Whether or not pregnant women should be served alcohol when pregnant, and more to the point, whether they should drink it, has been a big controversy lately.
Almost everyone agrees that the "zero-tolerance" policy recommended by U.S. doctors is unduly strict, and in Europe pregnant women are generally allowed a glass or two a week with no foreseeable damage to the fetus. So, sure, plenty of people find forbidding an adult woman the occasional drink to be, in a word, paternalistic. But "medical legal expert" Dr Colin Gavaghan has taken the argument a step further, calling such strictures "sexist" and "ethically dubious."
Gavaghan's point, presumably, is that the medical establishment's unilateral ban on alcohol during pregnancy only affects women. Which is inarguable, except I guess in the case of those sensitive fathers-to-be who like to share every facet of the shared pregnancy and willingly abstain from drinking out of solidarity. "Ethically dubious" refers to a sweeping recommendation made on fairly scant evidence - it's not been proven that very moderate drinking harms the baby - and so might be construed more as "medical ass-covering" than "full disclosure." The second part, we suppose we get. But if it's true, we're gonna go out on a limb and say that these same cautious doctors would probably be just as quick to ban pregnant men from drinking, too.
But, logic - and overly free use of words - aside, isn't there always a degree of paternalism to the regulation of alcohol? Kids can't drink. And it's up to a bartender's discretion to decide when someone has "had enough" - even if that person, is, legally, a consenting adult. Also, let's talk turkey: female drinking is up - especially binge-drinking in the UK - and however paternalistic, there's something to be said for making women aware of the risks of their behavior, if it can be done without unnecessary alarmism. To the extent that Gavaghan's argument rests on "informed choice," then yes, we agree. But he undermines it with his absurd sexism charges - and we rather resent the notion that this might have been intended to sway us, the target demo, with a buzzword. As the New York Times' etiquette columnist put it rather more moderately over the weekend, "There's no law requiring pregnant women to become vestal virgins. And a reasonable mother-to-be is the best judge of her behavior." True, but the fiction that we can live any facet of our public health lives, in the modern age, free of paternalism seems disingenuous - particularly to a "legal expert" who should at least recognize that to some, our society must seem too litigious to be trusted with all the facts.
Telling Pregnant Women Not To Drink Is 'Sexist' [Telegraph]
It's Sexist To Tell Pregnant Women Not To Drink, Says Expert [Daily Mail]
Social Q's: Make Mine a Double [NY Times]