The Center for Disease Control recently released new information directed toward women in their child-bearing years and the possible negative effects that alcohol consumption could have on pregnancy.
According to the CDC website, alcohol use during pregnancy, even within the first few weeks and before a woman knows she is pregnant, can cause lasting physical, behavioral and intellectual disabilities that can last a child’s lifetime. These disabilities are known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
But beyond the issue of FASD, many at Colorado State University see the recommendations as narrowly focused.
“I am a little disappointed in the CDC, because I think it’s a little short-sighted to single out half the population when it comes to alcohol consumption,” said Casey Malsam, victim advocate for the Women and Gender Advocacy Center. “There are problems with alcohol consumption for all bodies, not just women’s bodies, so if it’s that big of an issue for the CDC to put out alcohol education, they should do comprehensive education and not just shame part of the community by putting responsibility on women.”
According to the latest CDC Vital Signs report, an estimated 3.3 million women between the ages of 15 and 44 years are at risk of exposing their developing baby to alcohol because they are drinking, sexually active and not using birth control to prevent pregnancy.
“Women are more than walking, talking wombs, and I think the health of an individual should come before the health of a possibility,” biology and women’s studies major Molly Rogers wrote in an email to the Collegian. “They claimed that the high rate of unexpected/unplanned pregnancies fueled this suggestion, but why not then combat the real issue — help stop unplanned pregnancies by offering more comprehensive sex education and making birth control more accessible.”
When it comes to the reproduction process, women are not the only ones responsible for procreation, and men are not always going to be women’s sexual preference, Malsam said.
“Part of their saying this is because alcohol can cause birth defects. Well, men consuming alcohol can also cause birth defects,” Malsam said. “Additionally, it’s pretty heteronormative when were thinking about alcohol consumption that we think all women are having sex with men and could theoretically get pregnant from a man. It excludes vast proportions of our population by narrowing that focus down.”
Women’s life goals, ideals and positions have changed over the years, and women now have more choices and opportunities outside the home. To some, the CDC’s view of women seems a little outdated.
“I think it’s ridiculous, because not all women want to have children and not all women can,” said biology major Victoria Dinkel. “I think, historically, it always happens — women get told what they can and can’t do when men have free range.”
Some also say the CDC is not addressing the most important issue.
“I don’t think drinking is necessarily the major problem here,” Rogers wrote. “It’s the concept that women are expected to have children, and therefore must constantly be of perfect health, which not only excludes women not interested in children, it excludes those who aren’t capable of having children — trans women, chronically ill or disabled women and poor or rural women who can’t access or afford health care. This type of backwards suggestion coming from an institution as valued as the CDC, for me, shows how deeply ingrained sexist gender roles are in our society.”
There are some risks of alcohol consumption by women that the CDC listed that seem to be risks that involve much more than alcohol.
“It’s also problematic because it lists a whole bunch of side effects of alcohol, and some of those are not actually side affects of alcohol,” Malsam said. “Some of those are side effects of people being pretty lousy human beings to others who have been consuming alcohol. They list violence. Well, alcohol isn’t going to hit you over the head or assault you, it’s going to be a perpetrator of domestic violence.”
Collegian Reporter Ashley Haberman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.