Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Alcohol and pregnancy

America is an odd society. There is a lot of "Do as I say, not as I do" that goes on here. Perhaps it is the same elsewhere, but I've only lived in America, so it is what I comment on. A friend of mine earlier this week sent me a link to a group headquartered in Livonia, MI that is attempting to combat MADD: Responsibility in DUI Laws or R.I.D.L. The group is not advocating drinking and driving, but rather feels that our prohibitionist ways have pushed the limits too far. I can appreciate their concerns. I know a lot of people who have a drink or two and then drive home - I mean, A LOT. I'm not advocating that this is always a good idea, but I do think we need to be level headed when approaching this topic and an investigation into MADD's "evidence" to support their case is not such a bad thing - it's called peer review in scientific terms.

Before you get on your high horse about my stance, let me answer a couple of comments that get thrown at me each time I bring up such things: Yes, I have had loved ones - including family and friends - killed and maimed by drunk drivers. That still doesn't mean I need to jump to an irrational, prohibitionist approach to the topic. For the record, I've been known to drink. Also for the record, I haven't had a drop in a couple of months.

To digress: I've never been known to smoke cigarettes, but I have been known to deplore laws that ban smoking in private establishments. I don't have a problem with banning smoking at public locations such as hospitals, city hall, stadiums, etc. But in bars and restaurants, I think the owner can best make the choice as to what s/he wants in hers/his clientele. Many establishments were making these changes towards non-smoking anyhow. To my mind, politicians were just trying to look good for a trend. Isn't it funny how they tend to do such things when they are relatively easy, but lower the carcinogens produced by combustible engines - you know, the ones I breathe when I stand on the corner of my block and that invade my lungs far more than second hand smoke - and the politicians become mute?

The anti-cigarette movement is also part of the larger prohibitionist movement that includes drinking and other drugs. It's part of a movement where some people, often with the best interests of others and society as a whole, are trying to make the world safe for everyone and everything. Just as employees who are drug tested for tobacco or are told not to participate in sports - extreme or otherwise - outside of the work place or who are told to lose weight. To my mind, that is prohibition in the big picture and it often is a "Do as I say, not as I do" issue.

So, back to alcohol, which is definitely been part of prohibition in law as well as societal pressure for decades - longer than cigarettes or other drugs and long before the invention of sky diving. In addition to the site above, I noticed a post today on the blog, Stone Court, which references Echidne of the Snakes as well as this article and this book. The discussion they broach is the concept of moderate drinking while pregnant. The Surgeon General in the U.S. recognizes no form of moderate drinking may be OK during pregnancy as part of it's campaign against fetal alcohol syndrome. Europeans, however, are less certain. Are, once again, America's prohibitionist tendencies overwhelming the scientific evidence on this topic?

Once again, no one is saying that women should drink either. The issue is whether we're letting hysteria or hidden agendas push for stances that science does not necessarily support. As with drugs in general, I don't think it behooves us to think of these things in extreme manners. Nor does it serve anyone's cause well when their cause is not supported by scientific fact. Kids often try a variety of drugs because, often after the first experiment, they realize that a lot of the scare tactics described as information prove to be false. As adults, our society tends to swing to a backlash that goes to an extreme as well. We need to keep our heads and, in the meantime, it would behoove us if our laws reflected a nod towards what we practice rather than what we preach.

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