Should Bars Refuse to Serve Pregnant Women?

Over at The Stir, Annie Krasnow writes about her pregnant friend who visited New Orleans with her husband on a “babymoon.”

In her seventh month of pregnancy, this mom-to-be sat down at a quiet restaurant with her husband. Ready for a relaxing evening, she ordered a glass of Chardonnay. The waitress refused to serve her. “We don’t serve pregnant women here,” she reportedly said. Krasnow doesn’t tell us what her friend said in response, but I’m guessing she was shocked and upset.

Krasnow points out that some may argue that the fetus can’t protect itself. But what comes next? Do we start mandating that pregnant women avoid junk food or cigarettes? Should we mandate where pregnant women work and whom they live with. Don’t pregnant women have rights too?

“It seems that when women are pregnant, they become public property,” writes Krasnow. “I’m not condoning pregnant women getting drunk, but I don’t think that waitress should be allowed to make that decision for anyone but herself.”

Some comments to Krasnow’s post wondered whether a mother could sue a bar for serving her alcohol if her baby turned out to have fetal alcohol syndrome or other medical issues. I did some research and apparently, in some states, it is against the law to serve alcohol to a pregnant woman. In general, however, it is illegal for a bartender to refuse a certain group of people unless there is a specific reason, such as drunkenness (Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer.)

My take: unless a pregnant woman is drunk, she should be served. Many doctors and midwives now say that a drink or so a week during pregnancy will not harm the fetus. When I was pregnant with my first daughter, my husband and I went on a “babymoon” to the south of France. My midwife gave me special dispensation to drink a glass of wine a day. “After all, the French women do it,” she said.

I have to side with the American Civil Liberties Union on this issue. ”Do we really want to make a pregnant woman’s behavior and choices…a crime because it could hurt the fetus?” asks the author of the Blog of Rights. “Allowing the government to exercise such unlimited control over women’s bodies, and every aspect of their lives, would essentially reduce pregnant women to second-class citizens, denying them the basic constitutional rights.”

What do you think? Was the waitress out of line? Or did she make the right call?

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Photo: flickr/avern

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