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Pointless paternalist policing of the potentially pregnant

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┬ástar 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.

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