Should Bars Refuse to Serve Pregnant Women?

BlogHer Original Post

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 it's 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. It's not her body. It's 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

Contributing editor Amy Gates writes about parenting, women's health, green living and more at Crunchy Domestic Goddess. You can also follow her on Twitter: @crunchygoddess.

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