If you thought middle school was the time in your life when you would be the most judged for what you wore, how you did your hair, and even what you ate, you’ve never been pregnant. As soon as a woman becomes pregnant, it seems like people think she is twelve again and incapable of making her own decisions. These people become her middle school frenemies — building her up and tearing her down in the same moment — casting judgment over everything she does:
You’re going to lift that?
You’re going to work that late?
You’re going to take that much time off?
Dye your hair?
One difference between middle school and pregnancy is that when you are pregnant, it’s not cool to drink. You can’t even sneak one and brag to your friends, because they will turn on you so quickly, you’ll wonder how you went from eating at the cool table to being kicked out of the cafeteria.
That’s why everyone’s so pissed at New York City right now. NYC, too cool for school with the heavy eyeliner and too many boyfriends, became the pregnant person’s friend this week when it’s Commission of Human Rights published guidelines preventing the discrimination of pregnant women.
The guidelines cover major forms of discrimination like pregnant women being denied jobs or housing, or being forced to take early, unpaid leave. They also cover discriminatory conduct that “manifests itself in more subtle and patronizing ways” such as “policies that single out pregnant individuals” like the following: “those that […] deny entrance to pregnant individuals to certain public accommodations, or refuse to serve certain food or drinks to pregnant individuals or individuals perceived to be pregnant.”
It’s that last form of no-longer-legal discrimination that has people so upset. It’s been blaring from all the major news network headlines lately: “Bartenders banned from denying pregnant women alcohol in NYC.”
Now, before you all get mad at me, I didn’t drink during my pregnancy and I’m not saying other women should. I’m just pointing out that there are a lot of good, needed policies in those guidelines and people are fixating on (and just maybe) blowing out of proportion this particular policy; it’s not some random person’s occupation to police pregnant people’s morality.
The New York Times quoted a lawyer with the New York City Hospitality Alliance as saying “to a certain extent it’s government run amok” because bars are required to post signs warning about the dangers of alcohol to a fetus but the bartenders can’t impress upon the woman that danger and prevent her from causing it. Or because bartenders, who have the right to refuse to serve a “visibly intoxicated” customer, won’t know what to do if that customer is a pregnant woman. Should they keep serving her to avoid discrimination?
Is this government run amok? No. The government should place warnings in bars. Just like they do on cigarettes, medication, and amusement park rides. Would it be great if all women followed the advice? Sure. But just because a woman is pregnant doesn’t mean she can’t read a warning label and make up her own mind. And a visibly intoxicated pregnant person looks and acts just like any other drunk person. When that happens, the bartender has the right to refuse service.
These guidelines don’t mean that women are going to be bellying up to the bar in record numbers shouting, “Make it a double! I’m drinking for two!” They mean that a pregnant person is still a person.
Jennifer Brick is a freelance writer and former teacher in Durham, North Carolina. She earned her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College. Follow her on Twitter @jenbrickwrites.