I came across a rather interesting article earlier today, and have spent a fair amount of time pondering it. I am pro-choice. Not because I think that abortion is a great thing or a means of birth control, but because I believe that our bodies are our own sovereign territory. No one has the right to tell us what we can do with our bodies. (I’m not interested in opening a debate on abortion. So let’s not go there.)
Of course, alcohol during pregnancy can open up a whole other can of worms. It’s common knowledge that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause a baby to be born with fetal alcohol syndrome. Of course, how much alcohol during pregnancy will cause fetal alcohol syndrome is of debate. The North American standard seems to be “we don’t know how much it takes, so let’s just be safe and don’t have any alcohol at all during pregnancy.”
That doesn’t, of course, mean that you should run out and have a blind panic if you had a few margaritas during Super Bowl before you got your positive. What’s done is done, so there’s no point in stressing about it. After all, we’re supposed to avoid stress during pregnancy, anyway. Besides, there are some doctors in North America and Europe who will tell you that there’s nothing wrong with the occasional glass of wine to help you sleep or what have you.
(Please note that I am not advocating any form of drinking during pregnancy, nor am I saying that it’s a super bad thing. I am not expressing any opinion on the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy whatsoever. That’s between you, your conscience, and your doctor.)
What does interest me is the question asked by Dr. Gifford-Jones in an article on a Vancouver news site. Should women who deliver FAS children be sterilized? The reasons behind the question being asked in the article are many. Women who have one child with fetal alcohol syndrome often go on to have more babies afflicted with this neurological disorder. These children grow up to be disadvantaged in the courts system.
As much as I believe that no one has the right to tell us what we do to our bodies, once we make a decision to carry a baby to term, then that means that we must put the welfare of that growing life ahead of our own desires. Choosing to have a baby is just that: a choice. However unwilling I am to say that I don’t have the right to determine if you do or do not have a baby, it just seems terribly flawed that someone would choose to have that baby only to destroy its chances with excessive drinking during pregnancy.
Having one child with fetal alcohol syndrome can be a mistake of youth and ignorance. But when a woman goes on to have multiple children with fetal alcohol syndrome, then that means that she knows perfectly well what caused it. She just doesn’t care, or she has such a powerful addiction that she can’t give it up.
Because of the tendency for women to have multiple children with FAS, the article questions if it they should be sterilized. On one hand, I would love to say that they absolutely should lose their reproductive rights. But on the other hand, that goes against my belief that my body is no one else’s business but my own.
Plus, it opens a slippery slope. First, the decision is that women who have more than one child with FAS is sterilized. Then it moves to drug addicts. Then people with chronic mental disorders. Then on to women with physical ailments that can be passed on. Where does it stop?
If there was a magic number that determined when your baby was likely to develop FAS or any other sort of defect, it would be great. But there isn’t. That means that it’s up to us to make the right decisions for our bodies, and by extension, for our offspring.
Do you think that women with a history of having children with fetal alcohol syndrome should be sterilized?
Originally written on February 13, 2010 for What to Expect.