At my job, I deal with maternal and child health, and one of the trends is calling pregnant women “pregnant people.” Thus far, I’ve tried to use the “pregnant women” terminology as much as I’m able and avoided using “pregnant people.” However, there’s increasing pressure to change the terminology. If I do, is this a violation of what I stand for as a Christian? I’ve been trying to search for some biblical passages to help guide my thinking on this matter.
This is a thorny situation, but one that’s likely to occur more frequently in the years to come, so it deserves a careful answer rooted in Christian conviction and common sense.
Should healthcare providers (and scientists who study medicine and disease) adopt terminology they know is loaded with LGBT+ ideology, specifically the notions that sex and gender are distinct from one another and that people of either sex can get pregnant? Is referring to expectant mothers as “pregnant people” a violation of what we stand for as Christians, or a bad witness? What does the Bible say?
Find Answers in the Bible
I want to start by gently challenging the premise that we need a biblical passage or verse specifically dealing with this situation, or even that this dilemma is unique to Christians. The fact that humans come in two sexes—male and female—isn’t a “Christian” truth in the sense that it isn’t revealed primarily by special revelation. It’s a natural truth, accessible and (in principle) obvious to all people, like the multiplication table or the color of the sky.
That women alone have bodies ordered toward pregnancy and childbirth is one of those truths the biblical authors simply assume rather than defend. It’s obvious. That so many in our culture are intent on denying it today shows how much their denial of the Creator has darkened their intellect. Claiming to be wise, many have become fools (Rom. 1:21–22).
That women alone have bodies ordered toward pregnancy and childbirth is one of those truths the biblical authors simply assume rather than defend.
On the other hand, Scripture does provide general principles that, through “good and necessary consequence,” can help us know and do the right thing in this situation. It affirms that in the beginning, God created humans male and female (Matt. 19:4). It forbids us from bearing false witness (Ex. 20:16). It commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:39) and enjoins us to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). From these principles, together with the truths of general revelation, we can draw a few conclusions.
1. Only women become pregnant.
There are no “pregnant people” who aren’t also women. To knowingly deny this is to bear false witness about God’s world and his image-bearers and to reject the clear testimony of Scripture and reason. It debases our language and undermines a distinctive feature of human nature, namely our ability to discern and declare truths about God’s world. The Christian Medical and Dental Associations—which has 13,000 members—has taken a public stand. Their statement includes this guidance: “Terms should be as descriptively accurate as possible while avoiding ideological programming.”
As creations of the Word, our words should reflect his truth. Observing and rightly naming what we see is central to who we are as humans. This means wrongly naming men and women is an act of self-abolition.
2. Consider the context.
But is the term “pregnant person” technically wrong? No, not in isolation. Pregnant women are persons. But we’re not using it in isolation. Context matters.
The current context of “pregnant person” implies nonwomen can get pregnant. It’s meant to imply that. Forcing conformity with the new gender ideology is the point of this kind of language. Those who use it, no matter what their intentions, are helping normalize the lies of transgenderism. And those who refuse to use it are outing themselves as dissenters and painting a target on their backs, professionally and socially.
The fewer dissenters there are, the greater the pressure to conform becomes. This tough choice is being forced upon us.
3. Lies hurt people.
Nevertheless, we should have the courage to make that choice because lies about people hurt people. Such lies violate one of the two commandments on which all the Law and Prophets hang: to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39–40).
An expectant mother who calls herself a man isn’t loved, helped, or served by professionals gently reaffirming this lie that keeps her at war with her body and its astonishing ability to bear new life. Neither does this lie love, help, or serve her unborn child, who needs a mother, not a generic, genderless birthing “person.” Finally, fellow scientists and healthcare providers aren’t loved, helped, or served by peers normalizing vague language that obscures vital facts about their professions and their patients.
Cost of Telling the Truth
I believe you’ve been doing the right and noble thing by referring to pregnant women as what they are, and I have every confidence you’d treat the medical needs of any woman with excellence and compassion, regardless of how she identifies. But I humbly suggest it’d be a serious mistake, perhaps even a sin, to cave under pressure to use the terminology of “pregnant people.” This is true even if your underlying convictions would never change. The terms we use do matter because truth is public, not private.
I realize it’s easy for me, working in a Christian nonprofit, to make this statement. My job isn’t at stake. My ability to provide for my family doesn’t depend on conforming to ideological language. All this is true. Yet to pretend that no Christian is ever called to singular and costly obedience ignores every word and warning Jesus gave us.
The terms we use do matter because truth is public, not private.
Not everyone will need to put his or her career on the line over the transgender debate. I believe there’s room, for instance, for Christians to differ on the use of transgender individuals’ preferred names (as opposed to pronouns). But if highly credentialed professionals in science and medicine aren’t going to take a public stand on this issue, who will? Who’s better equipped to reassert natural truths about male and female and the complementary design of the sexes than those who study and heal sexed bodies for a living? And from whom do gender activists have more to fear than those who know the body inside out and have real authority to tell them that people who can get pregnant are called women?
If Christian doctors and scientists aren’t called to take a stand against deceptive and dishonest language about their areas of expertise, no one is.
With prayer and respect, I urge you to follow your conscience. But let your conscience be informed by reason and Scripture, and above all by a commitment, when the time comes, to speak the truth.