WASHINGTON -- Pregnant women are not required to count their fetuses as full human beings when registering for White House tours, contrary to some reports suggesting otherwise, the Secret Service said.
The Washington Free Beacon on Tuesday posted a copy of an email from White House Visitors Office director Ellie Schafer to a Capitol Hill staffer explaining the process for registering for a tour of the White House. The email indicates that pregnant women must include a baby in the count of guests if the child is expected to be born by the time of the tour, a line that some conservative news outlets say is akin to a pro-choice White House treating fetuses as people.
"We have received a number of calls regarding how to enter security information for a baby that has not yet been born. Crazy as it may sound, you MUST include the baby in the overall count of guests in the tour. It’s an easy process," Schafer wrote.
The email goes on to explain how to prepare for the tour: Provide the family's last name and use "Baby" as a first name. For date of birth, visitors are instructed to put the date of the request for the tour. Parents are asked to put M or F for the gender and update it at the time of birth. And since there wouldn't be a Social Security number yet, parents are instructed to enter 9 zeros.
"[N]ot the word nine zeros but 000000000 and yes it happens!" Schafer wrote.
Her email concludes with a note that, once the baby is born, the parents should email the White House Visitors Office to update their reservation with the baby's name, birthday and gender.
Max Milien, a spokesman for White House Secret Security, said it's not accurate to say that fetuses are counted as people on White House tours.
This notation device "simply serves as a placeholder for the baby once it's born," Milien said. "All White House guests are required to provide information at the time of their request for the tour, including for children and infants, and those expected to be on the tour once born."
Milien said the White House has thousands of visitors every day and that people sign up for tours months in advance, often canceling and rescheduling. By having a placeholder ready for a baby-to-be, it prevents delays when people might otherwise show up for the tour with a child not previously listed, he said.
"This policy was implemented so if you want to bring your children on a tour, we can account for them," he said.
Milien declined to weigh in on specific news reports suggesting the White House is treating fetuses as people. A White House aide also declined to comment, instead deferring the matter to the Secret Service.