I was listening to the radio in the car yesterday when a news reporter started talking about criminalising mother’s who drink while they are pregnant. As present, the court of appeal is deciding whether a council in the North West of England can hold the mother of a 7 year old girl responsible for her Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD).
FASD is an umbrella term for all disorders resulting from a foetus being exposed to alcohol. It can lead to memory and attention span issues, affect speech, language and behaviour. It can affect a child’s immune system as well as damage their vital organs.
When I heard this, my only thought was “What mother would drink copious amounts of alcohol if she knew what it would do to her child?” And the only answer that came to mind was a) A mother who didn’t know better b) A mother who felt stuck in an isolated situation.
If that’s the case then criminalising mother’s who give birth to babies with FASD does nothing to support them. And if a mother really wants to drink then how are they going to catch her doing it in the privacy of her own home? Will stores not be allowed to sell alcohol to pregnant women? Are pregnant women going to be treated like under 18 kids trying to purchase alcohol?
Want my two cents? I think the government needs to spend the money they would putting women behind bars (which in itself would only make the situation worse once they got out) on better health care/education for those women in need. Pregnant women who feel the need to drink when carrying a child. Pregnant women who feel trapped with no where to go who resort to alcohol. Women who are depressed who resort to alcohol. Women who’s partners have deserted them and so they resort to alcohol. Young women who know no better. Reach out to them, educate them, show them the consequences of their actions. Many women in prison are there as a consequence of trauma. By criminalising drinking during pregnancy, that number would only increase.
A healthy diet also goes a long way towards a healthy foetus. Preventing FASD requires a better funded NHS in place to provide support for women with not only alcohol abuse but substance abuse. Midwives and GPs who are trained to understand addiction and whom women can confide in. Counsellors and support workers who can work with these women to get to the root of the problem and help solve it.
What really irks me are all the feminists coming out of the woodwork. The people who claim that just by telling a woman she can’t drink during pregnancy, we are controlling her and telling her what she can and cannot do with her body. Now come on! Really?! What is more important? Simply telling a woman she cannot/should not drink while pregnant or dealing with the aftermath of her drinking and ruining her child’s life?!
I also get the opposing argument, I’m not naïve. I’m sure there are many women who do understand the consequences of their actions but just don’t care enough. Any healthcare system in the world isn’t going to be able to reach all of the people all of the time but even if we can begin to tackle the situation for half the women out there, it’ll be one step in the right direction.