As a nanny state critic and libertarian, I believe government shouldn’t tell us what we can or can’t do, without a very good reason (mainly, harm to others).
So you might think I welcomed a recent New York City Human Rights Commission ruling that pregnant women can’t be refused service in bars. The Commission said, “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.”
What’s wrong with this picture?
“Pervasive in our society,” “pretext,” and, especially, “stereotype,” are dog-whistle words, signaling that we’re enlightened and we’re talking about improperly categorizing people and unjustified prejudice. But in this case, those are all irrelevant red herrings.
Because the idea that alcohol harms fetuses is not a “stereotype.” It’s scientific fact. Indeed, the City also requires bars to post warnings that alcohol can cause birth defects! Yet now it decrees women have a right to thusly endanger their babies. I’m all for freedom – but its first rule is that my right to swing my fist stops at your nose.
Or your fetus’s. Pro-choicers have spent decades trying to deny human status to fetuses. A political correctness the Human Rights Commission may be bending to. But to any reasonable person, in what circumstances a fetus merits protection is a highly fraught moral conundrum. And it’s pretty extreme to deem fetuses unworthy of any societal concern whatsoever.
Here the concern is real and proper: alcohol can damage a fetal brain. Surely the fist-at-nose test is met. Remember, this is not about abortion or the unborn, but about protecting children expected to be born. If you were born with fetal alcohol syndrome, you would rightly feel as though your nose had been punched. Indeed, all our noses are punched considering the loss to society (and expense) when someone is born unable to become a fully functioning and productive citizen. Protecting society and children against that is legitimate.
This might, at least arguably, have justified a nanny-state edict barring pregnant women from bars. But instead, the Wrong Way Corrigan Commission directed its nanny-state impulse in the opposite direction, at bartenders, disallowing them from exercising judgment and responsibility in deciding for themselves whether to serve mothers-to-be. The Commission chose protecting drinkers over protecting children.
This seems especially bizarre and perverse given that bartenders have been held accountable for serving drunks who then drive and injure people. Victims have sued bartenders in such circumstances.
Should a fetal alcohol victim be able to sue the bartender who served his pregnant mother?
Or sue the City Human Rights Commission?