Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that women who are not on birth control should stop drinking alcohol altogether as a way to prevent fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs).
I have a lot of issues with this recommendation, but first I am going to explain the science behind what this is.
One in 20 (or 5%) of school children have FASDs, which means that 5% of children were exposed to alcohol in the womb, and it affected their growth in the womb. FASDs can cause learning disabilities, brain damage, and growth regularity. It makes sense that the CDC would want to prevent this problem. So, in order to combat this disease, the CDC’s recently released report recommends that all women either take birth control or stop drinking all together.
There are a few problems with this report. The first is that it assumes that all women can get pregnant. This is false because some women do not have the anatomy to get pregnant because they were not born with a uterus or a vagina or ovaries or something else. This also assumes that all cis women are having sex with cis men, which is also false. By releasing a scientifically backed report that only addresses cis straight women, the CDC is not acknowledging the existence of queer and trans women, which is called erasure.
This report is also problematic because it assumes that all cis straight women who are not on birth control are trying to get pregnant. This isn’t true. People go on birth control for many reasons, one of which is to prevent pregnancy. Some people take birth control for endometriosis or PMDD or because they like how it gets rid of their acne and not necessarily because they want to prevent pregnancy. So to tell all women to take birth control or stop drinking is blanket statement with a lot of charged assumption.
What the CDC could have recommended to be more inclusive is that cis straight women who are interested in becoming pregnant may want to cease drinking alcohol while they are trying to become pregnant to avoid FASDs. It would be important to point out that often women do not know they are pregnant for the first few weeks and that the alcohol they consume in that time can affect the fetus. Therefore, if a person is actively attempting to become pregnant, they may want to slow down their alcohol intake.
It is really important that we question this report because the CDC is a widely respected scientific entity that is actively erasing a large part of the population. Not only is it actively excluding trans and queer women, it is also assuming that all women want to get pregnant and if they did get pregnant that they would want carry the pregnancy to term. In short, the CDC made a lot of assumptions and we should call them out on it, but also it would be a good idea to not drink while pregnant.