Former Labor leader Bill Shorten has revealed he backpedalled on a proposal to use 'birthing parent' instead of 'mother' on a healthcare form out of fear it would fuel a 'ugly culture war'.
The decision has caused a stir within Labor's ranks as far-left wing progressives demanding transgender inclusion find themselves at odds with feminist liberals who fear the long fight for women's rights is being swept away by a new wave of social justice.
The term 'birthing parent' was used in a trial at three hospitals on Services Australia digital forms for parents to register births with Medicare.
The document asked for the 'birthing parent's full name' in one box and 'birthing parent's signature' in another instead of 'mother'.
The backflip prompted Greens Leader Adam Bandt to slam Shorten on social media, arguing that the term 'birthing parent' was essential to be inclusive of LGBTQ+ people.
Users on social media returned serve to Bandt, noting that he refers to himself as a 'dad' in his personal bio, with some users questioning that if he is going to be consistent with his language, he should change his parental title to 'non-birthing parent' and give up the title of dad.
Shorten, now the minister for NDIS and Government Services, received wide praise from both sides of politics for reversing the trial of the 'gender-neutral' consent forms.
“I’m sure my instinct to defuse ugly culture wars is right,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald.
“There are many people who feel the word ‘mother’ is special and worthy and there are others who feel their identity is not included – each has a legitimate point of view.
“We just need to be better at not having to have one view at the expense of the other.
“However you come to motherhood – it’s precious. It’s not a label, it is imbued with meaning ... and for people who choose to identify in other ways they should have that option too.
“Cancelling one doesn’t help the cause of diversity and tolerance.”
But the reversal has angered some progressives, revealing cracks as the divide between the Labor's working-class union base and ultra-progressives deepen.
Jackie Turner, a trans equality advocate at Equality Australia, said 'not everyone who gives birth can accurately be described as a mother’ and said that it isn't the 'role of government to ensure services and programs respond to the needs of everyone, including transgender and gender diverse parents'.
“Inclusive terminology that respects how different people refer to themselves is important to ensure everyone can access the services and support they need without discrimination,” she told the Guardian Australia.
Sally Goldner, a trans advocate and adviser to lobby group Just Equal was also quoted in the article, saying that said she was 'obviously disappointed' at the 'failure to recognise the attribute of gender identity'.
Shorten's decision to change the titles on the forms comes after a new mother from the Gold Coast was alarmed by the forms, describing them as 'offensive' and 'alienating' towards women who wanted to be called mothers.
The new mum, Sall Grover, said she was shocked by the new consent forms given to her shortly after giving birth to her baby.