• The drinking and pregnancy warning notice is posted behind the bar in New York's Financial District, Friday, May 6, 2016. (AAP)Source: AAP
Many bars in New York have put up warning signs about the risks of drinking alcohol while pregnant but are not allowed to refuse expectant mothers a drink.
Sarah Norton

SBS Life
9 May 2016 - 12:13 PM  UPDATED 9 May 2016 - 12:13 PM

There are signs popping up in bars across New York after new guidelines were released by the city’s mayor and Human Rights Commission on Friday saying bars must serve pregnant women alcohol if they want it.

The guidelines state that no establishment can prohibit pregnant women from entering their premises, nor can they refuse to serve alcohol or raw fish to pregnant customers. They also state that policies that single out pregnant individuals are unlawful under the The New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL).

Human Rights Commission officials clarify they're not saying that expectant mothers should drink, but that such health decisions are up to the woman, not a bartender, reports Associated Press (AP)

The report specifies that establishments are discriminating against a pregnant woman if they, “deny entrance to pregnant individuals to certain public accommodations, or refuse to serve certain food or drinks to pregnant individuals perceived to be pregnant.”

An example of a violation includes, “a restaurant policy that prohibits staff from serving pregnant individuals raw fish or alcohol."

While the new guidelines focus mainly on more protection against discrimination in the workforce, they do extend to expectant women not being denied any rights in bars.

“Judgments and stereotypes about how pregnant individuals should behave, their physical capabilities and what is or is not healthy for a foetus are pervasive in our society and cannot be used as pretext for unlawful discriminatory decisions,” the report says.

The drinking and pregnancy warning notice is posted behind the bar at the Vintry, in New York. (AP Photo)

Federal health officials do still advise total abstinence from alcohol in the US. In Australia the National health and Medical Research Council says that maternal alcohol consumption can harm a developing baby, and a baby that is breastfeeding.

“For women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, not drinking is the safest option,” it says on the government site.

AP  writes that The U.S Surgeon General and major medical associations also say that expectant mums should avoid drinking. But rights commission officials say the choice is up to the women.

A study conducted by online medical journal BMJ Open showed that close to half of pregnant Australian women drink some alcohol while pregnant. The same study showed that more than half of women in New Zealand drink some alcohol during pregnancy, 75 per cent do in the UK and 82 per cent of pregnant Irish women consume some alcohol.

The new guidelines in New York are allowing pregnant women to consume without feeling discriminated against or judged for their choices. Health officials do still say the safest option is to not drink alcohol while pregnant.