Fetal Brain Syndrome

Ehrenreich and von Hoffman

Fetal Brain Syndrome

Ehrenreich and von Hoffman

Fetal Brain Syndrome
An email conversation about the news of the day.
Oct. 26 1998 8:58 PM

Ehrenreich and von Hoffman

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Dear Nick,

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So glad that wine will soon be given a, uh, should we call it an "enabling label" to distinguish it from a warning label? For some time now I have been justifying my daily consumption as a nutritional responsibility, as in: "Oh well, better pour me another glass of that Cab even though I'd much rather be working on my milk moustache." However I would like to point out that one demographic category will be missing out on the health benefits of the grape, and that is pregnant people. Perhaps you have noticed the signs, in every possible venue including airplanes, warning that "alcohol consumption may damage your unborn child" or words to that effect. Lucky for me, I had my babies about a quarter century ago, when doctors encouraged generous consumption of alcohol as a way of warding off false labor and possible prematurity. I recall, at the first labor pain (when I don't know false from painfully sincere) dutifully rushing off to mix myself a G & T. Whereas by the 90s we were led to believe that every tippler, however moderate, was incubating a little Fetal Alcohol Syndrome victim. (My offspring, incidentally, did not turn out sufficiently retarded to obviate the need for Ivy League tuitions of over 20 grand per annum and capita.)

So just to continue on the fetal tyranny theme I began earlier in memory of Dr. Barnett Slepian: Now that the wonderfully artery-expanding effects of wine been acknowledged, arewomen once again meant to sacrifice their health and--who knows?--their lives for their fetuses, this time by abstaining? Or should we demand that the medical profession revise its fascistic stand on prenatal alcohol consumption? I do believe that if men were the ones who got pregnant and faced those nine long dry (not to mention cigarette and aspirin-free) months, there would be a lot fewer guys shooting abortionists.

One more item of possible interest: From an op-ed in today's New York Times I learn that the Pope has issued an encyclical attacking the New Age movement on the grounds that faith without "reason" runs "the grave risk of withering into myth or superstition." Now, far be it from me to offend the adherents of either WICCA or the Holy Mother Church, but do I detect a turf war here? After all, it does seem a bit odd that the faith that is now upholding reason was responsible for the sighting of the Virgin Mary's image on the glass wall of a Florida bank not too long, not to mention that ugly business with Galileo. Each to her own myth or superstition, I say, but please leave "reason" to us anti-theists.

Now off to slice some tomatoes for dinner, hoping they're not actually fruit flies or cattle in cunning disguise.

Barbara Ehrenreich is contributing editor at theProgressiveand author of several books, including Blood Rites. Nicholas von Hoffman is a columnist at theNew York Observer. His books include We Are the People Our Parents Warned Us Against.