Should Drinking Alcohol During Pregnancy Be Illegal?

5 November 2014

Drinking Alcohol During Pregnancy

A council in England is seeking criminal injuries compensation on behalf of a six year old girl who was born with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, caused by her mother's consumption of alcohol during pregnancy.

What this means is that it could become a criminal offence for pregnant women to drink alcohol. reports:

A written ruling by the Upper Tribunal of the Administrative Appeals Chamber said it was a ''direct result'' of her mother's drinking.

But it concluded: ''If (the girl) was not a person while her mother was engaging in the relevant actions then... as a matter of law, her mother could not have committed a criminal offence.''

Lawyers for the local authority have already failed once to win compensation on the child's behalf. But a further court case will be held at the Court of Appeal tomorrow, with a ruling expected at a later date.

The exact impact of drinking alcohol during pregnancy seems to be a grey area - the official guidelines have certainly changed more than once during the ten years during which my three children were born - but current NHS guidelines advise pregnant women to avoid alcohol altogether, and to consume no more than one or two units once or twice a week.

But there's some debate over whether criminalising the consumption of alcohol by pregnant woman is the right way forward.

What do you think?

Should it be illegal to drink alcohol at all during pregnancy?

And did you abstain altogether, or indulge in the odd tipple?

Image credit: Flickr/Remko van Dokkum

1 comment

  • doodleface
    Hmm, it was my understanding that the major effects of alcohol on the foetus occur within the first 4-6 weeks of pregnancy, i.e. when most women will not know that they are pregnant. Furthermore, the number of units one would have to consume to cause harm to the foetus after this initial period are quite high, nonetheless it is recommended that the intake be restricted to a number much lower than this, depending on where you are in the world this figure varies. Abstaining altogether would be a positive step if it was done voluntarily rather than through compulsion. Those drinking excessive units during pregnancy would be better served through counseling and support rather than criminalising behaviour thereby affecting a number of people who would then be unable to partake in such activities without the social stigma and threat of having broken the law. The balance would be too broken in my opinion, even though as a Muslim I personally abstain from alcohol altogether, a woman should have the right to control her own diet, l don't think laws should punish the majority in order to change the minority as this would have negative consequences. Having said all that, as mentioned in the beginning, the major effects of alcohol occur in the first few weeks of pregnancy and without knowing that one is pregnant, how to deal with this issue is an altogether more challenging question.

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