Monthly Archives: March 2016

Thoughts: Cornell’s Vox Combats ‘Criminalization of Pregnancy’

Cornell’s Vox Combats ‘Criminalization of Pregnancy’


Students gathered to discuss the criminalization of pregnancy and statewide restrictions on the civil liberties of pregnant women as a part of Voices of Planned Parenthood’s week-long campaign to spread awareness of Reproductive Justice Behind Bars campaign last week.

Discussion at the event focused on the intersection of women’s rights — including not only of cis-women, but anyone with a female reproductive system — and the law in endangering a fetus through the use of alcohol and drugs.

Several Vox presenters said that they believe the case for reproductive justice should be based on the both the rights of pregnant women and the societal impacts of imprisonment.

“Reproductive justice is intersectional and looks at all the things that bring people to the prison system” said Zoe Maisel ’18. “While most people generally disagree with drug use during pregnancy, criminalization creates a Jane Crow system of law that denies women basic human rights based solely on pregnancy status.”

The presenters were critical of a number of different ways they said U.S. lawmakers have criminalized pregnant women’s actions during pregnancy. They said they believe that while a pregnant woman’s choice to use drugs or alcohol may harm a fetus, criminalization is a dangerous way to address this threat, and ultimately denies women their rights.

“The fact is 5 percent of pregnant women use drugs,” said Maisel. “Drug use is a serious thing that happens in the United States, but throwing women in jail is not the way to properly address this issue of addiction.”

Maisel also described various scenarios which could lead to the imprisonment of a pregnant woman if she is suspected of drug use.

“A woman can be detained against her will for the duration of her pregnancy for using drugs,” she said. “Do women have value beyond their child-bearing capacity? Do our laws reflect that?”

The Vox presenters expressed concern that child endangerment laws meant to protect children from the abuses of negligent parents have been redefined to also denote personhood to unborn children.

“If laws against child abuse are applied to unborn fetuses we have a different system of reproductive justice in this country,” Maisel said. “Pregnant women have been arrested and detained not only if they ended a pregnancy or expressed an interest to end a pregnancy but also after suffering unintentional pregnancy loss.”

Generally, the presenters said they believe the courts have struggled with ambiguity in clarifying women’s reproductive rights.

“Courts have left it unclear where the end of a fetus’ rights and the rights of the mother begin,” Maisel said.

At the end of her presentation, Maisel expressed concern with the increased prevalence of targeted regulation of abortion providers through Trap Laws — such as the law passed in Texas in 2013 — which she said applies unnecessary regulations to doctors performing abortions.
“This issue is that it will result in only seven to eight abortion providers in Texas clustered in East Texas,” she said. “Abortion services won’t be available to people for hundred of miles”.

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The opinions expressed in this article may not be those held by the FASD Prevention Conversation Project. 

Why men are anxious about women drinking

Why men are anxious about women drinking

A common strand runs through different factors behind this during different periods of history.


In a survey of alcohol cultures – which embody the ways alcohol is perceived, valued, and consumed – in many regions over hundreds and thousands of years, the one constant that appears to be present, regardless of time and place, is that alcohol was a highly contested commodity. On one hand, it was represented as good – as a beverage sometimes given by a god and often associated positively with religion, and as a beverage that had the potential to be healthy and therapeutic and support sociability and community at all levels. On the other hand, alcohol had the potential to cause individual and social calamities expressed through immorality, impiety, social disruption, poor physical and mental health, and crime.

How these various potentials were realised depended on how alcohol was consumed, and perhaps the most important dimension of the history of alcohol lies in the persistent attempts of authorities to define the point at which moderate and therefore safe drinking crossed over to the excessive and dangerous. In many cases, the point was defined only after the fact, when a drinker had passed it and become intoxicated.

Excessive drinking was manifested in speech, physical coordination, and behaviors that were associated with intoxication. At other times, specific maximum volumes have been defined, as public health authorities in many countries now offer guidelines on maximum amounts of alcohol per day. In some cases, authorities have implemented prohibition policies that were universal, as in the case of Muslims and Mormons, or targeted at particular populations, such as indigenous peoples in colonised societies.

These various policies were based on prevailing assessments of the potentials of alcohol for good and bad.

Prohibition policies were and are based on the assumption that the dangers presented by those who misuse alcohol outweigh any rights that other consumers might feel they have to be able to consume alcohol. Less rigorous regulatory policies seek to allow people to consume alcohol and derive personal or social benefits from it while trying to mitigate its dangers by restricting access to alcohol by age, gender, or ethnicity and by limiting the occasions on which it may be purchased or consumed.

The general anxieties about alcohol that we have seen expressed in contexts as diverse as ancient Mesopotamia and the British colonies in Africa, or in modern France and nineteenth-century America, were fundamentally broad-based anxieties about social order: if consuming alcohol could lead individuals to lose control of their speech and bodies, then the mass consumption of alcohol could result in loss of discipline in the social body more broadly. These anxieties appear in almost all cultures, but we should be attuned to the variations that exist within persistent themes.

One common anxiety is evident in male attitudes toward women’s drinking.

Historically, men have been anxious about women’s drinking, generally because they believed that women were sexually less restrained or inhibited under the influence of alcohol. This is a reasonable enough assumption, as one of the effects of alcohol is to lower inhibitions of all kinds.

But even though women’s bodies absorb and metabolise alcohol at a different rate from men’s, alcohol does not discriminate between genders in its effects. All things being equal, women are no more given than men to risky behaviour, sexual or otherwise, under the influence of alcohol. (It could be argued that cultural influences more often militated against women taking as many sexual risks as men.)

Opposition by drinking men to women’s drinking is, at base, an expression of the double standard of sexual morality.

Yet although it appears to be a historical constant, male anxiety about the consumption of alcohol by women took different forms at different times. In ancient Rome, the stress was on the consumption of wine by married women, quite likely because of fear than an intoxicated wife would commit adultery and conceive a child that her husband might unknowingly raise as his own. It is notable that the penalties for drinking by a woman – at some times death, at other times divorce – were the same as those imposed on women who committed adultery.

In early eighteenth-century England, in contrast, the panic about gin consumption focused on women as mothers rather than as wives. As we have seen, gin was known as Mother Gin and Mother’s Folly, and Hogarth’s famous print Gin Lane depicted a nursing mother as its focal image. Can it be a coincidence that fertility and population growth were among the great concerns of the eighteenth century and that a number of contemporary pamphlets emphasised the harmful effects of gin on children and the birthrate?

A somewhat different emphasis can be located in the anxiety over drinking by young women during and immediately after the First World War.

It was widely noted that during the war, women benefiting from new work opportunities and increased incomes began to frequent public houses. This behaviour, which until that time was largely associated with men, coincided with changes in women’s clothing and hairstyles that were considered masculine. At the end of the war, there were various attempts to refeminise women, not least by firing them from many of the industrial jobs they had performed so as to make room for demobilized soldiers.

Anxiety about women’s drinking in this period reflected a need to reestablish the gender boundaries that were thought to have been eroded by wartime conditions. In these and other cases, the fundamental objection was to the consumption of alcohol by women.

But the precise formulation of the objection in each period reflected broader cultural anxieties about some aspect of the gendered order that was perceived as threatened by alcohol consumption by women. Although the evidence is patchy and often poor… it seems that where women were permitted to consume alcohol, they generally consumed less than their male counterparts, no matter which period, region, or class we look at.

That is certainly true today, when many more women than men describe themselves as abstainers: 40 percent of women vs 30 percent of men in the United States; 25 percent vs 10 percent in Italy; and 45 percent vs 13 percent in China.

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A glass of wine a day won’t keep the doctor at bay, finds B.C. study

A glass of wine a day won’t keep the doctor at bay, finds B.C. study

A new University of Victoria-led study has found no health benefits from moderate drinking.


Think a glass of red wine a day will keep the doctor at bay? Think again, suggests new research from the University of Victoria.

Although many studies have lauded the benefits of moderate drinking, from a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, to better immunity against colds, a new paper has found previous research overestimated those benefits and underestimated the risks of alcohol use.

“I wish it were true,” Tim Stockwell, director UVic’s Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia and the study’s lead author, said with a laugh. “I like a drink and I wish it did me good … But there’s various grounds for skepticism, unfortunately.”

For the study, Stockwell and his colleagues reanalyzed data from 87 long-term studies on alcohol use and mortality, involving a total of nearly four million people.

At first, the data showed that “low-volume drinkers” (those who had up to two drinks a day) had lower mortality risks than those who abstained from alcohol. They also found that “occasional drinkers” (people who consume less than one drink a week) live the longest.

But after looking at the quality of each study and adjusting for errors, the researchers found that the protective effect of light drinking vanished.

The study builds on a landmark 2006 study also co-authored by Stockwell that found most published studies on alcohol use and mortality make the mistake of comparing moderate drinkers to those who currently abstain.

“We know from other studies that, as we age, people in developed countries tend to cut down or stop completely their drinking,” he said.

Since current abstainers include many people who have cut down or cut out alcohol due to poor health, that skews the data by making the health and life expectancy of moderate drinkers look good by comparison, he said.

He said the paper’s findings suggest that improved methods are needed for scientists to study the health effects of alcohol. Following the 2006 study, Stockwell and his colleagues could only find 13 studies out of 87 that adjusted for these errors.

“The bottom line is that we need to be more skeptical of claims that low-volume alcohol consumption is good for you, and a take a long, hard look at how studies around alcohol and health are designed,” he said.

Improving the research could have a significant impact on both alcohol policies, as well as guidance that physicians give to patients about low-risk drinking, he said.

Stockwell’s advice?

“If you like a glass of wine a day, it’s probably not doing you much harm if you enjoy it,” he said. “Do it for the pleasure but do not believe or comfort yourself by thinking it’s good for your health.”

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Most young people will be exposed to drugs and alcohol before they reach 18 years of age. As a parent and caregiver you have a key role to play in helping empower your child to make healthy life choices and ultimately prevent them from abusing drugs and alcohol. Evidence suggests that drugs and alcohol can harm children and young people in several ways:

● They contribute to poor judgment and making bad decisions

● They increase the chances of getting into fights, accidents and other dangerous situations

●They damage the growing body and developing brain

● They may lead to addiction during adolescence, although evidence suggests this does not happen at a high rate

Evidence suggests that telling children to “just say no” to drugs and alcohol is simply not effective. There are many things parents can do to help empower children to avoid drug abuse. Even if you do not think your child has experimented with drugs or alcohol, this guide will equip you with valuable information to make you aware of the challenges young people face, and also refer you to additional resources that can support you in dealing with these challenges.

This guide brings together some of the best evidence-based advice and guidance from a range of leading organisations worldwide that work to prevent substance abuse, but it only highlights some examples. You can find plenty more resources on Mentor International’s Resource Finder. Click below to download!

front cover


What Happened When A Group Of Guys Tried The Pregnancy Diet

What Happened When A Group Of Guys Tried The Pregnancy Diet

From alcohol to tuna to soft cheese, there are a number of food and drink items women are supposed to avoid during pregnancy. In a new video from BuzzFeed, a group of men attempt to follow “the pregnancy diet” for two weeks.

Needless to say, hilarity ensues …

Institute of Health Economics: Prevention of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder by the Use of Technology Study


Prevention of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder by the Use of Technology Study

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) refers to several disorders caused by the use of alcohol during pregnancy. People born with FASD will experience serious physical and mental problems. In Alberta 46,000 people currently live with FASD and approximately 700-1900 babies are born with FASD in the province each year.

The goal of this study is to see how a Mobile Alcohol Measuring (MAM) breathalyzer device (linked to a cellphone) changes alcohol consumption during pregnancy in women with alcohol dependency issues. This is the first study of its kind. We hope that the ability to self-monitor blood alcohol concentration during pregnancy can reduce alcohol consumption, and thus reduce the possibility of delivering a child with FASD.

Purpose: This study will provide useful evidence for tailoring future optimal maternal and child health care for women, with the potential of decreasing health care utilization by prevention of FASD. MAM device usage should improve patient monitoring convenience and demonstrate reductions in alcohol use outside of traditional office visits and patient self-reports.

Start Date: November 1st, 2015     Completion Date: November 1st, 2018

Contact: For more information about the study, please contact Jasmine Brown, Project Manager and Research Coordinator, Institute of Health Economics at

Additional Resources:

Alcohol ad crackdown could curb underage drinking, researcher says

Alcohol ad crackdown could curb underage drinking, researcher says

Youth vulnerable to positive messaging, targeted marketing

CBC News Posted: Mar 12, 2016 6:30 AM

A nursing and social work professor who researches underage drinking, is calling for restrictions on alcoholic beverage advertisements in a bid to reduce underage drinking and binge drinking by teens and young adults.

Alcohol consumption

Esme Fuller-Thomson, of the University of Toronto, estimates by the time Canadians turn 18, they’ve seen 100,000 positive messages about alcohol and millions of product placements in movies.

“In the advertisements you don’t see people talking about, you know, the glories of cirrhosis of the liver, or the guy who’s vomiting on his girlfriend — some of the real outcomes of heavy drinking,” Fuller-Thomson told CBC’s Information Morning Fredericton.

“It’s really romanticized and young people are pretty vulnerable to think that this is a cool and mature thing to do.”

Fuller-Thomson’s comments come on the heels of the drinking game death of 18-year-old Brady Grattan, of Fredericton, in Grande Prairie, Alta., and reports of spiked drinks and alcohol poisoning at the University of New Brunswick and St. Thomas University.

Meanwhile, Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., has taken steps to tone down upcoming St. Patrick’s Day festivities to try to avoid problems associated with the annual rowdy celebrations. Last year, police laid 269 charges during festivities near the university.

Smoking ad restrictions a success

Fuller-Thomson says it’s no wonder young people are measuring the fun in their lives by the amount of booze they can down in one night. They’re inundated with positive messaging and what appears to be targeted marketing through so-called alcopop products, such as flavoured vodka coolers, she said.

Binge drinking girl alcohol

About two-thirds of high school students who consume alcohol, binge drink, says researcher Esme Fuller-Thomson.

She says restrictions on smoking ads have proven very effective in reducing youth smoking rates.

Now she would like to see the alcohol industry take some responsibility for the “very significant toll” it’s causing.

Canada spends about $14 billion a year “sopping up the messes,” caused by excessive drinking and alcoholism, including policing and health care costs, said Fuller-Thomson.

Those who start drinking before the age of 15 are up to four times more likely to become addicted, she said.

‘We need to be harder on big alcohol.’– Esme Fuller-Thomson, researcher and professor

Fatty liver disease is affecting younger patients and alcohol is also associated with a “a fairly high percentage” of some cancers, such as bowel.

“We need to be harder on big alcohol.”

Fuller-Thomson is also concerned about parents who condone underage drinking or even buy alcohol for their teenaged children.

She says parents who think their teens are going to drink anyway because all teens do are mistaken. “The proportion of abstainers has gone up. Among high school students, there’s 40 per cent who’ve never had a drink in the past year,” she said.

On the other hand, among those who do drink, about two-thirds tend to drink “excessively and out of control,” said Fuller-Thomson. “It’s pretty worrisome. That’s when … you start to get sexual violence, fights, accidents and injuries.”

If parents choose to allow their underage children to drink in their home, Fuller-Thomson says they need to be honest with other parents, who may not want to let their children visit and be exposed to such behaviour.

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