The New York City Human Rights Commission has just ruled that bars can no longer refuse to serve alcohol to obviously pregnant women. It is worth noting here that the mayor of this same New York City, Bill De Blasio, tried to limit the size of a soft drink one could buy, pregnant or not. This intrusive effort was thankfully frustrated by a reasonable court. De Blasio is a radical liberal who would like to use the regulatory powers of government at every level to run the most personal parts of our lives. He and his ilk do not believe we the people have the good judgment to make our own decisions about anything, even what we eat and drink. Drinking a big gulp may be bad for me, but I am loathe to surrender the right to make decisions that are bad for me.
Having said all that, the point of this post is not really about civil liberties. It is rather about values. The paradox in these two stories is obvious and worth noting. One area of a city government, in order to prevent obesity and diabetes, wants to tell me how much soda pop I am allowed to consume, while another, in the same city, will not let bartenders to attempt to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome.
What is the underlying issue? It cannot possibly be the comparative damage done to human bodies. The nightmare of fetal alcohol syndrome far exceeds whatever may be caused by drinking too many Slurpies. Furthermore, if I slurp myself into morbid obesity, I did it to myself. If a pregnant woman marinates her unborn child in alcohol, the child had no choice.
THAT is actually the issue. THAT is, precisely why government such as New York’s is likely to continue making contradictory decisions such as these. Why would a regulation-happy liberal like De Blasio not jump at the chance to regulate what a pregnant woman can imbibe? The answer lies in a twisted values hierarchy. Here are just four convoluted precepts of this contemporary ethical confusion.
I. Government regulatory authority trumps individual liberty.
II. The rights of a mother trump the rights of an unborn child.
III. Hence, government can tell her she cannot ever gulp a Big Gulp, pregnant or not, but will not tell her she cannot drink alcohol because it may severely damage her unborn baby.
IV. Therefore the preeminent liberal value is not actually health, nor is it good government decisions, nor even wise regulations. It is a paranoid determination not say or do anything that would imply that the unborn ought to be protected— ever— from anything. Because if Big Brother, so obsessed over protecting me from myself, ever even hints at protecting a fetus from anything, the logical extrapolation of that impulse might be, horror of horrors, to protect its fundamental right to live.
These sad “values” inform even more absurd legal contradictions than what New Yorkers, pregnant or otherwise, are allowed to drink. Take for example the issue of an accident or violence causing the death of an unborn child. State attorneys generals are wrestling with what to charge someone with who murders a pregnant woman. Is it a double homicide? How can it be a crime to cause the death of “non-human” tissue? If the mother can legally abort that “fetus” deliberately, how can it be a crime to cause that outcome accidentally?
What about civil actions? Suppose it was not murder but, say, a car wreck that caused the termination of a pregnancy. Can one be sued for damages for doing accidentally that which is perfectly legal if done deliberately? If so, how can the damages be assessed? What might the losing defendant in such a civil action have to pay for terminating what was not even a viable life? It is hard to imagine such “tissue” loss is worth much of a compensatory award. As to punitive damages, what might they be? How could a drunk driver be “punished” for doing what the mother herself could have done with absolute impunity?
The possible convolutions are endless. A society reasons legally based on its fundamental values. When the lives of the unborn have no value, even the most invasive, regulation-obsessed, jurist may be forced into intellectual gymnastics that defy all reason. The EPA wants to regulate fish pond on private property to “protect the environment” from “selfish and careless” homeowners. They long for the day government can protect us from our reckless selves by regulating how much sugar we can consume. Yet unless our society values the unborn, those same jurists and bureaucrats will not even consider regulations that might protect an unborn child from being drenched in lethal alcohol.