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May Wilkerson May Wilkerson

Alaska to Offer Free Pregnancy Tests at Bars

The state with the highest rate of fetal alcohol syndrome in the country has introduced a new initiative to encourage women to test for pregnancy before getting drunk.

4 Substance

Dispenser in a bar in Minnesota. Photo via

Dispenser in a bar in Minnesota. Photo via

Alaska has the highest rate of fetal alcohol syndrome in the country, and a high rate of binge drinking is thought to be the cause. And unsurprisingly, a Republican male Senator has stepped in with a solution: encouraging women to get tested for pregnancy…at bars. A new state-funded initiative, starting in December, will install pregnancy test dispensers in the bathrooms of 20 bars and restaurants across the state. The dispensers will also display posters warning women of the risks of pre-natal alcohol exposure, with slogans like “think before you drink,” and encourage women to participate in online or phone surveys in exchange for prizes.

Researchers say the project is not geared towards alcoholic women or those who would choose to drink regardless, but those who may not realize they’re pregnant. ”This is not a strategy for the chronic alcoholic who is drinking regardless of whatever message they see,” says Jody Allen Crowe, who started a similar initiative in Minnesota. “This is really focused on the 50% of unexpected pregnancies, to find out they are pregnant as early as possible.”

The initiative is part of republican Senator Pete Kelly’s multi-million dollar statewide effort to “eradicate” fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) entirely in the next 20 years. He announced his plan to put pregnancy tests in bars earlier this year, explaining: “So if you’re drinking, you’re out at the big birthday celebration and you’re kind of like, ‘Gee, I wonder if I—?’ You should be able to go in the bathroom and there’s that plastic, Plexiglas bowl in there.” (Kelly unsurprisingly poo poo’d the suggestion of offering free condoms instead of pregnancy tests, even though most experts say that improving the availability of birth control is key to preventing FAS).

Luckily, this new initiative will give out condoms in addition to pregnancy tests (though the state did not agree to fund this part). So at least something useful could come out of this.