Outrage at WHO’s call to prevent women of “childbearing age” from drinking

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The WHO report states that attention should be paid to preventing alcohol consumption by women “of childbearing age”. Photo / 123RF

The World Health Organization has been accused of sexism after it released a draft report that called for banning women of “childbearing age” from drinking alcohol.

The controversial opinion was presented in the WHO draft of its Global Alcohol Action Plan 2022-2030, which urges countries to raise awareness of the risks and harms associated with alcohol consumption, with particular emphasis on the impact on children when exposed to alcohol. while still in the womb.

In order to mitigate these impacts, the organization suggests preventing not only pregnant women from drinking alcohol, but all women of “childbearing age”.

“Appropriate attention should be paid to the prevention of initiation of alcohol consumption in children and adolescents, the prevention of alcohol consumption in pregnant women and women of childbearing age,” says the report.

Under the advisory, action would be taken to prevent millions of women from drinking alcohol simply because they are considered to be of childbearing age.

The report sparked an instant reaction, with Matt Lambert, CEO of the Portman Group, the UK’s alcohol regulatory and social responsibility body, calling the advice “sexist and paternalistic.”

“We are extremely concerned by the WHO’s call to countries to prevent alcohol use among women of childbearing age in their latest action plan. As well as being sexist and paternalistic, and potentially restricting the freedoms of most women, this goes way beyond their remit. and is not rooted in science, ”Lambert said.

“It is wrong to sow fear in this irresponsible way and to associate the risks of alcohol for women with those of children and pregnant women.”

Widely accepted health advice indicates that it is safer for pregnant women not to drink alcohol during pregnancy.  Photo / 123RF
Widely accepted health advice indicates that it is safer for pregnant women not to drink alcohol during pregnancy. Photo / 123RF

Social media users were quick to attack the organization, with many calling the suggestion “disturbing.”

“Related to this is a rather disturbing thought that the goal of ‘women of childbearing age’ is to have children. What if some of these women choose not to… or can’t? Will they need an authorization slip to get a drink, or will they be banned anyway? ”A Twitter user wrote.

Another user wrote: “Just to be safe it is best to lock all women of childbearing age on ‘health ranches’ where they are not allowed to drive up to elevations above 8,500. feet above sea level, to take hot showers, to eat raw oysters, or use the acne medication Accutane. “

A 2018 study, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, found that 23% of women who took part in the Growing Up in New Zealand study continued to drink during their first trimester – when the risk of tissue damage. nervous was the highest – despite knowing they were pregnant. Thirteen percent continued to drink after the first three months.

Up to 3,000 New Zealand children are born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder each year as a result of their mothers drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

The Department of Health claims that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

Alcohol Change UK Managing Director Dr Richard Piper told The Telegraph: “Drinking alcohol early in pregnancy, before many people even realize they are pregnant, can be very damaging to their health. fetus.

“It is important that people understand these risks, but it is also essential that we weigh this against the right of every adult to make informed decisions about what we do with our bodies, regardless of our age or gender. . “

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