Abortion,  Bioethics,  Contraception,  Culture of Death,  motherhood,  NFP,  reality check,  Women's Health,  Women's Rights

Women, know your limits!

I’m just so thankful to be an American with a uterus today, because federal agencies have really got all the bases covered for me. (Which is a relief because who has got time to use reason? Also, science is hard. Let’s go shopping.)

The CDC issued a nuanced, thoughtful report this morning with the brilliant recommendation that card-carrying members of the x-chromosome club ought to either be using contraception throughout the entirety of their childbearing years, or teetotaling.

Thankfully, being a simple suburban housewife with little capacity to make reasonable, well-researched choices for my own health and wellbeing and that of my offspring, I can rely on my government to recommend that I pump my tricky, dangerous female body full of class one carcinogens for 3+ decades so that my children aren’t born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome as the direct result of the tequila shot I took on my honeymoon or the glass of Pinot Noir I drank last week with dinner.


Silly me, I thought that part of adulthood was learning self control, temperance, and even reading the odd bit of medical and sociologic research to back my parenting and lifestyle decisions. Also, all of recorded human history before the year 2016 led me to believe that enjoying a beer during the Super Bowl was probably safe. (And might actually be good for the national birthrate. Who knew?)

But let me be quite certain I understand the issue at hand.

The Center for Disease Control, worried that all women are secretly binge drinking and endangering the lives of their unborn …. fetus …. things… has decided to issue the sweeping recommendation that actually, women have been screwing around with the odds for much too long, and the safest bet is for every woman between the onset of menstruation until the end of menopause to be either sterilized, buying stock in Trojan, or regularly ingesting class 1 carcinogens in the form of oral contraceptives if they’re going to be drinking alcohol. Ever.

I’ll go a step further and draw the logical conclusion that for those fetus things conceived while mommy was enjoying a bottle of wine with daddy, the reasonable expectation would be to abort, since the eventual human might be “defective.”

I’m guessing there’s another layer of causality we can peel back here, because according to the statistics that FAS could be responsible for ADHD and we have something like 1 in 20 children with the latter diagnosis, could it be those irresponsible, unfit females went and became mothers and caused their children’s miseries? 

Yeah, let’s definitely put that idea into women’s minds: that you are the reason your child is “imperfect.” 

And pro-lifers are the ones who get accused of telling women what to do with their bodies?

What about empowering women to understand their fertility from the ground up, and inviting them to make thoughtful, adult choices about whether and when to engage in sexual activity and how to consume – or not to consume – alcohol?

That would require, of course, seeing women as capable, competent individuals with minds of their own. So maybe better to issue fearful government bulletin.

And what about stepping back from the precipice of This!Life!Is!So!Risky! and admitting that perhaps we don’t have complete, autonomous control over every aspect of our lives, of our children’s lives, and of the ordinary risks of being on planet Earth? Maybe a little nod to all of recorded human history prior to the 20th century is in order, too? Bueller?

I’m just so sick of hearing that the benign gods of government agencies – Planned Parenthood among them – have women’s “real” best interests at heart, when of course it’s all about increasing control, all too often achieved by cranking the volume on fear.

This is propaganda, pure and simple. And it’s damned misogynistic to boot. Women can be trusted to make the right decisions with their bodies, and choosing the right means doing no harm

I’m sick to death of hearing the line “trust women” getting hijacked by the abortion special interest groups.

How about we trust women to know their own bodies? To know what’s best for their children? To rely on their own brains and consciences and adult intellects to make healthy, reasonable choices?

Women, know this: you are being manipulated at every turn by a culture that doesn’t trust our bodies or, apparently, our brains. 

It’s time to take back the mic. Authentic feminism is long overdue for a renaissance of its own.




  • Molly

    And can we get a good ol “facepalm” for the fact that the CDC recommends this course of action for girls 5+ years before the legal drinking age. Oh 16 year old Suzy, don’t stop drinking at those weekend house parties to impress the older boys, just take this so the baby you might end up creating won’t be “imperfect”. Seriously!!!!

  • Mary

    THANK YOU! When I saw that article in my newsfeed this morning I lost it…. and hoped you would be responding 🙂 Cheers!

  • Kati

    I was so so SO hoping you would write about this. I almost emailed you to make a special request for this post! This CDC report is INSANE for all the reasons you mention and also because – although I’m no scientist – I’m pretty 100% certain that no baby has FAS from anything that occurs before a woman knows she is pregnant. There is not a placenta that feeds the baby until weeks 10-12 – so there’s really no issue of “passing” alcohol to a baby at week 5. And also, for most women who are not alcoholics, there’s not a risk of FAS even after week 12 when the mom has an occasional glass of wine or beer. And also, one million YES YES YESes to continued blaming of mothers (all of whom are apparently incompetent, indeed, even stupid) for every single blessed thing that is wrong with the world.

    (I might be a little worked up about this. Sorry for spilling my rage all over your post.)

    • Kati

      That should say, “to your point about continued blaming of mothers…” I’m not giving my one million yeses to the actual blaming. I’m so mad about this I can’t even type straight!

    • Martha

      Thank you, Kati! As we’re all told to trust the “experts” at the CDC to tell us how to live our lives, they can’t get the facts about conception and implantation correct? Maybe because they’re too busy ignoring life beginning from conception to know the difference? Or they’re so focused on the presumptive conclusion that we all probably don’t want kids — especially “surprises” — that we’d want to be sure we know when we can keep on chug-a-lugging and how to “deal with” the unplanned pregnancy instead.

      • Dana

        What woman commenting on here allows the CDC to tell her how to live her own life? This article was embarrassing to read. To the author and to those who agree: stop being dramatic. This article is a perfect example of why pro-lifers (in which I categorize myself, abortion is not for me), conservatives, and the religious right are mocked. The CDC is not and will not impose laws on you or anyone else. And where in the world does any article state that women of childbearing age who drink alcohol are going to be MADE to “pump their body full of class one carcinogens for 3+ decades.” ???

        This is embarrassing.

        • Jenny Uebbing

          personally, I find it embarrassing that an agency of the federal government would purport to advise half the adult population to either abstain indefinitely from alcoholic beverages or to disable a major bodily function “for safety” for, yes, decades on end during years of potential fertility.

          But, I guess whatever outrages you more.

          • Dana

            I guess I just don’t understand how this statement from the CDC is anything different from cigarette warnings that smoking causes cancer, or seatbelt laws that are made to protect the public. I can still smoke (which I don’t) and I can still ride/drive without a seatbelt if I WANT to, but there are still recommendations telling me the potential harms in doing so. The CDC is giving a warning that drinking while pregnant and before one knows she is pregnant can be harmful. That’s obvious to the average woman. Take the recommendation or leave it. And then decide on your own if you want to continue to drink alcohol or not. The same way you can decide if you want to smoke or wear a seatbelt. Safety recommendations are great, but for now they’re just that. Recommendations. Let’s talk again if/when women of childbearing age become banned from drinking alcohol. Until then, I’ll be pumping my body full of class one carcinogens and kicking back with a couple glasses of wine.

          • Patty

            See, and I find it embarrassing that a religious organization headed by celibate (some, anyway) males advise their members to abstain indefinitely from sex with your spouse if you don’t want a baby, and to abstain from masturbation and other “unatural ” sexual acts.

          • Jenny Uebbing

            Patty, the female reproductive system is fairly easy to understand, but a lot of people seem to be confused about the part where pregnancy is only possible during certain, identifiable periods. And so naturally, if a couple does not want to conceive, they would choose abstinence during those periods. Because there’s always a small percentage of conception when a man and woman have sex. You might even go so far as to say the design is intentional, much as we moderns might like to believe (and practice) otherwise.

            Sex is designed to bond a married couple together AND make babies. Not every time, of course, because we physically don’t work that way. But some of the time. But always, sex is meant to be oriented toward the good of the other. Masturbation is oriented towards…well, nothing. And it bonds you not to another person, but to your computer screen. Or whatever else you’re using for stimulation. It’s an immature, self-seeking act that shouldn’t have a place in a mature, loving sexual relationship. Nobody’s perfect but the hope is that we keep working towards the good.

            Sorry if you’ve been hurt by someone in the Church. There are saints and sinners here, same as the rest of the world. And it’s terribly disappointing – demonic even – when men who are supposed to protect and lead and serve instead perpetrate evil on innocents. And for that, which I presume your reference on celibacy to be alluding to, I profoundly apologize on behalf of all Catholics, if I may be so bold. There is no excuse for that evil abuse of power and position. I would encourage you, however, to drill into the numbers a bit, because you’d realize that only a fraction of our holy, hardworking priests (imperfect sinners among them) have committed such crimes. Prayers for all victims of sex abuse, and for a swifter and more just response by the Church when it is uncovered.

        • Kati

          You’re right Dana, the CDC doesn’t make laws. It makes official recommendations that states and the federal government adopt as laws. See: childhood immunization schedules. If CDC reports are meaningless, and nothing to get “dramatic” about, then why do we fund the CDC at all?

        • Darren


          Where is the recommendation by the CDC for the woman to understand her natural fertility cycle like the article said. Plus, you said you are going to be taking Class 1 carcinogens and drink wine. I don’t know whether to take that statement seriously or not. Do you not know that the birth prevention pill causes breast cancer? Why doesn’t the CDC report this? Plus the pill can act as an abortificant. The chances are slim, but I don’t care if it was one in a trillion. Life is sacred. Knowing I potentially killed my own child because of the pill is a devistating truth to me.

          The sexual revolution has been devastating on the family over the last 60 years. If you don’t believe it, then it’s like looking at a mountain from 1 inch away and not realizing how big it truly is.

          Divorce rates are through the roof. No one takes marriage seriously anymore. Marriage has really become a joke. The LGBT community really just want to destroy marriage which in effect the SCOTUS ruling did. When marriage is whatever you want then there is no such thing as marriage. It’s like making any work mean whatever you want. Then what is the point of words?

          I might be a man but I speak of experience with my wife. The pill was a LIE. Natural Family Planning is the Truth which the CDC doesn’t talk about because like the article states, the CDC thinks women can’t decide for themselves. In essence the pill has made humanity slaves to sex.

          “When sex stops being a servant, it becomes a tyrant” – G.K. Chesterton

  • Martha

    In a matter somewhat/possibly related to your last post on Zika, the CDC was VERY quick to take what amounted to a very small number of cases of whooping cough and start recommending ALL women receive the Tdap vaccine during pregnancy here in the U.S. Overnight, they went from recommending AGAINST it, to being all for it, with only one or two small tests to rely upon — and again, no search for what the real causes of these outbreaks were, and therefore what recommendations really do or do not make sense. They will push fear on us to worry about not following their recommendations, but at the same time feel free to recommend things that are nearly untested (if not entirely so) as a CYA measure.

    What’s always interesting to me, is to go to the drug companies and read their liability disclaimers and warning labels. As the CDC makes these recommendations, the drug companies are still FAR from endorsing the use of their Tdap vaccines on pregnant women. Of course, it’s much easier to sue the drug companies than it is to sue the CDC or any government agency! Essentially, it gives them free reign because while we have some systems of reimbursement (for example, VAERS for those harmed by vaccines), there is nothing really preventing the CDC or FDA from marching forward in an ideological quest–nor does it have to report to the public any of the results of these injuries, etc., as far as I know.

    For us as Catholics, all of these issues are a good reminder to think long and hard about where we place our faith. I expect the secular world to place its faith first in theoretical scientific materialism and that the government, etc., always knows best — but perhaps we need to be the vocal minority who can provide a reminder that our faith ultimately needs to be in God first, especially when just a little bit of research will reveal such contradictory and hypocritical information coming out of both sides of the mouth of agencies like the CDC and FDA.

  • Stacy

    Not sure if it’s just my computer, but the font you are using is SO hard to read. The t’s are all cut off at the top, leaving me wondering “what is that word?”

  • Brittany

    To what CDC statement are you referring? I read the link (I think the right one?) and didn’t see an extreme statement about putting women on bc for all of their fertile years…there was a small point on that, but most of it appeared to discuss limiting alcohol if a woman could be pregnant.
    I think many of your points are apt to some of the things the government has told us, (I, too, educated myself on the issue while pregnant and found lots of evidence to support the safety of a drink here and there), but I don’t see the extreme statement regarding birth control. Did I miss something? Can you direct me to that statement!

  • Bonnie Way

    YES! I totally agree with you. I’ve spent hours researching various parenting choices I’ve made (from pregnancy to birth to vaccines and more) and I hate it when someone treats me like I’m an idiot who can’t think for myself. The worst was the doctor I had with my second daughter, whose attitude was “I’m the doctor and you’re the patient and you’ll do what I say.” My attitude was “I’m not sick and I’m the one having this baby and I want to do it this way because of this and this and this.” Anyway. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  • AnneMarie

    PREACH ON, SISTER!!!!!! It bugs me that so many people (and, ahem, the government) try to treat us as if we don’t know how to be moderate, reasonable human beings. “Oh, if we let you drink alcohol when you’re pregnant, you’re GUARANTEED to binge drink, and FAS will result.” Ummm…nope, last I checked, we can be responsible human beings who set limits and hold to them, O Government or Concerned Friend.

  • Joy

    Although I completely agree with you, I think its important to note that alcohol is also on WHO’s Class 1 Carcinogen list. Making that list simply means that it is a proven carcinogen, not how poisonous it is. I think we, as pro-lifers, need to stop tossing the term around.

    The CDC is suggesting that about 5% of children MIGHT have FASD, but 3-8% of women on the pill end up pregnant and this increases the child’s chances of birth defects plus the effects. It seems like somewhat of an equal swap for your child’s chances. And personally, if I’m going to choose between the pill and an occasional glass of wine, I’ll take the glass of wine.

  • Katie

    Great post as always!! I am somewhat also amused(?) at the outrage to this article being shared on my Facebook newsfeed (mostly non Catholic, and liberal). Their outrage though is that this article implies women are continually “pre-pregnancy”, or nothing but “walking wombs”. Also that supposedly this article puts more value on a hypothetical fetus that’s not conceived yet, than an actual woman’s life (and basically, her right to have fun). And I did see some comments that basically said “this is ridiculous but whatever if I ever did get pregnant and was drinking I’d just abort it anyway. My body my choice”. It’s nice were all agreeing it is a terrible article but so frustrating at the same time.

    • Kati

      That kind of comment – the “if I was drinking I’d just abort it” comment – highlights the HUGE problem with this advice that is so sorely lacking in medical evidence. The suggestion that having had one drink or two drinks or even seven drinks on the night you conceived is highly likely to cause harm to your baby makes women think they SHOULD abort their babies. And begs the question WHY DOES THE GOVERNMENT WANT US TO KILL BABIES? Sorry for shouting. But that’s a legitimate question. Separate from the issue of allowing access to abortion is this sentiment that sometimes – oftentimes – women SHOULD kill their babies. And that is so incredibly disturbing.

      • Jenny Uebbing

        yes. YES. Kill the imperfect! Your body is dangerous! Live in fear!

        (I think the center for disease control needs to revisit their mission statement. Or something.)

  • Ally | The Speckled Goat Blog

    Amazing that understanding our bodies and our natural cycles is the best way to know when it’s NOT safe to drink (“Huh, I’m 21 days late… maybe I should take a pregnancy test…”), but the CDC recommends just, you know, forget about all that knowing your body business and shut the whole thing down. Because nothing says, “I have no idea when I’m ovulating” like misinformation, fear, and rejecting NFP education.


  • Philumina

    YES. All the YES.

    I second that call to a renaissance of feminism, and I’d make you a speaker at the rally. Speaking of which, there should be a rally.

    Preach, sister, preach.

  • Kate

    Man, this is good writing. I wish people would be open minded enough to read pieces like this! Thanks for writing and sharing with us.

    • Jessica

      You know, that’s actually a really good point. Excessive amounts of caffeine can cause miscarriages, right? But the CDC isn’t warning against that, only warning about substances that can cause “imperfect” children to be born.

      • Meredith

        The concern is for the CHILD who must grow up with challenges that were ****100% preventable**** if its mother did not consume alcohol while pregnant. The RECOMMENDATION is to protect the child, not to cast him aside if imperfect.

        MY child has similar challenges (not FAS but similar) and to watch his heart break over and over breaks my own.. The CDC statement says nothing about his worth as a human being, in our eyes or the government’s, just that out of concern and love for unborn children, women who are open to life make the sacrifice of not drinking. As Catholics, aren’t we called upon to sacrifice for others, especially in our attachments to the world?

  • Feisty Irish Wench

    Abso-frickin-lutely! This bulletin just reeks of putting the entire onus for fertility and sexual activity on the woman, because men are incapable of controlling themselves, are allegedly too stupid to understand a woman’s reproductive system, and women can’t be trusted to think for themselves. It screams at women that antiquated notion that only men can determine what she can and can not safely do or consume much like the Progressive Insurance commercial that mocks the 1950s era mindset and marketing “where *is* your husband?” If the CDC is going to issue bulletins telling women to contracept because nobody can be trusted to think by their own accord, then let’s also issue bulletins telling men they need to not drink ever because no good ever came out of the words “here, hold my beer” either, and those emergency rooms need to be kept available for things like car crashes and gunshot wounds instead.

  • Genevieve

    I agree with nearly all of your sentiments.
    I’ve read the statement, and I think it’s ridiculous that the CDC would make such an intellectually egregious judgement… Something to the effect that ANY consumption during conception is bad.
    Ignoring of course, the millions of women who imbibed throughout history not even knowing they were pregnant yet.

    But I think it’s a huge leap to link the CDC with Planned Parenthood in terms of “telling women what to do with their bodies” because
    1. Planned Parenthood is not a government agency, contrary to what you’ve written,
    and if it were, it would be immensely funded and poorly run….
    instead of barely funded and running quite well, actually… And,
    2. Neither “commands women” anything. The one thing they share in common is that they “offer information” if you want it, trust it, or even require it.

    Also, I think it’s a bit philosophically incoherent and suspicious to, on the one hand,
    insist that women shouldn’t be told by an agency what to do with their own bodies,
    and then go on to condemn another agency for letting women choose to do what they decide with their bodies.

    I agree that we have a culture of fear in our country, that is largely motivated by profit.
    And I agree that our obsession with perfection (at the risk of ignoring or maligning what could be amazingly imperfect opportunities) borders on the maniacal.

    But if you think that YOU–as a woman–are capable of choosing what is best for you and your body,
    then it would be a vacuous and meaningless statement if you didn’t extend that same courtesy to the rest of the world’s women.

    • Jenny Uebbing

      1. Planned Parenthood is barely funded? L-to-the-O-L. Seriously. And no, they’re not a government agency in the technical sense, but as they are very much funded by our tax dollars, I’m going to go ahead and give them the honor of getting lumped as such.

      2. Planned Parenthood lets women choose what to do to their own bodies and (and this is a big “and”) the bodies of their unborn children. No human being has the right to determine whether or when another human being dies.

      All women are capable of choosing the good – for themselves and for their children. That doesn’t mean all women will choose the good. But free will is a tricky thing, isn’t it?

      p.s. Adore your name.

  • Joy McCann

    I do think that the info-graphic is really meant as a warning about the insidious nature of alcoholism, and that to ignore that is to really miss the point.

    Obviously, the graphic oversimplifies things (they always do), and the Federal guidelines are overcautious (they always are), but I do think that both the feminist critique and the Catholic critique are focusing on particular trees and ignoring the larger forest.

    I am both a feminist and a Roman Catholic, but I have heard too many stories of women doing awful things to their kids, and neglecting them, due to alcoholism. Then, as with having had an abortion, they get to live with that knowledge for the rest of their lives. Is that something we want to be cavalier about?

    • Jenny Uebbing

      It’s true, there are trees in this forest that both sides are focusing on, and I guess my upside is that at least both sides – normally completely divided – are outraged at the same thing, for once? Even if for very different reasons.

  • GW

    I can’t believe what I’m reading. This has to be a joke. I was going to ignore it, but I have two daughters who look at this kind of writing and ask me what is wrong with Catholics.

    The CDC issues a report on alcohol and pregnancy, written as everything from the government must be written (in language that the general public can understand), and Jenny freaks out?

    I read this essay and looked over the links. There’s a link to the report from the CDC, followed by a link to a book for sale on Amazon, and then a link to a Super Bowl commercial, and finally a link to a politically-slanted web site. In between is a barely-legible mishmash of one person’s strident opinion, screamed out in print.

    What the hell is wrong with the CDC report, Jenny? Would you like to abolish the CDC and/or restaff it with Catholic partisans who will re-orient the agency’s output to purely pro-life and abstinence rhetoric? That kind of thing worked well the last time the Church was a governing body – oh, wait; the Inquisition isn’t really a period of shining Catholic achievement.

    We live in a secular nation, thank God. Our government should provide facts to the populace. Of course, the government is only as effective as the Americans who staff it; however, the CDC is generally staffed with medical and science professionals. People who do good work, Jenny.

    This blogger is very irresponsibly impugning the work of one of the best agencies of the federal AMERICAN government, for some reason. The idea that the CDC is so “worried that all women are secretly binge drinking and endangering the lives of their unborn” is so nonsensical as to be unbelievable as a charge.

    One would hope that the good Catholics at CNA would be more careful of what they allow to be posted on their web site. This kind of tripe belongs with the tinfoil-behatted on wide-Right political media.

    • Jenny Uebbing

      Sorry about your tinfoil situation. It must have interfered with your reception while reading the piece. Thanks for stopping by!

        • Jenny Uebbing

          nailed it. Which is the point of blogging: if I don’t like how you’re speaking to me, I can delete it 🙂

          • GW

            Of course you don’t like it. You like to write whatever you want and call it “Catholic.” It’s not in keeping with the Faith and it’s not even honest. Censoring me won’t change that fact.

          • Jenny Uebbing

            Okay, now that you know the rules (no personal attacks, no name calling) you’re more than welcome to hang out and read. But yes, obviously I’m going to “censor” someone who resorts to said tactics. Remember, you’re in *my* virtual living room.

    • Darren


      Do you think our Government is infalliable? This article is truth.

      Why doesn’t the CDC state that the pill causes breast cancer? Huh? What hidden agenda is there?

      The pill can kill a child. If a woman has an occasional drink, the baby will not be hurt. The pill is more dangerous that our government is alluding to.

      Who do you trust for the truth? The Catholic Church that Jesus Christ gave to us or the government? I guess if you think that Jesus Christ is the second person of the Trinity and believe that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ, then you believe God. Or if you are atheist then the government is your god. Yeap, governments that didn’t believe in God like the USSR, the Third Reich and other really brought Utopia. Not.

      Funny, just because you don’t agree, you automatically call it right-winged.

      It’s ironic, left-wingers call Catholic right-wingers while right-wingers call Catholics left-wingers. Who’s telling the truth here?

      I suggest reading G.K. Chesterton who criticized the “birth prevention pill”. First because the establishment called it falsely by giving it the name “birth control pill”. There is no birth to control unless you call the chance of it killing the person in the womb. Secondly, the pill removes the person’s dignity of free will.

      God bless.

  • Melissa

    Well, here’s the thing. You know that women need to have no babies, ever, so that they can work outside the home, right? Because the only way that women can make money is to be just like men. So we have to fix them. Not too much, because women are so darned cute now, but enough so that they don’t pester men with babies and suchlike. And if one of them slips up and has a baby, it had really better not be one of those so-called “special needs” babies. Those just mess everything up. I mean, basically, let’s assume that we know what women need, and then let’s tell them. You can’t really expect anybody that hormonal to think, after all.

  • Amy @ The Salt Stories

    Thanks for your thoughtful and direct response. What’s really frustrating is that CDC is truly trying to offer information that helps people. Yes, a pregnant women should not binge drink, but to blanket birth control on 3.5 billion women is not the solution, it is a run and cover unthought out solution. We need to take reasonable steps towards showing people that birth control is not always the answer. I have never felt so empowered as I did the day I first figured out I was ovulating.

  • Melanie

    As patronizing and somewhat silly as the CDC’s recommendation is, it is just that – A RECOMMENDATION. Women remain FREE TO CHOOSE whether or not to follow it. An actual example of someone trying to tell all women what they can or cannot do with their own bodies is the anti-choice movement, which is literally trying to take the right to choose away from every woman in this country. Perhaps you don’t understand the difference between a government agency’s recommendation and the Law of the Land. I am happy to have explained that to you so that now you do.

    Furthermore, laws that restrict a woman’s bodily autonomy via blocking easy access to safe and legal contraception/abortion actually CRIMINALIZE women for trying to make their own decisions about their bodies, such as deciding whether or not to have one beer during pregnancy (as your article references above). Please direct your anger towards people/agencies actually trying to legally restrict women from having the right to direct the future of their own bodies and even prosecuting and jailing them, instead of agencies merely making recommendations that you and all other women remain FREE TO CHOOSE to follow or not.

  • Jean

    The bottom line is that of all the risks of harm to an unborn child FAS is 100% preventable. There is no known safe amount of alcohol a mother can consume as detectable effects to the fetus are demonstrated following consumption of one drink. A mother need not be an alcoholic or binge drinker to endanger her baby. I’m not promoting using artificial birth control in order to drink, but I don’t think it’s fear mongering to educate women as to the risks they are taking when they drink while pregnant. You drink your fetus drinks with you. The more and often you drink the more you endanger him/her. How it worth it?

    • Kati

      Please provide your source for the statement that “detectable effects to the fetus are demonstrated following consumption of one drink.”

  • Katherine

    As a pediatrician, the sentiment of this post and many of the comments is very disturbing to me. I am pro-life, Catholic, NFP-using, and a mother of two. I’m also a physician who specializes in the care of children, and I’ve had a grueling education and training. I’d like to clarify a few misguided comments. First, there is no safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Period. As a pro-life community, shouldn’t we all strive to keep our children as safe and healthy as possible, whether in the womb or out? Why knowingly put your child in danger of fetal alcohol syndrome, a preventable and lifelong effect of exposure to alcohol during development? As practitioners of NFP, we surely have a healthy understanding of the fruits and good that can come from abstaining. Would I love and cherish a child with FAS? Absolutely! But that doesn’t mean I would drink alcohol while pregnant. Why risk it? If alcohol is truly more important than your child’s welfare, perhaps an examination of conscience is in order. Second, pertussis (whooping cough) can be deadly to a newborn or young infant. Fortunately, we have a vaccine that can be given to pregnant women, fathers, grandparents, older siblings, or child care workers to provide herd immunity to keep these precious newborns safe from pertussis. Please direct any questions about its safety to your physician who recommends this life-saving vaccine rather than trusting your Google search to provide you with accurate medical information. Again, as a pro-life community, should we not want to protect our youngest, most vulnerable family members from serious illness?

    • Jenny Uebbing

      But the recommendation implies that women know nothing about their own fertility (as one reader put it, we’re likely to burst into spontaneous pregnancy) and that they’re too stupid/reckless/insert pejorative here to make healthy choices for their unborn child.

      And many of the women responding here have been told by their physicians that a glass of wine in the 2nd and 3rd trimester is fine. So it really seems to be a matter of individual discernment and opinion.

      • Katherine

        Thanks for responding and for your follow up post, which is much easier to understand. By the way, I’m not trying to defend the CDC. Non-pregnant women should, by all means, feel free to enjoy alcohol, whether contracepting or not. However, you have still not addressed my main concern. Here is a quote from this post, “Women can be trusted to make the right decisions with their bodies, and choosing the right means doing no harm.” From a pro-life perspective, though, a pregnant woman is not simply making decisions with her body, as the pro-abortion crowd would have us believe. Pregnancy involves two bodies, one of whom is nestled within the womb and therefore unable to make decisions for him/herself. I would argue that “choosing the right” and “doing no harm” means abstaining from alcohol when you know you are pregnant. You are correct that we do not understand Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, but there have been some medical studies to suggest that the dose-response relationship between alcohol consumption and FAS varies among individuals (you could have a baby without FAS after drinking a keg but I could have a baby with FAS after only having two glasses of wine). I am also reminded of your recent post about Zika virus during which you make the same argument that I’m making now. Yes, we would love an “imperfect” baby with FAS or microcephaly, but why take the risk of knowingly exposing your baby to alcohol or Zika virus? This is one scenario in which we as mothers have full control over protecting our children from risks that could lead to life-altering consequences. Again, I return to my earlier question. Is alcohol more important to us than the welfare of our unborn children? I hope we can all agree that it is absolutely not. Peace to your sweet family.

    • Meredith

      I could not agree more. Thank you for pointing the discussion back to the unborn child! This is a viewpoint which is shockingly absent in the Catholic responses I have read today.

  • Jess

    Thank you for this!!! I’ve been going on a similar rant in my head all day. I’m so glad to see there are other logical people out there. The sad thing is, the CDC could have just talked about the risks of alcohol when pregnant or trying to get pregnant without insulting women. The condescension!! What about all the pregnancies that happen when the woman is on birth control?? I am still in shock that their best recommendation to avoid fetal alcohol syndrome is to completely abstain from alcohol, or be on birth control. What????? What about abstaining from sex if you’re not prepared for a baby and the other consequences? Sorry to be so logical, but that would majorly decrease the chances of not only fetal alcohol syndrome, but all STDs as well! And if they’re just handing out recommendations, what’s wrong with that one? *facepalm* end rant. Thank you again! 🙂

  • kate

    I’m a pro-choice feminist, card carrying liberal, and I love this column. I’m glad that there are issues people who are on both side of the abortion debate can agree with. Too often anti-choicers (since my crowd is called “the abortion special interest group” herein) are painted as unthinking tools of the patriarchy who would deny women bodily autonomy, and I know that’s not the case. Thank you for being as angry about this as I am.

  • Ari

    I have liberal and conservative friends upset by this recommendation. Conservatives because it is recommending birth control and seems anti-life, liberals because they see it as “women are only good for being fertile.” Either way, it’s a lame recommendation on many fronts – 1) implies we women can’t make our own decisions, 2) implies we women are assumed pregnant until proven otherwise.

  • Joanna

    This. Is. Epic.!

    I don’t need the government in my bedroom, or in my wine rack, or counting my IPAs.

    It’s called a brain, and within it a small part that comes from it: common sense. Maybe use that .5% of the time and you’ll be amazed by the conclusions you’re capable of reaching All. By. Yourself.

    Don’t drink. Or have a glass. But damaging your body with far more poisonous substance DAILY and for 3+ decades(!!!!) in order to have that drink, or not, is a real dumb solution.

    I have happily carried 6 children while partaking in occasional wine or yummy IPA post 1st trimester (alcohol is yuck during that time anyway) and all my babies thus far are 100%. Maybe the blanket doesn’t cover me and therefore I am exempt from this “suggestion”???

  • Hannah

    When I saw the headline on my FB news feed, I honestly thought it was an Onion headline and had to click on it 3 times to discover that no it was, in fact, the real CDC saying these things. Un.be.liev.able. Thanks for putting it into words (as you always do) so eloquently!

  • Don

    Here’s the thing. You come across sounding like an intelligent, thoughtful, educated, and well reasoned person.

    The vast vast majority of the people in this country, both male and female, are not. So the CDC releases something that people like you and I consider complete nonsense. Meanwhile, the uneducated, chronically poor, and generally stupid hear about this in the news and think, “hmmm, there might be something to this,” instead of thinking it through for themselves. The government, and their media enablers, have decided to take on the role of parent to their constituency who have proven repeatedly that they are too stupid to make correct decisions.

  • Lisa

    Preach it! And I have to say that a couple of weeks ago I was baited into clicking on a headline “Mother drank alcohol during pregnancy, see what happened to her child” (or something like that) and it was an article about a woman who (according to the article) had been an alcoholic and drug abuser since her early teen years and continued to do so during and after getting pregnant with her daughter, who was diagnosed with FAS many years ago and is in her 40s but is mentally on par with 6 yos. Anyways, I was so annoyed with the ridiculous headline that I almost emailed it to you, but looks like the CDC did even better with their blanket recommendation. 😉

  • Allison B

    As a young, single woman, I say: This response is brilliant, and I like this woman. Jenny, want to go out for a beer? #ohwait

    CDC, trust women to make our own decisions and try to think of pregnancy as a gift, not a disease.

  • Brittany

    Jenny, this is what I’m hearing, and maybe I’m wrong, but I find it concerning:

    You’re upset that the CDC is suggesting (not even forcing, but suggesting) how women should consume alcohol if they might be pregnant. But you’re also upset that the CDC is not telling women exactly what type of birth control they should use, and that it should be FAM? It’s not enough that they specifically say in the infographic that doctors need to inform their patients of the wide range of birth control available. They should stop suggesting anything but FAM?

    You find the CDC statement condescending in telling a woman how she ought to handle her body, because you should be able to do your own research and make your own conclusions about what’s best as far as consuming alcohol goes. But you’re also upset that the CDC is not delineating the exact risks of every type of birth control in this statement. A woman can do her own research to make decisions about how alcohol effects pregnancy, but the CDC should spell it out for her when it comes to the risks of various birth control methods. (On a side note, many women already talk with their doctors about the risks when they get the prescription. But most women do not get the chance to speak to their doctors about alcohol consumption and sexual activity until there’s a problem).

    Lastly, you give the persons of being a smart, independent woman who can think for herself, but you find a message from the CDC that offers a different viewpoint from your own threatening.

    I feel like there are a lot of double standards here and a lack of understanding of the purpose and design of a statement like this from the CDC.

    I also sense a real frustration with the injustice that is not educating women about their natural cycles when we have the power to do so. I completely stand with you on that. Having been in college for the last eight out of ten years, I’ve been shocked and often angered by the range of suffering my peers have endured out of ignorance of their own bodies and medicines, and that ignorance has a million reasons for its existence. But I don’t believe CDC statements meant to focus on fetal alcohol syndrome are a major contributing reason.

    Fcusing anger at this CDC statement just because it doesn’t specifically promote FAM and gives women a range of BC options seems like a misdirection to me. It’s not as if the CDC hasn’t been saying this for years, nor is their statement outlandishly unfounded. If this is the offensively defensive way we as Catholic women react to every secular, medical suggestion, then we really are no different from the extreme feminists for whom reaction has trumped response.

    • Bernadette

      I can’t speak to Jenny’s perspective on this, but what strikes me as concerning is that, since the CDC is the “official” government line on health issues, won’t this become the gold standard? While the CDC doesn’t force people to comply with its guidelines, KGB-style, it does exert enormous influence, and there are ways of making people comply. Look at vaccine policies. The government uses another branch, the public schools, to enforce cooperation there (this is just an example — I am generally pro-vaccine, but anti-giving-the-government-the-power-to-decide-what-goes-into-our-and-our-children’s-bodies; please nobody go down the vax hole!).

      Will this be used in some way against pregnant women or mothers? Can a sip of champagne at a wedding be used as reason to declare a woman an “unfit” mother and take away her children? Will insurance companies insist (first, “recommend,” and then, increasingly turn up the pressure) on aborting babies whose mothers drank before they knew they were pregnant? I actually imagine a lot of pressure coming from insurance companies, in the sense that if they refuse to cover treatment for conditions that could have been predicted and therefore aborted for, before birth, many people will feel that they have no choice to follow those “recommendations.” What about someone who had a night out or two before she realized she was pregnant — is it really such a stretch to imagine someone advising her, “Since we can’t be SURE ….”

      Do I sound like a crazy conspiracy theorist? Maybe. We aren’t quite in that world yet, but I believe that part of what is stopping us from being there (or at least slowing us down on the way) is the protest of active, concerned citizens — so I think it is important that we speak out and take issue with something like this, rather than sweeping it under the rug and saying it’s no big deal, they aren’t forcing anybody to do anything. Because when they actually are — it will be too late.

      • Brittany

        But all of that is speculation. One can’t argue against a CDC statement because one day it *might* be enforced by law. The problem there would be with actual enforcement, and not with the suggestion.

        And if we care so much about the government enforcing limits on alcohol and pregnancy, why are the Catholic women crying out against this statement calling for the government to recommend only one type of birth control? Keep your hands off our alcohol, but please make all the women chart. That’s my major issue here. It’s a huge double standard.

        • Brittany

          I think it’s totally valid to worry that this statement might be “law,” but I also don’t think that justifies being upset by the statement itself. Does that make sense?

        • Jenny Uebbing

          nobody is calling for the government to recommend only one type of birth control. Fertility awareness is a basic biological reality that every woman should possess. It’s not birth control. What she does with the information about her own body is entirely up to her, but as a card-carrying member of planet adult, she should know what is going on in there.

          • Brittany

            Well, you seem pretty upset in your article here that the CDC didn’t mention FAM specifically in this statement.
            Who should be the ones educating women on FAM then, in your opinion? Is that the CDC’s job? Or is it her doctor’s? Or someone else?

          • Brittany

            The CDC and other health organizations consider FAM a form of birth control, btw. So when they recommend birth control, FAM is an option in that.

  • Marie

    Everything you say IS true. Women this day and age are being so highly manipulated–and so few are realizing it! Gosh, is this a terrifying reality! Thank you for being aware and educated. Thank you even MORE for spreading the truth to those that need to hear it!