Tuesday, May 10, 2016

New York City tells bartenders they have to serve alcohol to pregnant women if they order it...

I know this is a topic that has come up on my blog more than once.  I just happened to run across an interesting opinion piece about a recent decision made by New York City's Human Rights Commission regarding pregnant women in bars and alcohol.  Until a couple of days ago, bartenders and servers in the Big Apple had the right to deny alcoholic beverages and raw fish to pregnant women.  This week, they lost that "right".

I always get sucked into reading the comments on these kinds of articles.  I can't help it.  The world is full of self-righteous folks who feel they have the right to dictate what others do.  When it comes to pregnancy, perfect strangers can be obscenely intrusive.  Then, once the kid is born, there's a whole new level of people second guessing or questioning the judgment of other adults.  Anyway, as I predicted, this article was full of commentary.  A lot of it came from people who feel it's wrong to *force* bartenders and servers to serve alcohol to pregnant women.

If you read my blog regularly, you may already have an idea of my thoughts on this.  First off, while I definitely don't think it's right to get shitfaced regularly when you're expecting a baby, women all over the world drink moderately while they are pregnant.  Here in Europe, it's not a big deal.  In fact, they seem more concerned about what pregnant women eat over what they choose to drink.  Laws designed to restrict a pregnant woman's access to alcohol are difficult to enforce.  They also have the effect of treating an adult woman as someone in a different class of people.  It's alright for a non-pregnant woman to drink alcohol, as long as she doesn't do anything illegal while she's drinking.  But if you happen to be pregnant, in many places, different rules apply.

While the laws restricting alcohol to pregnant women may seem reasonable on the exterior, they really don't do anything.  A woman with an alcohol problem can easily get around the law by simply drinking at home.  If she's really got a problem with drinking, she may also avoid prenatal care.  On the other hand, a responsible adult woman in the third trimester of her pregnancy who wants to have a glass of wine in a bar must endure harsh judgment from other people or even interference from law enforcement.

 The way I see it, most pregnant women who dare to drink alcohol in a bar are not the ones that should concern us.  Secrecy is a big component of alcoholism.  Alcoholics tend to drink alone and on the sly.  They aren't concerned with laws because they are addicted.  A responsible drinker, on the other hand, is mindful of the law and public perception.  Besides that, by the time the average person can tell a woman is definitely pregnant as opposed to just overweight, the truly dangerous period for fetuses and alcohol exposure has already passed.  And let's not even get into those who assume someone is pregnant when she isn't and actually asks about it.  God knows that has happened to me.  It's embarrassing for everyone involved.

For me, it comes down to letting adults be adults.  Do I think it's right for pregnant women to drink alcohol to excess?  Of course not.  Can I really expect to be able to stop a pregnant woman from drinking alcohol if she wants to?  No, I don't think I can.  I wouldn't want to live in a society that imposes draconian laws that single out pregnant women and attempt to force them to behave a certain way.  I would rather trust adult women to do what is right and make their own decisions about their health.  I think most of them will do what's right, with or without laws regarding alcohol use.  Those who are more concerned about drinking booze than their developing baby will likely not be stopped by laws, disapproving glares, or servers and bartenders who refuse to serve them.

I also think it's creepy how concerned people have become about rights of the unborn as opposed to the rights of the born.  I get that a developing fetus is at its mother's mercy and everything she eats and drinks gets passed to that unborn life.  But why should a developing fetus have more "rights" than its mother?  A fetus has the potential to become a human being, but for the first 24 weeks or so, it's actually more of a parasite that needs a host.  A responsible mother will do all she can to take care of the developing fetus so that it reaches its full potential.  But should we really criminalize women who can't or won't take care of her developing fetus to society's standards?  It seems like a slippery slope to me.

Obviously, a pregnant woman should ideally try to take care of herself if she wants to have a healthy baby.  But we live in a country where healthcare is not guaranteed.  We live in a country where it's cheaper to eat junk food than healthy food.  We can't force pregnant women to see their doctors or refrain from eating Big Macs or fried chicken.  We don't make them stop drinking caffeinated beverages or sugary sodas.  We don't make them exercise or eat healthy salads.  We expect them to make good decisions for themselves, the same as we do for any legal adult.  Why can't we do the same regarding alcohol?

Anyway... this is not an issue that will ever affect me personally.  Next month, I turn 44 years old.  The childbearing ship has definitely sailed.  So anyone reading this piece and feeling outraged because I think adult pregnant women should make their own decisions regarding booze can relax, because I will never put a fetus at risk by drinking too much alcohol.  I just really think that people need to back off and live their own lives.  I think life is tough enough when you're only focused on you and yours.

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