not only applies to how we discuss reproductive health, but race issues , international development, the Climate Crisis, etc. And it’s about finding ways to elicit the same emotional response from readers in different ways. Who doesn’t love a challenge?
Language around abortion will continue to change and I’m sure if I come back to this blog in six months, I will most likely contradict myself! But I hope you have found this helpful and know that as communications people, we have at least some power in shifting narratives that in turn, shift hearts and minds on important topics.