Did the CDC Go Too Far? New Report on Alcohol and Pregnancy Sparks Controversy
The CDC has long been encouraging expecting mothers to completely eliminate all alcohol consumption during their pregnancy. The agency publishes frequent warnings linking alcohol during pregnancy with a wide range of birth defects and conditions like fetal alcohol syndrome. However, some journalists and bloggers were outraged by a recent report from the CDC which advised women to not drink before pregnancy as well.
The report argues that nearly half of all pregnancies in the US are unplanned and many women don’t realize they’re pregnant for the first four weeks. During this time, if the mother drinks she unknowingly exposes her baby to the harmful effects of alcohol.
So why all the controversy? Many people felt that the report contained potentially condescending language and that it also was reductive to the status of women. They felt that the CDC’s report, in essence, was telling women that their potential for pregnancy should become the dominant factor in their lifestyle choices.
Slate.com columnist Ruth Graham likened the article to a similar 2006 report where the CDC advised all women of reproductive years should take folic acid on the off-chance they became pregnant. Graham argues that this sort of thinking views women as being continuously “per-pregnant” and doesn’t take into consideration any of their individual preferences or desires.
Similarly, the ThinkProgress blog criticized the CDC report for linking alcohol with promiscuity. They argue this potentially well-meaning article in fact does more harm than good by suggesting that drinking is strongly linked with promiscuous behavior and pregnancy.