Feminists overly sensitive to CDC pregnancy report

By Minju Park

The Center for Disease Control recently released a warning about problems that may arise from drinking alcohol while not taking contraceptive pills.

The statement informed women of the consequences of birth defects, including behavioral, physical or intellectual disabilities, that could occur due to the harmful effects of alcohol on the developing fetus. The organization then advised women that are trying to get pregnant, or have a possibility of becoming pregnant, to abstain from drinking alcohol. http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0202-alcohol-exposed-pregnancy.html

But this statement resulted in a response different than what the CDC expected. Women interpreted the statement as the CDC patronizing women and being overly severe. Women were angered by being reduced to “baby-making vessels” without the freedom to behave as they want due to theoretical chances of becoming pregnant when not using contraceptive pills. http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/02/04/465607147/women-blast-cdcs-advice-to-use-birth-control-if-drinking-alcohol

If the CDC statement had really been worded in a condescending and unjust way, then the women would have every right to speak out. However, the CDC’s words were twisted to fit a bias in a way that the CDC did not intend.

The message was mostly targeted towards women who were actively trying to become pregnant, not towards women who were pre-pregnant and not planning to do so.

The report did mention that women of sexually reproductive age, who are not using birth control, are consuming alcohol and are sexually active, are much more likely to expose their developing baby to alcohol.

Reportedly, three out of four women who answered that they wanted to “get pregnant as soon as possible” don’t cut off alcohol when they stop using birth control. They also found that about half of pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned, leading unsafe levels of alcohol consumption to continue into the first trimester due to a lack of awareness about the pregnancy. http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0202-alcohol-exposed-pregnancy.html

This is the crux of the problem that the CDC was aiming to resolve: That women who are actively trying to conceive should break off consumption of alcohol immediately to prevent possible defects that may arise with their child.

Criticizing the CDC for being “too severe” is also unfair. Since it is difficult to determine a “safe limit” to how much alcohol a woman can drink when pregnant, the CDC decided to come down hard on the limit and declare that no alcohol is the best bet. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/cdc-alcohol-young-women-pregnancy-warning_us_56b22f03e4b04f9b57d805bc

“It’s probable that that one glass of wine is not going to do anything,” Amy Bryant, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, said in an interview with the Huffington Post. “But you tell women that it’s safe to drink in pregnancy and then you end up with all this fetal alcohol syndrome— and it is entirely preventable.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/cdc-alcohol-young-women-pregnancy-warning_us_56b22f03e4b04f9b57d805bc

This kind of information is relevant to students on our own campus. The University is considered one of the top party schools in the country, and since it educates thousands of sexually active women of childbearing age, the situation that the CDC is warning readers about is very relevant on campus.

Although it is not possible to quantify how many pregnancies on campus have gone unnoticed, nor how many pregnancies involved alcohol consumption, we can safely assume there is a significant amount of danger here.

Many older women who are considering becoming pregnant are likely to drink smaller amounts of alcohol, but that is not the case on a college campus. Students often binge drink, typically defined as consuming over four drinks in a two-hour period, on the weekends and that could be much more harmful to a fetus than one or two glasses of wine.

Nearly 40 percent of college students reported binge drinking at least once in the last month according to a national survey, which means that a great deal of college females who are not using birth control are at risk of severely damaging their potential children. http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/CollegeFactSheet/CollegeFactSheet.pdf

In order to prevent such instances from occurring, the CDC merely provided relevant information to help readers, such as college females, to know the risks and act in a responsible way.

Feminists should rethink their criticism of the CDC for supposedly demeaning women in their report on drinking and pregnancy. Although the wording may have been interpreted as too severe, the CDC is only trying to give a worthwhile warning to women in order to prevent unexpecting mothers from impacting the health of their future children.

Minju is a freshman in LAS.

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