On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki managed to comment on the Supreme Court’s decision to take up Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban case without using the word “abortion” once.
“Over the last 4 years, critical rights like the right to healthcare and the right to choose have been under attack,” Psaki told reporters. “The president and vice president are devoted to ensuring that every America has access to healthcare, including reproductive healthcare, regardless of their income, zip code, race, health insurance status, immigration status. As such the president is committed to codifying Roe regardless ... of the outcome of this case.”
Perhaps the omission wouldn’t be so glaring if it hadn’t already become more or less for the Biden administration. Renee Bracey Sherman, founder of the abortion storytelling organization We Testify, has pointed out administration officials’ avoidance of the word on multiple occasions; at this point it’s become “comical” watching them try to get around it, she said.
“I am glad to see that [Psaki] took the time to share that President Biden does indeed believe that we should have the right to abortion, but it’s getting a little comical that she is utterly unable to say the word or what the administration plans to do about expanding access,” Bracey Sherman tweeted Monday.
Psaki notably avoided the word in January, when discussing the administration’s stance on the Hyde Amendment as well as the global gag rule, and when commemorating the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, relying again on the phrase “reproductive health.”
And, to be clear, abortion is reproductive health. Abortion is also abortion, and there’s power in saying as much. Dodging the word only increases the stigma around the procedure itself, and that stigma is what helps power the anti-abortion movement. When people are afraid to speak plainly about their support for abortion they contribute to the idea that abortion is immoral or taboo—something not to be discussed or even heavily alluded to in polite company.
The words we use to talk about abortion matter, and if we don’t talk about abortion at all it’s impossible to convincingly argue for people’s universal right to it. And then you’ve lost the battle against anti-abortion legislation like Mississippi’s before it’s even begun.
Jezebel has reached out to the Biden administration to ask about the apparent avoidance and requested a statement on Monday’s Supreme Court news that includes the word abortion. We’ll update this blog if we hear back.