A frequent tactic of anti-abortion activists is to let women know the restrictions on their rights is to “help” them make better choices. There’s a long history in this approach, and one that is steeped in the belief that women are such inferior creatures that, like juveniles, only well-intentioned men can make certain decisions for them.
The latest incarnation of these “helping” strategy showed up in Minnesota, where a Brainerd-based nonprofit announced its plan to start stocking pregnancy kits at bars and restaurants so they can “help” expectant mothers avoid prenatal exposure to alcohol.
As of now the take-a-pregnancy-test-before-we’ll-serve-you-alcohol is purely voluntary and limited to Minnesota. But the group behind it has big plans. From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
The nonprofit seeks to make pregnancy tests available “worldwide in locations where women can test before drinking alcohol rather than waiting until a month or two into the pregnancy,” according to executive director and founder Jody Crowe. He said he hopes eventually to install dispensers in women’s restrooms at bars, gas stations, shopping malls, fitness centers and other locations “to target those at high risk for unexpect[ed] pregnancies.”
If it truly is a crack at addressing the problem of fetal alcohol syndrome it certainly is an indirect way to target it. Crowe’s own conclusion that the demographic most likely to drink while pregnant consists of financially stable women, in urban areas, over age 30 which is why the pregnancy tests are appearing first in upscale bars and restaurants. But research on fetal alcohol syndrome rates show 3.0 per 1000 live births among Native Americans compared to a rate of 0.6 per 1000 live births among Blacks and 0.1 per 1000 live births among Whites. There’s nothing in Crowe’s “helping” that actually addresses the populations most at risk for drinking to the point of FAS. And that’s because it was never intended to.
Once the test, and expectations that women take them, are normalized, the voluntary nature goes away. We’re already prosecuting women for failed pregnancies and mental illness. Before long we’ll be “helping” them by monitoring their menstrual cycle and registering each pregnancy for state-monitoring.
Photo from doviende via flickr.