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Bilge, booze and misogyny: why I’m outraged by a new idea to police pregnant women

Perhaps I should be more shocked by the latest proposal to control women. But what else can you expect in this supremely sexist era?Last week I got an

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Perhaps I should be more shocked by the latest proposal to control women. But what else can you expect in this supremely sexist era?

Last week I got an email from a reproductive rights campaigner I have known, liked and admired for many years. “Good morning,” it began. “I thought this would make you cross.” She went on to describe a fresh frontier in the war against pregnant women: that any woman drinking anything during pregnancy, even a glass of wine in the first week of it, would have that marked on her medical records, which would then be transferred to her baby’s records. It was a Nice idea (for clarification, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence – this is not a nice idea), being put out for consultation.

It did make me cross. Not because of the gross infringement of women’s privacy – it would probably be illegal to transfer a woman’s health records over to those of her child – and complete obliteration of trust between a prospective mother and her midwife, but because this is just bilge. Welcome to the age of bilge, where mindless hysteria accrues around risks for which there is no evidence; where experts are disregarded in favour of fanatics; where real and demonstrable threats to pregnant women – which come mainly from underfunded services – are ignored in preference for finger-pointing; where no explanation is ever more complicated or less divisive than: “People (especially women) are weak.” But far more than cross, I felt nostalgic. Because I remember a time when this unusual approach was limited to pregnant women, and now it’s our whole politics.

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