Pointless paternalist policing of the potentially pregnant

by Heather

Meet Jody Allen Crowe. He’s on a mission to save the world one baby at a time. As the owner of a bar in Mankato, Minnesota, he happened upon a harrowing discovery: sometimes pregnant women drink! Jody’s done his research. Once he found out that pregnant women drink, he went on a mission to find out exactly how many pregnant women drink, how much they drink, and which women are doing the most drinking. Armed with this important information, he founded Healthy Brains for Children, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion of a singular method of keeping pregnant women from drinking: putting pregnancy tests in bar bathrooms.

From the website:

Because the zygote is self-contained, any alcohol in the bloodstream of the mother will not impact the embryo before the placenta is formed and delivering nutrients to the embryo… By placing pregnancy test dispensers in the women’s bathrooms in bars, gas stations, hotels, restaurants, fitness centers, etc., women will have a constant reminder to think before they take a drink of alcohol. They will be able to take a pregnancy test in the privacy of the restroom without having to purchase a pregnancy test over the counter at the drugstore or local big box stores. In a small community, purchasing a pregnancy test can be an embarrassing event and expose the woman to the gossip of the town. The advertisement on the dispenser reminds women to test each time they decide to have a drink of alcohol to ensure their child will be born with an alcohol-free fetal development.

The New York Times article about Crowe points out that pregnancy tests are among the most shoplifted products, citing a 16 and Pregnant star recently arrested for the same as an example. Of course, a 16-year-old girl with no job and a lot to lose is probably not whipping out her AmEx to buy a pregnancy test from a vending machine before dropping another benjamin or two on a night out at a wine bar, but I digress. Hilariously, the site further contends that a woman who has recently purchased a pregnancy test at a drug store must then “rush to find a bathroom.”

I’ve been pregnant a few times. I used to lead weekly discussions in a group of women on the topics of breastfeeding and fertility. We all purchased pregnancy tests at some point or another, and on precisely zero of these occasions that I was aware of did we then rush to find a public bathroom to test ourselves so that we could get on with the business of eating sushi and getting shitfaced. Before you get started on me, yes, I am aware that my personal observations do not constitute a scientific study, but there are reasons we didn’t rush to public bathrooms. There are a lot of reasons. And there are even more reasons the business-savvy pregnancy test marketing brains haven’t ever done this before.

A woman who uses this vending machine is necessarily:

1. unaware of her pregnant or non-pregnant state

2. either at the bar already before she considers testing or too embarrassed to go to a drug store and buy one

3. in a room with a lot of other women

4. concerned deeply with the health of her Schroedinger’s fetus

5. not in a relationship wherein a pregnancy would be publicly acceptable

6. not planning a pregnancy

7. not concerned enough time in advance to buy one on the internet

Jody Allen Crowe has demonstrated a profound inability to understand women, not to mention child development. As this study found, moderate alcohol consumption in the first twelve weeks is not associated with negative outcomes, and there’s a reason for that. For all of Healthy Brains for Children’s balking at alcohol going through the placenta to the fetus, a placenta isn’t developed enough to begin transmitting much of anything at all to the fetus until it is nine weeks along, and not in portions enough to harm it until it is fully developed at the end of the first trimester.

In pregnancy speak, the weeks start counting from the first day of the last period, which is usually about two weeks before the fetus is conceived. Two weeks after conception is the expected period. That’s when you can have a positive pregnancy test. Eight weeks after that is three missed periods. Even if you’ve missed the morning sickness, cravings, and absent periods, by then you’re starting to show, and you’re probably even starting to feel the little bugger kick. That’s plenty of time for our pregnant mother to go on a handful of benders before her fetus is at all damaged.

So, what baby is Jody really saving? Jody is saving the baby that has been mistakenly conceived by a woman who does not want an abortion. She is mortified to go into a drug store but she is totally okay buying a test in a public bathroom full of strange women. She is twelve weeks pregnant or more and has not noticed. She wants to drink a whole lot tonight but wants to make sure that these two missed periods for which she’s been too humiliated to test don’t mean that she’s pregnant before she does so, and if she is, she’ll go home and start knitting booties instead. She wants to learn her fate in a bar bathroom stall and cry over a positive test there, with only the comfort of sharpie graffiti on the walls naming men at the bar who have sores on their dicks, and maybe the girl fighting with her boyfriend on her iPhone in the next stall. She would rather die than face the humiliation of going to a drug store and buying one, then testing at home, but she’s brave enough to face the world with her unwanted baby belly. Maybe she’ll throw a baby shower.

So that’s pretty unlikely, right? I mean if you’re going to start a business or start selling a product of some kind, you probably want a wider base of potential customers. And if you’re going to save the world, you’re probably going to want to start with a larger pool of save-able victims. Jody Allen Crowe’s crusade against fetal alcohol syndrome ultimately amounts to policing pregnant women. It is a crusade to make sure all women remember that, want it or not, they’re the bearers of the next generation and should not even think about selfishly enjoying themselves before they’ve done everything possible to protect the babies they might have some day. But not only that, he wants women to remember that they’re too stupid to do it on their own, because he can’t even imagine a single possible way to know whether you’re damaging a baby without constant reminders every time you have to take a piss that you might be pregnant. Jody didn’t bother to consider what women might already know or be capable of. In Jody’s mind, he’s pretty sure that he just saved the next generation of children from their stupid, bumbling moms. That’s some nice sexism, Jody.

Pointless paternalist policing of the potentially pregnant

15 thoughts on “Pointless paternalist policing of the potentially pregnant

  1. rq

    Thanks for this article.
    Makes me feel all kinds of better, especially knowing that now, when I go to his bar, I can not worry about rushing off to buy a pregnancy test somewhere between my second and third drinks. You know, just in case.

  2. 2

    I’ve heard about this before.
    There’s bad science – no, a glass of wine occasionally during pregnancy won’t cause fetal alcohol syndrome.

    The whole thing is ridiculous and terribly insulting.
    It did get me thinking about availability of pregnancy tests.

    Putting pregnancy tests in shopping mall bathrooms or gas stations may actually be useful for women who, thanks to living in an abusive relationship or in a conservative community, can’t easily get access to a pregnancy test without anyone else knowing.

  3. 3

    The advertisement on the dispenser reminds women to test each time they decide to have a drink of alcohol to ensure their child will be born with an alcohol-free fetal development.

    Damn, that’s going to be stressfull:
    Go to bar, go to toilet first, pee on strip, wait, have beer.
    Want another one, go to toilet, pee on strip, thankgoodness still negative, have a beer.
    Want a third, rush to toilet, pee on strip, still negative, damn, now I’m too broke for a third beer.

    Fun aside, our “women are walking incubators” friend might do some women a favour by giving them access to pregnancy tests in a discreet way. I live in a small town. Every time I’m in a drug store there’s a good chance of meeting somebody I know, from one of my students to my mum in law, so yeah, I actually don’t want to be seen buying a pregnancy test. Restrooms are not always full of strange women and most bars will let you use them if you just ask nicely.

  4. 4

    And at the same time, in the Men’s bog you can find (and I have a photo to prove it, only I’m at work and it isn’t), in a row, dispensers for condoms, some sort of weird ‘herbal’ viagra substitute, and (wait for it) breath mints!!
    The mints presumably making the other items necessary??
    So you can see the obvious need in the Women’s bathroom—those breath mints are minty…

  5. 7

    Naturally an adjunct to the crusade to prohibit abortion and birth control is the crusade to control to the Nth-degree every post-pubescent woman’s life. She could get pregnant any time, after all, and must always be eating, drinking and otherwise treating her body like a temple for her potential fetuses. Never is her body her own, for her only purpose in life is to breed, and the fetus fetishists will never let her forget it.

  6. 10

    I don’t think this is such a bad idea. The more areas pregnancy tests are available the better it is. Some small towns everyone knows everyone. Nice to go in a bar and get one from a machine.

    I don’t care this guy’s reason, or if he’s a douche, this is great, IMO.

    BTW, pregnancy tests and formula are stolen for drugs or gray market purposes. So is Tide.

    And he’s right, FAS is the largest cause of preventable retardation.

  7. 12

    I read an article about this the other day. (Don’t know if it’s the same article, and I’m too lazy to check… sorry.)

    What struck me was that the article talked about how women could buy the pregnancy test ‘anonymously’ – using her credit card. I sense her anonymity might not be absolute, somehow. And if she then uses the same card to buy her drinks, well.

    And just because I’m paranoid, I wonder how long it will take before someone, somewhere, is looking at those credit card statements and putting two and two together. Maybe years, maybe decades, maybe never, but I’m just not comfortable with it, and I wonder how many women will go ahead and buy the tests and not even think about it.

    I’d be a lot more comfortable if the machines took quarters or dollar bills.

  8. 13

    I have selected some of the more misogynist remarks- some have proudly stated what company they work for I have emailed your article with screen shot asking the company- for a copy of its policy on diversity in the work place, and if this is tolerated by employees claiming to represent them ( quick answer -it isn’t in any corporate social media policy) stay tuned for results.

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