One would think that in this city, women would have long been legally entitled to choose what food or drink they do or do not put in their bodies while pregnant—after all, a woman's right to choose whether or not she has a baby in the first place has been legally protected here since 1970. But no: until yesterday, bars could refuse to serve an expecting mother or even let her on the premises, and restaurants could similarly refuse to serve her raw fish. Now, per new guidelines released by the city's Human Rights Commission, such choices have been returned to women themselves, not the servers who would deny them.
"Judgments and stereotypes about how pregnant individuals should behave, their physical capabilities and what is or is not healthy for a fetus are pervasive in our society and cannot be used as pretext for unlawful discriminatory decisions," the guidelines dictate.
The U.S. Surgeon General says that people should avoid alcohol during pregnancy, and New York City requires bars and restaurants to post warnings that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can lead to birth defects. However, there's no evidence that the occasional drink causes harm to babies, particularly after the first trimester (the same goes for eating raw fish), and ultimately, the decision is the pregnant person's alone, according to Human Rights Commission officials.
Carlota Fluxa, a Brooklyn resident who recently gave birth to her first child, told the AP that she occasionally ordered a glass of wine while pregnant, which would be considered par for the course in her native country, Spain—but she found herself wondering, "'Will they serve you, or will they not? ...Will they look down on you, or will they not?'...in general, a lot of people are paying attention to whether you're drinking or not drinking."
The guidelines, which were released to help clarify a 2013 city law, primarily focused on clarifying protections for pregnant people in the workplace. Specifically, they specifiy that it's illegal to fire or refuse to hire or promote someone because they are pregnant, and similarly illegal to refuse to accept a housing application because the applicant is pregnant. Employers must make reasonable accommodations for employees who are pregnant or new parents—and that also applies to people who are undergoing fertility treatment, have had abortions, have miscarried, or are breastfeeding.
"Accommodation of pregnant women cannot be a favor," said Azadeh Khalili, Executive Director of the Commission on Gender Equity. "It is a human right and the law in New
Perhaps the CDC will take note of New York City's latest guidelines, and retract its recent suggestion that all sexually active women not on birth control abstain from drinking. We know, it's a totally far-out notion—but maybe, just maybe, women are capable of making their own decisions about their bodies and health. Radical stuff!