According to New York City Human Rights Commission guidelines released Friday, it is illegal for a restaurant or bar to refuse a pregnant woman an alcoholic beverage.
“Judgments and stereotypes about how pregnant individuals should behave, their physical capabilities and what is or is not healthy for a fetus are pervasive in our society and cannot be used as a pretext for unlawful discriminatory decisions,” the guidelines state.
While the U.S. Surgeon General, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other major American medical associations advise women to avoid alcohol while pregnant, it is not federal law.
In some states, however, it is a criminal offense for a pregnant women to use illegal drugs and other states can detain pregnant women who drink heavily.
New York City requires venues selling alcohol to post warnings about possible birth defects associated with drinking while pregnant. However, rights commission officials say health decisions like deciding to have a drink are up to the mother, not their server.
Carlota Fluxa of Brooklyn just gave birth to her first child last week. She told The Associated Press that the idea of refusing her service while pregnant would “come up in conversation as a possibility, a joke: ‘Will they serve you, or will they not? ... Will they look down on you, or will they not?’”
Fluxa said that while no one ever questioned her when she ordered the occasional glass of wine with dinner, something that would not be out of the ordinary in her native Spain, she felt, “in general, a lot of people are paying attention to whether you’re drinking or not drinking.”
Some bar owners agree with the guidelines, while others find the situation a bit more complex.
Michael Sinensky, a father of three and owner of twelve bars and clubs in and around New York City, told the AP, “I wouldn’t preach to my staff not to serve pregnant women.”
Dan Warren, a father of two and bar owner agrees, “I sort of believe that the mother should be responsible.” However, he added, “I’d probably be tempted to say something,” if the woman ordered multiple drinks.