Massachusetts Department of Public Health Embracing ‘Pregnant People’ Rather Than ‘Pregnant Women’

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What is the proper term for women with unborn babies inside of them?

Pregnant women? Mothers? 

If you ask the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the answer is neither of the above; the state’s public health agency is going with “pregnant people.”

The latest instance of it came in a press release the state Department of Public Health issued this week urging people to get vaccinated against coronavirus and the flu.

“In addition to flu and COVID-19 vaccination, many people are eligible for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccination this year, including pregnant people, newborns, and many people 60 and older,” the press release issued Tuesday, November 7 says. “COVID-19, flu, and RSV are the three viruses that are most likely to cause severe disease resulting in hospitalization and sometimes death.”

The state epidemiologist, Dr. Catherine Brown, is also quoted as using the term “pregnant people” in the written statement.

“Adding vaccinations to your holiday season to-do list is one of the best gifts you can give yourself and people you’ll gather with, especially older adults, people who are immunocompromised, and pregnant people, who are at higher risk for severe complications,” Brown said, according to the press release. “While it’s never too late to get your COVID or flu shots, getting vaccinated sooner rather than later will provide increased protection ahead of holiday celebrations, the start of winter, and peak respiratory disease season.”

It’s not the only time the state’s public health department has embraced this term as of late.

In March, when a lawsuit challenged the legality of shipping Mifepristone, an abortifacient used in chemical abortions, across state lines (in violation of the Comstock Act), the Massachusetts Department of Public Health put out a press release opposing the pro-life side.

“Twenty Attorneys General around the country have signed letters calling on pharmacies in their state to refuse to distribute Mifepristone, an FDA-approved and essential abortion medication, based on a restrictive interpretation of the law and misrepresentation of facts,” the Massachusetts agency said in a press release. “Yielding to these coercive tactics will further strip pregnant people of their agency and rights and will violate the responsibility of pharmacies and pharmacy departments to provide critical healthcare services, including medications for abortion care.”

In addition to press releases, the term “pregnant people” appears on other landing pages of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s web site.

For example, “pregnant people” are among those the web site recommends take a test to see if they have Hepatitis C.

Here is what it says:


  • Universal testing is strongly recommended for:

    • All adults aged 18 years and older, at least once in their lifetime
    • All pregnant people during every pregnancy


Similarly, the web site’s pregnancy vaccination guidelines say that “pregnant people” should receive an RSV vaccination when between 32 and 36 weeks pregnant.

Here is what it says:


CDC recommends you use one of these two tools to protect your baby from getting very sick with RSV (most infants will not need both):

  1. An RSV vaccine given during pregnancy:  The vaccine is given to pregnant people during weeks 32 through 36 of pregnancy. The RSV vaccine given to a pregnant person has been shown to significantly reduce the number of medical visits for RSV and the risk of severe RSV for the baby in its first six months after birth.

  2. An RSV immunization given to infants and older babies:  A dose of protective antibodies given to infants has been shown to substantially reduce the risk of both RSV-related hospitalizations and healthcare visits in infants. Most infants whose mothers received an RSV vaccine do not need to also get an RSV antibody.


Additionally, the state Department of Public Health’s “Data on Enrollments in Substance Addiction Services” tool opts for the term “pregnant people,” rather than “pregnant women.”

It does so when explaining how it categorizes certain groups of people.

“Populations:  Can be one or more of:  White, Asian, Black or African American, Hispanic, non-Hispanic, women, pregnant people, transgender, youth, young adults, older adults, veterans, homeless, persons who inject drugs, opioid users, and stimulant users,” the landing page says.

A spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health could not be reached for comment on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday this week. 


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