Iona Shearer discusses women’s bodily autonomy and medical bureaucracy.
The Centre for Disease Control’s (CDCs) recent announcement that sexually active females of childbearing age should not drink alcohol unless they are taking birth control has caused an impressionable disturbance to women’s bodily autonomy.
According to the CDC’s research, up to 1 in 20 school children in the U.S are affected by Foetal Alcohol Syndrome and – as around half of pregnancies in the US are unplanned – this advice has come as a bid to prevent women from accidentally exposing their developing child to alcohol.
Although some studies claim that the odd glass throughout pregnancy will do no harm, recently published research from the U.K’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has said there is no safe level of alcohol consumption for anyone.
However, some sceptics believe that the increasing restrictions placed on expectant mothers – bearing in mind that humans have been successfully reproducing for thousands of years – are just another attempt by governments to try and control women’s actions.
Telling a woman not to drink in case she is pregnant is akin to telling her not to go outside in case she gets raped, or not to cross the road in case she gets hit by a car. Objectively, these are all sensible pieces of preventative advice, but they also infringe on women’s personal freedom – something that is arguably more worrying than the dangers these suggestions are trying to prevent.
In a time when abortion rights are such a contentious issue and women’s rights to bodily autonomy are constantly being compromised, having advice like this widely publicized is concerning. In the U.S particularly, people are increasingly obsessed with the welfare of the unborn; with right-wing governments pushing legislation that bans abortion, defining a child’s personhood as beginning two weeks before conception, and making internal ultrasounds mandatory for expectant mothers.
As such, one has to wonder how long it will be before some pro-life crackpot starts demanding that women must prove their contraceptive status before they can purchase alcohol. Before we know it, women in the U.S will be needing to wave their pill packets and I.D at liquor store cashiers before they can get their gin fix.
Not that we should advocate drinking during pregnancy, but the notion that women should change their lifestyle to allay fears about what may or may not be, borders on ridiculous. There are a number of reasons why sexually active women of childbearing age might not want to take birth control, and nothing but abstinence is 100 per cent effective. Synthetic hormones carry with them a number of side effects both physical and psychological, and to say that a woman who refuses to subject her body to these has no longer the right to a drink is nothing other than sexist.
So like most advice, it’s prudent to take the CDC’s announcement with a large pinch of salt. However, make sure to be aware of what’s going on in your body, because if there is one thing that is important when medical bureaucracy tries to tighten its grip on women, it is to show that we can be trusted with our own bodies and our own decisions.
BY IONA SHEARER
(Photo Credit: Chris Murtagh. Image sourced: Flickr)