Young lady, if you’re having unprotected sex and putting yourself at risk of an unplanned pregnancy, put the drink down.
What was meant to be a harmless, well-intentioned warning from American health officials is now being mocked by critics who say the message came off as condescending and patriarchal.
READ MORE: Is light drinking during pregnancy safe?
In new advice doled out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), health officials extended their warning about drinking while pregnant to all women who are sexually active and at child-bearing age.
“More than three million U.S. women are at risk of exposing their developing baby to alcohol because they are drinking, having sex, and not using birth control to prevent pregnancy,” they wrote in their “Vital Signs” report released this week.
“About half of all U.S. pregnancies are unplanned and, even if planned, most women do not know they are pregnant until they are 4-6 weeks into the pregnancy. This means a woman might be drinking and exposing her developing baby to alcohol without knowing it,” the report read, adding “Why take the risk?”
Do you find the CDC’s message to women condescending? Take our poll here.
That’s when the controversy started: critics asked if the federal agency was pushing boundaries by asking women to consider the health of their hypothetical babies and that women were being asked to change their behaviour and lifestyle even if they didn’t want to have babies yet. Others suggested the message implies that women are primarily baby-carrying vessels.
“The language insinuates that your womb is a Schrodinger’s box and you shouldn’t pour alcohol into it unless you’ve peeked in there to be 100 per cent sure the coast is clear,” one writer said in The Atlantic.
In a Washington Post piece, titled “The CDC’s incredibly condescending warning to young women,” one writer suggested the organization’s warning implies that drinking lowers inhibitions.
“No alcohol for you, young women! The most important fact about you is not that you are people but that you might potentially contain people one day,” the writer said.
“Also drinking is a type of witchery that can whip babies into existence out of nowhere.”
The CDC tried to clear up its misunderstanding.
“We recommend that everybody, all adults be screened for alcohol and counseled about reducing their alcohol consumption if they have problems with it,” CDC doctor Anne Schuchat told reporters during a media briefing.
“We urge women and their babies and their friends to be supportive of that idea… ‘I’m not going to drink for a while because I’m thinking about getting pregnant,’” she explained.
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