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BPAS comment on the World Health Organization’s Draft Global Alcohol Action Plan 2022-2030

Published today, The World Health Organization (WHO) calls for ‘appropriate attention’ to be given to the ‘prevention of drinking among pregnant women and women of childbearing age.’

Commenting on the Draft Global Alcohol Action Plan 2022-2030, Clare Murphy, Chief Executive of BPAS, said:

“It is extremely disturbing to see the World Health Organization risk hard-won women’s rights by attempting to control their bodies and choices in this way. By treating all women – for 40 years of their lives – as little more than vessels, the WHO reduces women to little more than their reproductive capabilities. Currently there is no consensus regarding whether low to mid-level alcohol consumption during pregnancy is actually harmful, so to extend this messaging back into the “pre-pregnant” period, regardless of individual pregnancy intention, is completely absurd.

“In a 37-page document the WHO undervalues and undermines the rights of women to control their bodies. By declaring that a foetus is a person distinct from the pregnant woman – claiming prenatal alcohol exposure is ‘one of the most dramatic manifestations of harm to persons other than drinkers’ - WHO actively ascribes foetuses rights they do not have in law.

“We recognise that alcohol can have serious effects on society as a whole – but at no point does this action plan address its true impact on women. In the UK alone, more than a third of sexual assaults, more than 39% of all violent crimes, and nearly 1 in 5 incidents of domestic abuse are committed under the influence of alcohol. This action plan had the power to address this harm to women – but instead was silent.

“The narrative that women need to be stopped from posing a risk to foetuses – even those which do not exist - is used around the world to surveil and criminalise women making decisions during pregnancy. A global organisation such as WHO should recognise the power that such dangerous messaging about women’s behaviour carries, and should be more alert to the impact of these statements. We urge them to review this document as a matter of urgency.”


For further information please contact BPAS on press@bpas.org or 07881 265276.

About BPAS

BPAS is a charity that sees almost 100,000 women a year for reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception at clinics across Great Britain. It supports and advocates for reproductive choice. BPAS also runs the Centre for Reproductive Research and Communication, which seeks to develop and deliver a research agenda that furthers women’s access to evidence-based reproductive healthcare, driven by an understanding of women’s perspectives and needs. You can find out more here: https://www.bpas.org/get-involved/centre-for-reproductive-research-communication/

This year BPAS will launch a not-for-profit fertility service, BPAS Fertility, to provide ethical, evidence-based, person-centred care that supports patients. We intend to only charge what it costs to provide a safe, high-quality, and accessible service to patients who may be unable to access NHS-funded care.