If you're a pregnant woman living in New York and want to have a glass of wine or two at your favorite bar, your bartender can no longer refuse to serve you, according to the NYC Commission on Human Rights' new guidelines.
More specifically, the guidelines aim to minimize discrimination against pregnant women and focus mostly on the rights of pregnant employees but also touch on whether it's legal to refuse to serve pregnant women alcohol at bars or clubs. Ultimately, the commission writes that "judgments and stereotypes about how pregnant individuals should behave, their physical capabilities, and what is or is not healthy for a fetus are pervasive in our society and cannot be used as pretext for unlawful discriminatory decisions."
The debate over whether it's okay to drink during pregnancy has raged for years. Lauren Streicher, MD, tells Self.com that when it comes to pregnancy and drinking, it's "not about the medicine."
"The notion that a bartender gets to decide whether it’s OK — that’s such an affront to women’s rights and women’s autonomy," she said. She added that while drinking heavily during pregnancy may be unhealthy, there's no official cut-off. "To say if you have one glass of wine during pregnancy, something terrible is going to happen—no one knows," Streicher said. "The greater good is to say not to drink.”
Indeed, an anonymous ob-gyn told Cosmopolitan.com that she drank during her pregnancy and that she told her friends it was okay to do the same. In fact, "on average, obstetricians are more likely to tell [women] it's OK," Emily Oster, an associate professor of economics at the University of Chicago told Cosmopolitan.com's Michelle Ruiz.
And a 2012 Danish study of 1,600 5-year-old kids whose mothers had up to eight drinks per week while pregnant showed no difference in cognitive abilities from kids whose mothers didn't drink during pregnancy.
So if moderate drinking is okay, or at least, isn't as bad as we've all been led to believe, why do so many doctors recommend their pregnant patients abstain from drinking altogether?
Basically, doctors worry that if they tell patients it's okay to have a glass or two of wine at dinner while pregnant, patients will go overboard and drink the whole bottle, Oster writes in her book Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong and What You Need to Know. Plus, since there is no official cut-off or point at which experts know for sure that alcohol begins to negatively impact your pregnancy, some experts see it as safer to simply abstain from drinking for nine months. Because, after all, while drinking while pregnant might not be that bad for you, there's also not a ton of evidence to suggest it's that good for you.
That said, pregnant women are perfectly capable of making their own decisions, and it would seem the Human Rights Commission agrees. "Accommodation of pregnant women cannot be a favor," Azadeh Khalili, Executive Director of the Commission on Gender Equity, told Gothamist. "It is a human right and the law in New York City."