Now this is good news – seriously, and you can read the full story of why the foetal alcohol syndrome case was dismissed by the Court of Appeal here. This is why it is good news:
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (Bpas) and the childbirth charity Birthrights welcomed the ruling. Rebecca Schiller, co-chair of Birthrights, and Bpas chief executive Ann Furedi said it was “an extremely important ruling for women everywhere. The UK’s highest courts have recognised that women must be able to make their own decisions about their pregnancies,” they said.
“Both the immediate and broader implications of the case were troubling. In seeking to establish that the damage caused to a foetus through heavy drinking was a criminal offence, the case called into question women’s legal status while pregnant, and right to make their own decisions.”
Neil Sugarman, the solicitor acting for CP, said the decision was “clearly disappointing” and that the case was not about women’s rights or “criminalising women”.
He said GLP Solicitors, of which he is managing partner, represents about 80 other children with FAS and that they would now be looking at the implications of the ruling.
But I was struck by how the really important elements of this have not led to a broader conversation about this issue and for me they are twofold:
- Clear information during pregnancy on safe drinking, or even better still, more robust advice like this: ‘There is no safe amount or safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy’ The Sensible Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy  by the Public Health Agency of Canada (2011).
Julia Brown, chief executive of the Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Trust, told the BBC the case highlighted the need for pregnant women to be given advice about drinking, and support to stop drinking if necessary. “There are no winners in a case like this,” she added, saying she hoped it would be a “wake-up call” to make people think about the dangers of drinking when pregnant.
If the solicitor representing CP has another 80 children with FAS he is representing then what we are recommending currently isn’t working!
- What Julia Brown said is right ‘support to stop drinking if necessary‘. Why is the women being vilified for this? Why wasn’t she shown understanding, kindness and compassion and supported to try to stop? The news report says ‘It had been argued the woman ignored warnings and drank a “grossly excessive” amount of alcohol while pregnant. She consumed eight cans of strong lager and half a bottle of vodka a day, the court heard.’ The news report goes on to say: ‘John Foy QC, representing the council that has responsibility for CP, told the court her mother drank the equivalent of 40-57 units of alcohol a day. Mr Foy said the young mother, for whom it was a second pregnancy, was aware of the dangers, adding: “She was reckless as to whether there would be harm to the foetus. She foresaw that harm might be caused but went on to take the risk.”‘
If she was drinking that amount of alcohol on a daily basis she was physically addicted to alcohol. She needed a medical detox. She is described as a young mother. Why oh why aren’t we as a society doing something about this to help her rather than demonise her? How could she know the full extent of the harm to the foetus when our guidelines are so bland, wishy-washy and contradictory? Why do we wash our hands of this instead of asking questions about why this is happening and doing something about it?
FAS is the biggest and most not talked about issue of alcohol abuse and dependence. I receive so much information about how big a deal this is and yet even I can’t bring myself to talk about this, the most difficult and challenging but needed, facet of the problem with alcohol this country has. 1 in 100 children born with learning disabilities have FAS. This is a HUGE statistic and we need to start talking about it ……..
If you’d like an insight into how much FASD news and research coverage is going on around the world then I recommend you subscribe to Alcohol Weekly where Lauri Beekman does a regular update and you can see the one from the 14th December here: http://alcoholweekly.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/fasd-news-492014.html