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New York Times, 9th May: Bartenders Can’t Refuse Pregnant Women Alcohol, New York City Says

May 16th 2016

Thanks to SHAAP for their weekly media monitoring.
This article was taken from New York Times, 9th May

It can be an awkward order for a pregnant woman: A glass of merlot, please.

But she is legally entitled to it, according to New York City.

For the first time, the city is explicitly prohibiting restaurants and bars from refusing alcoholic drink orders to mothers-to-be, with new guidelines that say doing so would represent discrimination under the city’s Human Rights Law.

“While covered entities may attempt to justify certain categorical exclusions based on maternal or fetal safety, using safety as a pretext for discrimination or as a way to reinforce traditional gender norms or stereotypes is unlawful,” the guidance released by the Commission on Human Rights on Friday says.

That would also apply to foods deemed risky during pregnancy, such as raw fish or soft cheese. But it’s alcohol consumption by pregnant women that has long driven the touchiest debates over private etiquette and public policy.

At least 18 states have laws that regard the use of intoxicants by pregnant women as child abuse, according to a survey by ProPublica. It was not clear how many jurisdictions have rules that specifically ban restaurants and bars from refusing alcohol service.

Several medical organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Surgeon General’s Office, discourage any alcohol consumption. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has gone even further, recommending that sexually active women who are not using birth control abstain from alcohol.

Nonetheless, many expectant mothers allow themselves an occasional glass of wine, encouraged in part by research showing that small amounts of alcohol may not be harmful. According to the C.D.C., about 10 percent of pregnant women drink alcohol.

“I looked forward to my Friday night margarita during each of my pregnancies, and I think they contributed to a happier, healthier pregnancy for both mom and baby,” wrote one New York Times commenter. Another reacted to abstinence advice this way: “Stop infantilizing women.”

New York City’s new guidelines would not undermine a state law that requires bartenders not to serve guests who are “visibly intoxicated.” But some bar owners worry that the rules could muddy the question of when it is appropriate to cut off a pregnant patron.

“To a certain extent it’s government run amok,” said Robert Bookman, a lawyer with the New York City Hospitality Alliance, a trade group. Under state law, he noted, bars are required to post signs warning about the dangers of alcohol to fetuses.

“Here you now have a city agency saying that if we take that seriously and try to discourage a pregnant woman from drinking, we’re in violation of the law,” he said, adding, “We’re stuck in the middle on this one.”

Released before Mother’s Day, the guidelines from the Human Rights Commission were intended to clarify the anti-discrimination protections afforded pregnant women in the workplace, in housing and in public settings.

The commission said it was investigating at least one case of a pregnant woman who was denied entry to a bar over the moral judgments of its employees. In another case, a woman was refused entry to a concert in the Bronx after she was told that it was an unsafe environment for pregnant women, the commission said.

The city cited research showing that pregnant employees continue to be denied accommodations they are entitled to, such as schedule changes, arrangements for “light duty” or bathroom breaks. Many expectant mothers are also sidelined in their careers, officials said.

The commission said it was investigating more than 40 cases of pregnancy-related discrimination, most involving the workplace. In one case, a pregnant employee who asked if she could arrive late to work so she could attend a medical appointment was subjected to a series of inappropriate questions, the commission said, including “Who is the father?”

“Accommodation of pregnant women cannot be a favor,” Azadeh Khalili, the executive director of the Commission on Gender Equity, said in a statement supporting the new guidelines.It is a human right and the law in New York City.”

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