Bar owners in New York told they cannot deny service to pregnant women

New York's only bar designed with pregnant women in mind, called Gestations, was only a joke

David Usborne
New York
Friday 06 May 2016 16:52
The risks associated with alcohol consumption are well known
The risks associated with alcohol consumption are well known

If a pregnant woman wants to belly (or bump) up and enjoy a drink that is her decision to make and no bar owner should take it upon themselves to try stop her, a new advisory issued by New York City is making clear.

The admonition to bar tenders, bouncers and club managers in all five boroughs to not even think about turning with-child customers away was contained in a wider set of guidelines that mostly deal with protections and rights for pregnant women in the workplace.

At the moment, bars in New York are required nonetheless to display signs that warn of the risks of harm to a fetus from alcohol consumption. But armed with that information pregnant women should be left alone to make up their own minds whether to drink, the guidelines insist.

“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 pretext for unlawful discriminatory decisions“ in public venues, they say.

While being denied entry to bars may not be the first concern of most pregnant women, city officials confirmed they had at least once case pending of a woman who has formally complained precisely of such an incident, although they declined to give details.

It is an issue that apparently reverberates, however. Two years ago pranksters in New York announced plans to open what they said would be the first bar for pregnant women. They even erected signage above the space in the East Village of Manhattan announcing the venue as Gestations. While it attracted widespread local press coverage, the spot never actually opened.

Pregnant mother caught drink driving the day before she was due to give birth

The faux bar was brazen in its promotional language, declaring: “All you mothers-to-be should come check out our trimester specials and our 9-month happy hour because now you’re drinking for two!” A similar tone was adopted on its Facebook page. “The bigger the belly, the more you can drink. True for men and pregnant women #gestationsny,” it declared.

The new guidelines also serve as a reminder to all but the smallest of businesses in the city that they are obliged to offer the necessary considerations to pregnant employees to ensure their health and the health of the fetus is protected.

“Far too often, pregnant employees are denied basic accommodations in the workplace, unnecessarily putting their pregnancy and health at risk,“ Human Rights Commissioner and Chair Carmelyn Malalis said in a statement.

Business groups in New York have been vociferous opposing the new guidelines which they say could be used by workers to file frivolous lawsuits against their employers.

There are so-called fetal harm laws on the books in 39 US states, which are concerned primarily with punishing third parties who may physically imperil a pregnant woman. That might include a drunk driver crashing into a pregnant women and causing a miscarriage.

However, a small number of states have seen cases brought against women whose behaviour is deemed to have endangered the child she is carrying, notably if she is abusing drugs.

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