Over the past couple of months, there has been media attention about a new legal test case going before the Court of Appeals in the United Kingdom. This case has raised concerns and discussion in Europe (and elsewhere) about punishing women who drink alcohol during pregnancy.
The case in the UK is arguing that a six-year-old girl who suffered brain damage due to alcohol exposure in the womb is the victim of a crime (grievous bodily harm). While this claim was initially overturned in December 2011, an appeal is going forward. If successful, women who drank during pregnancy could be convicted of a criminal act. Interesting, this is occurring even while current UK national guidelines on alcohol use during pregnancy state: “Expectant mothers should avoid alcohol – but if they do choose to drink, they should limit their consumption to one or two units a week.”
“The EUFASD Alliance does not agree that mothers who drank during pregnancy should be punished. We recognize that there are many reasons that women drink, for example not knowing that they are pregnant, or due to bad advice from their health care advisors or the press. We recognize that social pressures play a great role in encouraging women to drink.”
The position statement has been cosigned by a number of other organizations. See the position paper here on the European FASD Alliance website.
For more on punishing or criminalizing alcohol use during pregnancy, see early posts:
- State Policies on Substance Abuse During Pregnancy (February 4, 2014)
- Legal Measures to Prevent Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (December 4, 2013)
- Prosecuting Pregnant Women with Addictions (May 14, 2012)