We can all agree that fetal alcohol syndrome is a tragedy. But although American public awareness campaigns about the dangers of drinking while pregnant have good intentions at heart, recent media initiatives have deployed tactics that shame moms while ignoring bigger issues. Instead of helping improve the lives of women and kids, these public action campaigns veer into borderline Handmaid’s Tale territory.
Because addressing each and every fetal alcohol syndrome awareness organization state by state would be a book-length endeavor, for the purposes of this article I’m going to focus on a nationwide group, the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and the organization in my own state, the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
For a good example of these campaigns’ paternalistic rhetoric, there is this post from the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. which repeatedly refers to “women of child-bearing age,” be they “pregnant or not-yet-pregnant.” Being not and never-will-be is not an option, apparently. The organization advises healthcare providers to ask “all women of childbearing age… every woman, every time” about their drinking habits. This is the type of attitude that leads to the sorry scenario in which a non-pregnant patient goes to the doctor for an issue concerning her own health and ends up getting grilled about her lifestyle over the prospective well-being of a hypothetical fetus, regardless of how likely or willing she would be to conceive one and carry it to term. (It has happened to me, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it has happened to you, too.)
Rest: Bitch Media.