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Walter Armstrong Walter Armstrong

Video: A New Sarah Palin Is Born! Alaska Senator Wants Pregnancy Kits in Bars

2 Substance

Until last week, Pete Kelly was an obscure first-term Alaska state senator. Then he seized the national spotlight as a pioneering crusader in the war on fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) with a never-before-imagined plan.

Alaska has the nation’s highest rate of FAS—irreversible physical and mental defects in a fetus caused by high levels of alcohol consumption during the early months of pregnancy. Binge drinking is considered the main culprit.

Kelly’s innovative intervention “to eradicate FAS by 2034” is to make free pregnancy tests available in the state’s bars and restaurants. “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,” the Republican told the Anchorage Daily News.

That testing to find out if you are pregnant or not may not, for a woman, be as casual a decision as checking your make-up in the mirror seems not to have occurred to Kelly. By contrast, the vast majority of experts have long said that improving the availability of condoms and, especially, female-controlled birth control is key to FAS prevention.

Kelly’s pregnancy kits were not the only detail of this story that got the national media buzzing. When asked if it might not be prudent for bars and restaurants to also offer a plastic, Plexiglas bowl of free condoms, Kelly, a Catholic, said no. “Because the thinking is a little opposite,” he said. “This assumes that if you know [you are pregnant] you’ll act responsibly. Birth control is for people who don’t necessarily want to act responsibly.”

But birth control is not only an act of personal irresponsibility, according to Kelly—making free condoms available to the public is an act of “social engineering” by the state.

There was more. In the unfortunate case of pregnant women who refuse to stop drinking, coercion may be necessary. Or as Kelly puts it: “We can guide them into the system where there are some therapeutic beds where they can stay and we can attend to them through the health and social services department while they are pregnant.”

Kelly’s views instantly went viral. Soon many curiosities about his record were known to millions. For example, he voted against Alaska’s accepting additional federal funds to expand Medicaid services (as part of the Affordable Care Act).

Yesterday Kelly was in damage control mode. “[I'm] hesitant to say, ‘Use birth control as your protection against fetal alcohol syndrome,’” he said on the Senate floor. “If you think you could take birth control and then binge drink and hope not to produce a fetal alcohol syndrome baby…you may be very wrong.”

The more Pete Kelly talks, the longer the story seems to last. Even if his political star never assumes Sarah Palin heights, he will forever be remembered for this: