Can Bartenders Block Alcoholic Beverage Purchases By Pregnant Women? Not Anymore

Everyone knows alcohol and pregnancy don’t mix, but new guidelines address this issue from not a medical or health angle, but a discrimination angle. Because lately it seems a way is found to trample everybody’s rights in some way, somehow, right?

A Pregnant Woman Walks Into a Bar…

The New York City Commission on Human Rights released guidelines Friday that clearly state it violates the human rights of a mother-to-be to prohibit her entrance into a bar or restaurant that serves alcohol or to refuse to serve her an alcoholic beverage if she orders one (or many).

There is a local law in New York City, the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) from 2013, which prohibits discrimination of pregnant women, that was originally directed toward issues dealing with mothers-to-be regarding “employment, public accommodations, and housing.”

The purpose of the guidelines was to be sure accommodations were made, if necessary, if a pregnant woman’s health was being put at risk due to a workplace environment or if something like a schedule change was needed for a doctor appointment. However, the non-discrimination attribute is now being aimed at alcohol consumption by mothers-to-be.

Two examples of violations listed in the NYCHRL are:

  • An employer refuses to hire pregnant individuals for specific positions or consider them for certain promotions because the positions involve working with hazardous chemicals.
  • A restaurant policy that prohibits staff from serving pregnant individuals raw fish or alcohol.

One might think these would constitute somebody looking out for the well-being of the mother and baby, but under these new guidelines, they constitute a violation of human rights and are considered against the local law. The Commission thought of that reasoning, USA Today reported, by clarifying that “using safety as a pretext for discrimination or as a way to reinforce traditional gender norms or stereotypes is unlawful.”

Who Says?

Who is the ultimate authority over decisions related to the health of a pregnant woman and her baby? Ultimately, shouldn’t it be the mother? And should the mother remember she is making decisions for two? And should a pregnant woman even be drinking alcohol?

“That’s a fair question,” says Glamour, “for the expectant mother to ask herself.”

There are guidelines to go by for helpful health and medical information during pregnancy. But even guidelines change. Remember the “coffee’s okay, coffee’s not okay” reports that came out?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has long been against pregnant women consuming alcohol during pregnancy, and according to a report released in October by the American Academy of Pediatrics, “no amount of alcohol intake should be considered safe during any trimester of pregnancy.” And the New York Times reported that at least 18 states have laws that consider the use of intoxicants by pregnant women the equivalent to child abuse.

New York City requires restaurants to post warnings that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause birth defects, ABC News reported, but that does not give the restaurants the right to refuse service to an expectant mom; it is still her health decision to make. As with any issue, there are at least two schools of reactions to this mandate.

While one bar owner said he would not tell his staff not to serve a pregnant woman, another said he believes the “mother should be responsible.” And as far as moms themselves go? The women on this panel of The View, like them or not, brought up some good points all around the issue that should be considered about choices related to alcohol, whether from a bartender or a pregnant mother-to-be.

[Photo by Chris Hondros/Newsmakers]