Should bars refuse to serve pregnant women?

A pregnant woman walks into a bar… It sounds like the start of a joke, but what actually transpired when an expectant mother ordered a glass of wine at a New Orleans’ restaurant isn’t a joke at all.

Annie Krasnow of The Stir recently told the story of her friend who, at seven months pregnant, visited New Orleans with her husband for a “babymoon” – in other words their “last hurrah” before entering parenthood. After a day of taking in the sights, they went to a quiet restaurant where the expectant mother ordered a glass of Chardonnay. The waitress responded, We don’t serve pregnant women here.

Annie posed the question, “What gives that server the right to refuse a grown woman alcohol?”

Some may argue that there is an innocent life at stake. In this case, her unborn baby can’t speak for itself. But what about mothers who feed their obese children fast food? Or let them buy violent video games? Is anyone refusing them service? It’s not like my friend was drunk. She wanted one glass of wine.

It seems that when women are pregnant, they become public property. I’m not condoning pregnant women getting drunk, but I don’t think that waitress should be allowed to make that decision for anyone but herself.

Melimae replied in the comments, “I see both sides..if something were to happen to their baby, the family could go back and blame the resturant, so they are just covering there butt. BUT I believe having a glass of wine is okay, some ppl say it helps the moms relax. I never did but thats my choice. So it should be her choice as well.”

Squish also commented:

If it was that important to her to have a glass of wine, then they could have ordered room service. It is general knowledge that drinking while pregnant is bad for the baby. Yes, a glass here or there is fine, but why impose that on a business that absolutely does not want to get sued, hurt a baby, or make other customers uncomfortable?

Paula Bernstein at StrollerDerby believes that unless a pregnant woman is drunk, she should be served. She adds that when she was pregnant with her first daughter, she and her husband went on a “babymoon” to France. Her midwife told her it was OK to drink a glass of wine a day and added, “After all, the French women do it.”

Paula also says she sides with the American Civil Liberties Union on the issue.

”Do we really want to make a pregnant woman’s behavior and choices…a crime because it could hurt the fetus?” asks the author of the Blog of Rights. “Allowing the government to exercise such unlimited control over women’s bodies, and every aspect of their lives, would essentially reduce pregnant women to second-class citizens, denying them the basic constitutional rights.”

A comment from Suzy on Paula’s StrollerDerby post said, “If I want to buy wine and beer at a liquor store for a party – am I not allowed to do that while pregnant too? Give me a break. Let’s allow adult women a little personal responsibility – this country would NEVER pass a comparable law limiting men’s rights.”

Candace Lindemann of Mama Saga and Naturally Educational debated on my Facebook page with the crowd that feels if a pregnant woman “needs” to drink, she should do it in private. Candace argues its not about the need to drink, “it is about the fact that a woman’s body doesn’t suddenly become communal property when she gets pregnant. Driving is riskier for pregnant women…should they stop driving? Or never leave the house due to air pollution? Or maybe not be allowed to order fried food? If they feel the desire to eat fish should they hide in their rooms and do it in there?”

Laura Kemp, a Bradley Method childbirth instructor, argued back, “I don’t believe this is an issue of a pregnant woman’s body becoming communal property as much as I believe most citizens view a pregnant body as a woman AND a child.”

Candace replied that she believes the waitresses response “stems not from compassion but from the paternalistic belief that others know what is best.”

Interestingly enough (and falling into the category “the truth is often stranger than fiction”), Summer Minor just reported on new recommendations from the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada suggesting that women who *might* become pregnant abstain from drinking altogether, ya know, just in case they get pregnant at some point.

Some studies report no alcohol should be consumed during pregnancy, while others indicate that light drinking is OK. I’ve had numerous people tell me their doctor or midwife said light drinking was fine. Some doctors and midwives even recommend it as a way to stave off preterm labor. Erin Kotecki Vest‘s doctor did when she went into preterm labor at 8 months and Erin said it worked. Other people have told me their care providers stuck to the no alcohol is safe stance.

While I did not drink during either of my pregnancies, I think it should be a woman’s right to make that choice for herself. I respect that the waitress did what she thought was right, but I really don’t think it was her call to make. Its not her body. Its not her baby.

I think we start down a slippery slope when we start telling pregnant women what they can and cannot do. Where would it end?

What do you think?

Image credit: Remko van Dokkum/Flickr

Cross-posted on BlogHer. Feel free to chime in over there as well!

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53 thoughts on “Should bars refuse to serve pregnant women?

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  2. Wow this is a sensitive issue. I certainly see a pregnant women as a woman and a child. Both with rights but like you said, we could have slippery slope. Perhaps her OB told her it was okay like Erin’s and so is the waitress more knowledgeable then the DR? This is where I see it as “people always know what is best for you” type of situation. Though I know I would have been shocked as the waitress.

    Personally, I did not drink with either pregnancy’s and the Dr. advised me not to but also said if I craved a taste of beer with my hamburger have a sip and just that, one sip and get over the craving. I know of people who smoke and their doctor allowed them one cigarette per day because stopping would be too stressful. That makes no sense to me but I’m not the doctor. I also do not believe every doctor is 100% correct and we are guessing half the time.

    Common sense goes a LONG ways!

  3. This is so interesting to me. It’s the same issue as the article I just read about the Indonesian breastfeeding law, making it illegal to NOT breastfeed your baby (unless deemed medically impossible) for the first 6 months.

    It’s an issue of whether the gov’t takes the rights of the mother to the extreme or the rights of the baby to the extreme. To me there needs to be a balance, but that seems really impossible to achieve without the risk of oppressing women. No easy answers here.

  4. First: CONTEXT. I think that there is a big difference between a bar and a restaurant. Going to a quiet bistro and having a glass of wine with your meal is A LOT different than going to a dance club and ordering a shot of tequila.

    Second: ASSUMPTIONS. Because of muscle separation, I look 6 or 7 months pregnant right now. If I somehow managed to get out of the house without my baby to enjoy a night out with Sir Hubby and was refused a glass of wine with my meal on the basis that the waitress made an assumption that I was pregnant…well, that would suck really bad…for HER. The verbal assault that would be unleashed on her would be devastating. I might be fat, but you had better shut the hell up about it since I was nice enough to keep my mouth shut about your awful hair, your terrible skin, your big ass, and your fat ankles :)She can go back to her station and gossip all she wants about the pregnant women who is drinking a glass of wine, but the FACT would remain that I am not pregnant and should not be treated rudely for having recently given birth and also not being a supermodel.

    Third: BECOME FAMILIAR WITH YOUR JOB DESCRIPTION: This waitperson has the moral authority to dictate whether or not someone imbibes? A medical degree? A nutrition certificate? If the establishment does not serve pregnant women, then that policy needs to be clearly stated on their menu/wine list/door, just as it would be to indicate that they reserve the right to NOT serve you if you appear to be intoxicated or if you are under the age of 21. You can’t make up the rules as you go along, folks. And how many pregnant women who DO NOT LOOK PREGNANT AT ALL have been served? Waiters serve food and drinks. Health care providers help women determine if they are pregnant. Read your job description and stick to it.

  5. I think people need to mind their own business, except in extreme cases which appear obviously dangerous. I don’t see anything wrong with one little glass of wine. I was under the impression it was riskier to drink alcohol in the first trimester, but no one would be able to tell if a woman was pregnant in the first place at that point! There are a lot of ugly, sarcastic things I could say right now, but instead I will just say that while I don’t drink while pregnant, I am a homebirther and I prize a woman’s right to choose what is best for herself.

  6. I didn’t click through to the original article, but my question is did the waitress refuse to serve the alcohol or is it the policy of the place where she works? Several times people referred to the waitress’ decision not to serve alcohol. Was it her personal decision or was it the policy of her workplace? Either way, I think the point of your post stands, but I also wonder if this is their policy or if it was one person making a decision.

  7. I agree that a distinction needs to be made between having one occasional drink while pregnant and abusing alcohol during pregnancy. While pregnant with my son I occasionally had half a glass of wine or a few sips of my husband’s beer. I did not become drunk or even tipsy. I’d savor the taste of the drink and take a looooooong time to finish it. I made the choice to consume small amounts of alcohol based on my research and I don’t feel bad about it.

    However, I think that sometimes it is appropriate to say to a pregnant woman, “Hey, don’t you think you need to be careful for your baby’s sake?” I quite smoking before I got pregnant because I didn’t want to try to quit after conceiving, and I didn’t want to increase my risk of miscarriage. I know some women have a really hard time quitting when they’re pregnant, and though I wouldn’t recommend having an occasional cigarette when you’re with child, it’s certainly better than smoking a pack-and-a-half a day.

    As with most mommy wars – breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, natural vs. high-intervention birth, working outside the home vs. staying at home with baby – I think the key is to balance what we know/believe is best for the baby with compassion for the mother. Women are better moms – and make better choices – when they feel supported and understood.

    An interesting side note – I bought cigarettes and beer for my husband more than once when I was heavily pregnant. I can only imagine the picture I presented waddling out of the gas station with a 12-pack of Budweiser and a carton of Marlboro Reds. I almost WANTED someone to fuss at me so I could tell them to mind their own business and not jump to conclusions. Sadly, if anyone was scandalized by my purchases, they didn’t say so to me!

  8. This is a tricky situation. On the one hand, all of us who’ve had children got unwanted and unsolicited advice when we were pregnant. I once had a man tell me, while I was sitting on a park bench, that I shouldn’t be in the sun because it was dangerous for the baby. Like I can avoid the sun when I live in Miami!

    I don’t envy the waitress at the bar in that situation. I probably would have served the mom one glass of wine, no questions asked, but if she’d asked for a second I would’ve gotten very uncomfortable. And I say that as a woman who went to my local sports bar and ordered a beer and drank it while nursing my son several times and never had anyone say anything to me, ever.

    I think women have the right to bodily autonomy and I am vehemently pro-choice, but does the welfare of the baby really not ever factor in? I think many people feel like, well, if she will drink one glass of wine at the bar, how many will she have when she’s not in public? When does our responsibility to other people kick in? If you saw a mom cursing at her child in the grocery store, would you say something? Is it OK in this case to stay silent because there’s only a fetus involved? I don’t know. I probably would have kept my mouth shut, but I can see how this couple put a waitress in a tough spot who I’m sure did not need or want this drama at work.

  9. I wanted to clarify that I firmly believe a pregnant woman is a woman and a fetus and the fetus has rights, especially once it reaches a stage where it could survive outside of the mother.

    HOWEVER, if you look at the quality of studies, the most recent and comprehensive studies have found ZERO negative effect of occasional to moderate drinking.

    If the restaurant has a policy not to serve pregnant women, they have a legal right as a private establishment to have that policy. However, it is a policy based out of ignorance and, in my opinion, a paternalistic and invasive desire to control pregnant women.

    And descriptions of women as uncaring or addicted because they have a glass of wine with dinner are offensive

    And though I am not usually a fan of the slippery slope argument, in this case I believe it fits. There are so many ways one can be more healthy during pregnancy and I don’t think it is society’s place to dictate that to a woman.

    Now, if a person is abusing drugs, that might be where the law or your fellow man’s moral obligation to the fetus / child might step in.

  10. My midwife said a glass of wine at night every now and then was in no way harmful. Even recommended it in the last weeks. I don’t think I ever did, I can’t even remember. But also- oh man- if this becomes a trend how many bartenders are going to be putting their feet in their mouths for ASSUMING a woman with a larger midriff is pregnant…. ?

    Steph

  11. The simple truth is, a private business has the right to refuse service to whomever they want. Likewise, a customer has the right to choose not to patronize a private business.

  12. “The simple truth is, a private business has the right to refuse service to whomever they want.”

    It is against the law for a private business to discriminate against anyone based on based on religion, race, color, creed, national origin, sex, marital status, disability, age, sexual orientation or family status.

    This doesn’t mean that businesses don’t discriminate, but by law, they certainly don’t retain the right to do so!

  13. In france, it is indeed illegal to serve alcohol to pregnant women.
    If you consider that it is also illegal to serve alcohol to kids younger then a certain age (depending on which country you’re in) why then would they serve alcohol to fetuses. That’s just plain madness.
    If adults don’t have the wit to make the right choices then the government steps in. It’s very sad they have to do that, but often it is the case

  14. While pregnant with my first son (16-1/2 yrs ago), I had an occasional drink. A small glass of Chianti (which I didn’t finish) at an Italian restaurant with my folks. A sip or two of a gin and tonic, again with my parents. That was it, mostly because it didn’t sit well on my “everything, even water, gives me heartburn” stomach. Also, all the studies at the time were saying “No alcohol ever!”, so I figured I was pushing the limits as it was.

    While pregnant with my second (born 2 yrs ago), I’d been doing more reading, and I mean lots more, and came across a website maintained by Prof. David J. Hansen, Ph.D. Sociology Dept, SUNY on alcohol use in general, with an eye-opening contribution regarding alcohol use during pregnancy http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/HealthIssues/1043239516.html (the link points to topic of occasional light drinking during pregnancy). After I read it, I shared it with my husband, and my teen-aged son so that he would understand. The gist was that the occasional *light* drink probably isn’t harmful, although there are still potential effects that are undocumented. Given the information, a couple months later (very pregnant by this point) while at a Mexican restaurant, I ordered a beer with dinner. I took one swallow of it and, when it didn’t sit well, left it sitting on the table for the rest of dinner. Later, weeks past my due date (I delivered at 42 wks 3 days), when my mom offered me a small gin and tonic, I took her up on her offer. This unlike the beer, sat well, tasted wonderful, and was great on a hot August afternoon with a very swollen belly that didn’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon.

    All this to say, should the restaurant turn down the pregnant mother from ordering a single glass of wine? No, I don’t think so. Yes, pregnancy is a wonderous, miraculous thing, and yes, we should take care of our expectant mothers. Does that mean locking them up in glass houses, so that we can monitor their every move, make sure they’re eating only certain foods, drinking only certain drinks, sleeping in a particular manner? No.

    If she’s not drunk already (at which point being “cut off” would be an understandable response), then ordering one drink should not be met with the response “We don’t serve pregnant women here.” Would they have told an obviously obese person who ordered fish n chips “We don’t serve obese people here.”?I highly doubt it. Why? Because it’s rude, because it’s invasive, because the person ordering the food would’ve left without ordering anything (loss of money) and would’ve talked about it (bad press and loss of even more money). But it’s okay to tell pregnant women no for one drink? Rude, and invasive.

    No matter what the general impression is, a pregnant woman is *not* public property, any more than any other person is. The choices she makes are between her and her husband and their care-giver, not open to discussion by those not involved in the family’s life. After all, it’s not like she ordered a party-sized Margarita for herself, or a Long Island iced tea. It was a single glass of wine.

  15. I haven’t read all the comments so maybe someone has already said all this.

    While it is a woman’s right to drink during pregnancy (which I think is just stupid, by the way), but it is also the business’s right to refuse her. In the same way that I believe doctors who are pro-life should not be forced to perform abortions and pharmacists who don’t believe in birth control should not be forced to issue it, a waitress who believes she would be harming a baby should not be forced to serve alcohol to a pregnant woman. If she wants to drink she should go somewhere else.

  16. When I first read the title, I was horrified. What pregnant woman would want to drink alcohol??!!
    I come from a different place though. I teach English Language Arts in a secure institution for youth…many, MANY of my students are diagnosed with FASD *(fetal alcohol spectrum disorder)*. Teaching these children (ages 11-18) is difficult, their brains have been rewired due to the alcohol exposure. Symptoms vary, some onset early enough for the family to see the results in development and skill, a lot of these children have been removed from their birth family for security reasons and so the mother does not see the effect or affect of the alcohol…but I see it. In presents in an ability to remember the alphabet perfectly in order one day, and forget what comes 3rd, the next. It presents in severe behaviour difficulty where by a child is unable to regulate their impulses and emotions and become violent. Our jails are full of grown ups who are just constantly being recycled through the system, unable to be socially acceptable and hold a job, or keep relationships. The cycle is perpetuated again and again.
    I have female students with FASD who do not realize there is a difference in them and that their lives, thoughts, impressions and experience are not the norm…they too carry on the cycle of alcohol poisoned babes being born.
    I guess all that to say that there really is no known amount of alcohol that is safe for a fetus to be exposed to. In my job, I see it every day, every single day I am heartbroken knowing the future of these youth, with FASD, knowing that early intervention is the ONLY way to manage and all the while knowing that early intervention isn’t always possible because of the variety of symptoms and the difficulty diagnosing without a mother’s admission of consuming alcohol.
    It’s not a game to play, if the fetus is to be born healthy, we must make better choices, I cannot save these kids because of something their mom did, and that kills me.
    Note that I am not passing judgment, I’m really not, but I am in a position to see the gamut of issues which go along with fetal alcohol exposure.

  17. By making this determination, I think that the restaurant has opened themselves up to MORE legal liability, not less. They have set the precedent that they are qualified to make determinations on who can safely drink alcoholic and who cannot. So, when they DO serve alcohol to the next person with a health issue and that person DOES suffer an ill consequence they can no longer claim to “not be qualified” to make these kinds of choices for their customers.

  18. I honestly don’t think there’s any question here. An adult woman, whether she is pregnant or assumed to be pregnant has the right to do what she would like. And there are studies done in *gasp* OTHER COUNTRIES where women *gasp* drink THROUGHOUT THEIR PREGNANCIES showing that it is in fact NOT harmful. But that is not even the issue here. The woman in question has EVERY LEGAL RIGHT to drink if she chooses. I am currently 5+ months pregnant, and I believe that if I choose to have a glass of wine it is not going to do any harm to my growing munchkin. I’ve thought a lot about whether or not I’d do it in a restaurant, however, because of the backlash. If I did choose to, though, and was refused service, I would almost definitely make some serious complaints, and possibly seek legal action. The very idea infuriates me.

  19. Ooh! I’ll keep this in mind tonight when I’m serving and an obese person orders a ribeye. I’m just looking out for their best interest…and if they didn’t want my opinions on their health, they shouldn’t even *think* of bringing their fat body into my restaurant.
    Ooh! Ooh! And I’ve always wanted to snatch the cigarette out of a parent’s hand when they’re holding their child. This behavior sets the precedent: I can be the perfect asshole and push my opinions on others’ consumption!
    Note: If it were the restaurant’s policy, I would expect the manager to tell the customer herself.

  20. When I was pregnant my obviously U.S.A. culture came out and I was not going to go anywhere near alcohol despite many other cultures drinking moderately during pregnancy. I had to think about it and in my 3rd trimester I did enjoy a little beer and wine. However I was scared to drink in public because of how pervasive our culture is about alcohol and pregnancy. I see nothing wrong with enjoying a few sips of good quality alcohol and would have been upset if refused at a nice establishment.

  21. If the same pregnant woman went to walmart and bought a case of beer the checker would sell it to her because she could be buying for her spouse, etc. She then could drink all 24 cans of beer at home. That hopefully would never happen but pregnant woman are over 21 and can legally by wine and spirits.

    On the program Pregnancy for Dummies, the OB tells her pregnant patients to have A glass of wine and relax at home after an amnio.

    I have never drank during pregnancy but I would not judge a woman who was pregnant and had an occasional glass of wine. I would want the right and if I would ever have a third child I’d have to have an amnio then, in turn, I’d probably have a glass of wine.

  22. Interesting to me is the question of intent. Someone who might normally order a glass of wine in a restaurant may want to do so when pregnant just to maintain a sense of personal normalcy. By ordering it, she’s not actually declaring her intention to DRINK it. I love to smell my friends’ wine glasses when they order a nice bottle and I’m unable to drink due to pregnancy. Sometimes that feels a little weird – maybe she just wanted the personal freedom to smell to her heart’s content.

    I guess what i’m saying is, while the establishment has the right to refuse service to anyone, it doesn’t seem quite right that they would take away a woman’s right to choose (language intended) what to do with her body. She (and all of us) have the right to take our business elsewhere as well.

    Side note: I was in a hotel bar this week with my husband. The bartender asked my husband “can I get you a drink?” and he asked me “would you like a juice or soda or something?” It never struck me as out of the ordinary until RIGHT NOW.

  23. Oops! I meant to say IF a pregnant woman is over 21 she can legally buy wine and spirits. Obviously, not all pregnant woman are over 21.

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  25. What a rediculous situation! There is no way that can be right! Look, I didn’t drink when I was pregnant, except for a glass of champaign at a wedding, and maybe one or two more, but that was primarily because I was really sick for most of it.

    But, if this is a ‘real’ posibility then I hope that every smoker is arrested as soon as the pregnancy is confirmed. Nothing irks me more than a heavily pregnant woman smoking!

    I don’t understand how it can be perfectly okay to rip an unborn child to pieces in an abortion, yet a glass or two of wine is frowned upon. (And no, i’m not even a rampaging pro-lifer!)

  26. I remember researching this issue quite a bit when I was first pregnant because I heard so many conflicting things. My midwives always told me occasional was fine and then there would be these moms who would say, “GASP, I would NEVER do that.” When I researched FAS the outcome was something like–there was never a case with a women drinking under two glasses a day/7 days a week.

    I chose to sip on half glasses on special occasions like a holiday or something.

    While a restaurant can deny to serve anyone, I think it is completely ridiculous and condescending.

  27. I recently took a class to be certified to pour/serve alcohol. It was specifically stated, more than once at the class I took, that it is completely within the server’s discretion who they choose to serve and not to serve. In my state, the law dictates that I am legally obligated not to serve alcohol to anyone who is 1) Under 21 or 2) Visibly intoxicated. I am subject to a $1500 ticket for doing either of those things.

    It was also mentioned at the class about pregnant women. As a server we have the right to make any judgment for ourselves–we can choose not to serve the pregnant woman if it bothers us with no recourse.

    I use the permit to work very busy concerts where I’m pouring non-stop for hours. I haven’t been approached by a pregnant woman to this point, and I am not sure what I would do if I was. It’s stressful enough trying to determine who is intoxicated and who isn’t.

  28. My bottom line-it is not the bar or the waitresses place to get involved, unless the woman is intoxicated. A pregnant woman is to be treated just as anyone else. We are all free to make our own choices and must be willing to live with the consequences.

    As stated in another comment, other cultures drink throughout their pregnancies. We should not judge someone for their choice-I am grateful that we live in a time when we can make so many choices without interference from government or other governing bodies.

  29. I feel the business had to cover their butt. Please are SO sue happy these days and even though most plaintiffs don’t receive a settlement in the really outlandish cases; reputations are DAMAGED, a lot of times beyond repair.

    Women all over the world are told that a glass of wine a day during pregnancy. But you don’t have nearly as many frivolous lawsuits in Europe.

  30. I was at a community event recently and mentioned I was going to sip off my husband’s HALF GLASS of wine. A woman I don’t even know told me sternly but in a “joking” tone, “Not until you pop that baby out.” I was HEATED and had to walk away… wine in hand.

    Slippery, slippery slope when you can tell a pregnant woman what to do. I mean, I think a woman should be locked up for smoking while pregnant, honestly, but if it becomes OK not to let me have a glass of wine, what’s next? Coffee? Sushi? And the example of parents feeding kids fast food is a good one – Smoking while pushing a stroller children is also worse than a glass of wine while pregnant, but still apparently very legal.

  31. Semi-off topic that cracks me up: the comments about the restaurant’s right not to serve. As if that ends the right of the woman in question, and all of us, from discussing it. Yes, I beleive we are all adults and understand a business in some cases (but not all) has a right to refuse service. However, we have the right to discuss the reason for their refusal, decide if it is a crappy reason, and petition them to change their reason.

    Life is a two-way street like that. Heh.

    On topic- a woman’s body is her own and unless there was actual evidence that she was harming her child (i.e. drunk, driving, etc…) then the decision to drink was her’s. What seems “bad” to you does not equal “bad” to everyone. If that’s the case, there would be a lot of parents losing their kids based on my opinions of their parenting beliefs.

  32. Interesting that many women think that in this case, it should be a woman’s right to choose (whether or not to drink the wine) whereas women who choose not to breastfeed or choose c-sections over other methods of delivery are harshly judged, particularly on this website. Just sayin’.

  33. Could we compare this to a pregnant woman smoking? Would someone refuse to sell a pregnant woman cigarettes? Just wondering. I don’t drink, never have, so for me this is an easy thing to abstain from during pregnancy.

    I know it has to do with personal choice, but I in good conscience could not serve alcohol to a pregnant woman, knowing what I know about the risks of alcohol during pregnancy. That said, one of my OB’s told me to go home and have a glass of wine when I was in early labor, but I explained that I dodn’t drink.

  34. Temper Stripe – Thanks for your comment. I just wanted to clarify that my purpose in nearly all of the posts that I write is to disseminate information. I believe women should be able to make their own choices – whether its about having a glass of wine while pregnant, choosing a c-section, or choosing whether or not to breastfeed. The problem, the way I see it, is when others tell (either directly or indirectly) women what they should do. In the case of a childbirth, I don’t believe in a care provider coercing a woman to have a c-section when it might not be in the baby’s or woman’s best interests (but instead, is in the best interest of the CP). With breastfeeding, I feel like women in general aren’t supported – because of formula companies’ advertising or putting formula in hospital take-home bags of moms who have explicitly said they are breastfeeding – (both are in violation of the WHO Code), because women are told they can’t breastfeed in public, etc.
    Perhaps I need to clarify that drinking while in the first trimester of pregnancy is not something I condone, but I think the occasional drink in the 3rd trimester is likely OK and I think it is the woman’s responsibility to decide if that’s right for her and her baby or not – not someone else’s.

    I hope this makes sense.

    My quest (if you will) is all about empowering women to make the choices they feel best for them and their families by putting the information out there. Knowledge is power.

    Please let me know if you have further questions. :)

  35. To be completely honest I would probably want to throw up if I had to serve a pregnant woman alcohol. Even though many doctors say it’s okay it just gives me an icky feeling. I would never tell a friend that she was wrong for having a glass of wine but to actually be the one giving it to her I just don’t think I could do it.
    Although, plenty of pregnant women smoke even though it’s bad for the baby but I’ve never heard of anyone refusing to sell them cigarettes.

  36. Honestly, being pregnant myself, I’ve come to absolutely hate when people in public, that I’ve never met, question or comment upon my ability to be a healthy pregnant individual. I’ve had people actually tell me that I must be starving the baby because my belly apparently isn’t big enough for them, and they weren’t joking when they said it. I haven’t wanted alcohol this pregnancy, mostly because it just hasn’t sounded good, but if some waitress at a restaurant told me I couldn’t have a glass of wine, I would say something, and it wouldn’t be pleasant. My body is NOT up for public opinion, and regardless of what people think about the unborn child, it’s not THEIR child, and therefore, it’s none of their business how I decide to grow it. Once the child is out, people don’t say anything, like when parents smoke around their kids, for instance. That’s apparently fine, but smoking while pregnant isn’t, and up for public verbalization, according to everyone else who is not the pregnant woman.

    Honestly, until that child is born, it’s part of the woman’s body, literally, and not a separate entity that needs to be protected by the public at large. Sounds harsh, but it doesn’t breathe, eat, defecate, or do anything without the support of the mom’s body. Therefore, until it’s born, it really is just an extension of her body, and people DON’T need to make it and her the rest of her body public domain. I don’t tell obese people to stop eating. No one needs to tell me what to do with my body, either.

  37. While I agree it is your body and your right to choose what to do with your body, choices a pregnant woman makes DO affect the fetus, and should the fetus be carried to term and delivered, those choices may soon become part of the public domain. That is, needing funding for special needs, health insurance, special education and perhaps special care as an adult.
    I’m Canadian, and many of those services here are funded by tax dollars. I love having those services and do not begrudge the people who need them. I do however resent the tax dollars being spent on care, which, if basic preventative measures had been employed, could be spent else where.
    There is no conclusive evidence outlining the safe amount of nor gestational timing of alcohol exposure for a fetus.

    There are not many people who have commented on the macro of this situation.

    True, every woman has charge of her body and of her life, whether she is pregnant or not, however, when choices made during pregnancy, before the fetus is viable, cause harm and disability extending past viability, the argument must turn to “at what point do the choices of the pregnant woman over step the rights of the individual” (even though the individual may at the time of the choice, be potential, rather than actual)?
    Why are we not thinking ahead here, and only commenting about the right we have as individuals, to choose….I love my right to choose, I love that every one has a choice…..
    My students would love a choice too….they’d love to not have differences and difficulties and face the lives they face…if only their pregnant mom had thought more about that, than their right to consume alcohol.
    We all have our rights tempered at some point. We have the right to shoot our guns…. at targets, though not willy nilly…the risk to others is far too great. We have the right to drive our cars, on the road, not whichever place we choose, the risk to others is too great.

    I’m just saying, there is more to the issue than someone being offended that another would comment on their behavior. If you were beating your child in the parking lot, someone would intervene and we’d all cheer.
    It’s not about opinions here, it’s about safety and well being.
    The comparisons to obesity and not feeding them fattening food, doesn’t fly, because in the case of obesity, there is not necessarily a potential human who will be affected by the consumption of that extra big mac.

  38. This is a topic that I find very interesting. Idealistically I would like to believe that a pregnant woman is responsible enough to make decisions that are good for her and her baby. I realize this is not always the case.

    That being said, I don’t like rules that are made because of the few who endanger their children.

    “Bedsharing is dangerous, you could roll over on baby…” “Babywearing is dangerous, didn’t you just see all the recalls, babies died!”

    Those are only two examples. But our choices as women and parents are constantly being questioned by others especially when we don’t “fit the cultural mold.”

    I myself didn’t drink a drop of anything alcoholic before my pregnancy for about a year or during my pregnancy until I was about 7 months. Over the winter holiday at a celebration I had a glass of wine and a flute of champagne to celebrate and remember. It was sipped slowly and I didn’t feel any ill effects, even after not drinking in over a year and a half.

    We are individuals, we have the right to make the decisions we wish to make and be conscious of them. Our society is terrified of anything like this that could be considered “taboo.” Women all over the world partake in libations regularly and even in a bar setting and there it’s not frowned upon.

    If someone assumed to tell me my business I would leave the restaurant. I was also hyper sensitive not to draw attention to myself by doing things that were thought to be “inappropriate.” I ate what I wanted, drank what I wanted and lived how I felt was best for me during my pregnancy, but if I had any concerns it was usually only done in the privacy of my own home. I am not sure that’s how it should be…but people minding their own business also seems ideal…

  39. I had one sip of champagne towards the end of my first pregnancy, and no alcohol at all during my second. This was my choice. But I will say that I also made that choice partly out of my own concerns over how others would react. I don’t personally believe that a pregnant woman having a glass of wine is inappropriate, but I wouldn’t want to subject myself to that kind of public scrutiny.

    Because, let’s be honest, pregnant women DO become communal property. They ARE subjected to public scrutiny. And I flipping hated it. I am no less capable of making my own decisions, or navigating the world, when I am pregnant. And I don’t believe that anyone else has a better idea of what I need, or more care for my baby, than I do.

    I don’t think that the pregnant woman should have been denied a glass of wine. If she were obviously intoxicated, that is another story. And I don’t think that imposing our values on pregnant women is OK. Whether I was comfortable drinking, in public or private, has no bearing on the discussion of what other people should be allowed to do.

  40. Very controversial!

    While I don’t agree that there should be laws about this sort of thing, I do think the server &/or restaurant has a right to refuse service. As someone who has served in the past I put myself in their shoes. I would not feel comfortable serving a pregnant woman and I have the right to refuse to do it, even if someone else will.

  41. This is an interesting topic! Information is indeed power. I am not sure exactly what the issue at hand is. Is it that society should not tell pregnant women what to do with their own bodies? Is it about women making choices without judgment, but with the right support and information? Is it that laws and regulations go too far when it gets into the realm of pregnancy and parenting?

    Obviously, private establishments can set policies that are debatable. I think if an establishment has a policy regarding pregnant women, they can get into a lot of trouble with deciding who is pregnant like some others mentioned. The same is true with any formal law.

    I think if we are talking about society as a whole making decisions FOR pregnant women and not WITH them, that is where the greatest problems lie. It goes far beyond “allowing” women to drink a glass of wine while pregnant (or nursing). This is just a symptom of an overall desire for there to be more control over what happens during pregnancy and delivery. I think this general issue can be both subtle and overt. It almost starts to sound like a conspiracy theory, but the history of society’s relationship to pregnancy and childbirth speaks for itself, I think.

    That said. I don’t think this is a case that I necessarily believe in (the right to drink while pregnant), particularly when you get into the details (how much is ok, how often, etc). The greater implications are more worrisome to me. I think the more we can look at our society’s overall treatment of women, pregnant and nursing particularly, the better off we will all be.

  42. It is against the law for any bar (in US) to refuse to serve a woman because she is pregnant. This is considered gender discrimination.

  43. Tez – You make two assumptions with which I do not agree. One, that there is “no known safe level”. That simply is not true. There have been quite a few recent studies done outside of the US that show that there is a safe level of consumption during pregnancy. As much as a feel for your students…their mothers did not just have an occasional or moderate drink…they most likely abused alcohol and/or other drugs as well.

    The other assumption is that the other actions under discussion don’t have possible dramatic effects on the unborn child. I believe that the mother’s diet throughout her pregnancy is more important than whether or not she had a half glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve.

    I’ve seen women on pregnancy boards freaking out because they had cookies with “real vanilla” or realized the fondue they ate had a quarter cup of mostly cooked-off beer or wine.

    The father’s drug use and diet and chemical exposure also affects his future children–but we aren’t telling all sexually mature men what they can and cannot do.

    Ultimately, I am in favor of giving people the information they need to make their decisions, even if it doesn’t jive with a zero-tolerance policy.

    Again, the assumption that a woman cares more about her right to drink than her baby’s right to proper development is offensive from my point of view. If a woman does not believe a glass of wine has a negative effect, then it is a false dichotomy for her. You are asking her to protect her child from what (in her mind) is a non-existent risk.

    Amy at 8/22 3:26 PM – an argument could be made that it falls under a protected class but I don’t think it would be a winning one…then again, I’m not a lawyer, and certainly not one with a specialty in this area…I’d certainly be interested in case law and precedent where pregnant women has been successfully identified as being part of a protected class.

  44. I think it is seriously discriminatory for a business/server to refuse to serve a pregnant woman alcohol. It is allowed by law & is a civil right. Where are the ethics in selling alcohol to a person with liver disease or cigarettes to a person who has lung cancer? Just ridiculous.

  45. Maybe the restaurant has that policy because they fear litigation. In the event that a pregnant woman had a drink there and then her child didn’t come out perfect, they may look for “answers” and blame that one time when the mom had a glass of wine at a restaurant. You may think it outrageous, but there are people that sue at the drop of a hat, especially when it comes to babies being born. My best friend’s father stopped delivering children (and he upset his patients because he was a very caring doctor) because in order to protect himself from possible lawsuits he had to order many expensive and largely unnecessary tests just as a CYA if the child wasn’t born with 10 fingers and toes.

  46. I’m looking at this from two point of views. First, I serve alcohol and there are some really strict laws to servers vs buying at a liqueur store or grocery store. We are held totally responsible for anything that might happen after a person bought a drink from us and if you are in a state that allows a person to sue then you could be held criminally responsible for serving someone. We are allowed to legally refuse to serve anybody for any reason. If I guy comes to my counter swearing or insulting me, I can refuse him for that for example.

    Now as a women believing in the right to choose, I do not think this should be allowed. If a pregnant women wants to drink, then she has the right to make that choice. If a pregant women wants to have an abortion, then she is allowed. If a pregnant women wants to give baby up for adoption, she should be allowed. If a pregnant women chooses to formula feed vs. breastfeeding she should be allowed.

    Once you take away one right from women, you will see that more will be taken away. Regardless of what you agree or disagree with, there are some things that the government should not control. Like you said, this is a slippery slope.

    Now if she is drinking several, and getting intoxicated that server has a legal responsibility to cut her off from drinking. The same as any non-pregnant women or man.

  47. based on my experiences with food service and bartending, it’s often not legal to refuse a pregnant woman, courtesy of roe v. wade (according to my service license teachers). you can refuse to serve her alcohol because you ‘don’t like her shoes’, but depending on the state, explicitly saying you refuse to serve her alcohol because she is pregnant will get you and the establishment in major financial trouble because if she sues, she will win. the precedent is well-established. for example, ask the servers in texas, right across the way. there has been many a lawsuit lost in that state when servers refused pregnant women their beer or wine or whiskey.

    most people, including many servers, don’t realise this is often the case and are very surprised when it comes out in court that they didn’t actually have the right to refuse the pregnant lady on account of her pregnantness.

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