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AP Stylebook clarifies when to use 'pregnant women' instead of 'pregnant people'

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Fedor Kozyr/Getty Images

Just a few months after updating its style guide to include phrases such as "pregnant people" and "people seeking abortions," the AP has attempted to clarify the context in which such phrases should be used. In most cases, the AP states, gendered phrases that refer to women are "acceptable."

According to a tweet from the @APStylebook account on Wednesday, phrases that specifically identify women as the group of people who can get pregnant may, in fact, be appropriate.

"Pregnant women or women seeking abortions is acceptable phrasing," the AP wrote.

However, there is a catch.

"Phrasing like pregnant people or people seeking abortions is also acceptable to include people who have those experiences but do not identify as women," the AP continued, "such as some transgender men and some nonbinary people."


The AP cautions that men and women alike should "use judgment" in such cases, always keeping in mind that "neutral alternatives" that make no reference to gender are "also acceptable." "Overly clinical language," the AP insists, should be avoided.

This updated style tip comes just three months after the previous updated style tip, which first introduced the gender-neutral phrases "pregnant people" and "people seeking abortions" only for those stories "that specifically address the experiences of people who do not identify as women." Thus, the latest update is not so much a departure from the previous update as a clarification about when to use supposedly more inclusive alternatives.

Still, this update does imply that a generalized association between women and pregnancy is "acceptable," with some notable exceptions.

But most tweet commenters seemed to prefer to keep things simple.

"In the entire history of human beings on this planet, only women have ever been pregnant," replied @DanShreffler.

"I love the continuing efforts to make basic communication as difficult and exhaustive as possible," said another response.

Others took issue with the word women, not because of the gender it connotes, but because of the age.

"Please keep in mind that the use of 'people' is inclusive of *girls* as well as trans/non-binary people. A ten-year-old is not a 'pregnant woman.' Calling her that minimizes the horror of what’s happening in the US," wrote one user, perhaps in reference to the recent alleged rape of a 10-year-old girl in Ohio.

The AP claims that though it publishes a spiral-bound version of its Stylebook updates only every other year, it updates its Stylebook digital services "throughout the year as style changes and updates are made."

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