Government Services Minister Bill Shorten has ordered the removal of the gender-neutral term “birthing parent” from Medicare forms and that  “mother” be used instead. 

A number of forms asking for a child’s “birthing parent” when enrolling for Medicare was rolled out as part of a trial program in three hospitals, under the previous Coalition government. 

Shorten confirmed the term “birthing-parent” would be scrapped after a Queensland mother posted to social media, alleging that the term was “alienating and derogatory” towards parents.

Sall Grover shared her story to Twitter, telling her followers that she had scratched out the label and instead written, “mother”. She tweeted on Tuesday, “This absolute bullshit is exclusionary, alienating and derogatory towards every woman who wants to be and is called mother.”

“When I was informed of this situation yesterday, I instructed the responsible officials they should cease,” he said via Twitter. 

Transphobic And Homophobic Decision 

Shorten’s intervention won praise from the likes of former Liberal candidate for Warringah Katherine Deves, who had deleted her Twitter account over past transphobic posts. 

Shorten’s response has been heavily criticised by LGBTQI advocates and individuals alike, who argue that this move is an attack on the queer community. 

Indigenous Studies Professor Sandy O’Sullivan called the removal of ‘birthing-parent’ as both transphobic and homophobic. O’Sullivan posted to Twitter that the term was used on forms for two main reasons, “because a child has two mothers and it identifies which gave birth to them, or because they have a parent who is trans (a man or non-binary or agender) who birthed them. 

Medicare forms offer parents the option to identify themselves as the child’s “birth mother”, “biological father”, or write an alternative term which best represents their relationship to the child. 

Inclusion Is Not Erasure

Mama Alto. Photo: Daniel Spellman

Trans equality advocate for Equality Australia Jackie Turner explained that “not everyone who gives birth can accurately be described as a ‘mother’”. 

“It is the role of the government to ensure services and programs respond to the needs of everyone, including trasngender and gender diverse parents,” Turner said. 

She added that inclusive terminology that “respects how different people refer to themselves” was important in order to ensure everyone would be able to access the “services and support they need without discrimination.” 

CEO of Transgender Victoria Mama Alto condemned Shorten’s decision, declaring that inclusion was not erasure in a public statement.

Alto asserted that the inclusive language used on an official form would not take away the right of someone to choose being called a ‘mother’, but was “simply being inclusive to a broader range of people.” 

She reminded people that, despite sensationalist rhetoric by mass media and the conservative right, trans people were not a threat to women or reproductive and bodily rights. “It is extreme right-wing views that are removing reproductive rights and women’s consent and choices over women’s bodies; and it is those same views that also attack trans inclusion, and challenge transgender people’s consent and choices over our own bodies.” 

“Inclusion is not erasure – so let’s not erase inclusion,” Alto said. 



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