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Can a Bar Refuse to Serve Moms-to-Be? Not in This City

Photograph by Twenty20

Your obstetrician says it’s OK to indulge in the occasional glass of wine during your third trimester, but the bartender gives you the side-eye when you order a glass of pinot grigio at seven months. Sound familiar?

Well if you happen to live in New York City, you’ll be relieved to know that the legal system has got your back (and, well, belly). The city’s Commission on Human Rights has released new guidelines that prohibit bars and restaurants from refusing to serve moms-to-be, reports The New York Times. Not only that, but you can't be simply denied entry to a bar or place serving alcohol based on pregnancy alone as a factor. According to the Times, the commission is investigating “at least one case of a pregnant woman who was denied entry to a bar over the moral judgments of its employees.”

In most other cities and states, refusing to serve pregnant women remains a gray area. Posted signs may state that a restaurant or bar reserves the right to refuse service, but if the only reason you’re being turned down is your baby bump, it could be considered discrimination. It might feel like a catch 22, seeing as restaurants and bars are also legally required to post signs that warn about the dangers alcohol can have on a fetus.

Of course, the new NYC guidelines don’t affect current law, which allows for bartenders to cut off any patron—pregnant or otherwise—who’s “visibly intoxicated.” (Note: there's a large difference between having an occasional glass, and then drinking so much that you actually need to be cut off because you're visibly intoxicated.)

According to the CDC, about 10 percent of women drink alcohol while pregnant and a 2012 CDC report found that older, more educated women were more likely to drink during pregnancy than younger and less-educated women. Alcohol use during pregnancy can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome, birth defects and lifelong problems such as behavioral and intellectual disabilities. The American Academy of Pediatrics released a report in October 2015 that said "no amount of alcohol should be considered safe to drink during any trimester of pregnancy."

The bottom line: Deciding whether or not to have a glass of wine (or pint of beer, or cocktail) is up to a pregnant woman, based on the advice of her doctor and the latest research. And whether you agree with drinking while pregnant or not, perhaps we can all agree that drink-shaming responsible moms-to-be shouldn’t be a bartender’s call.

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