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Free Pregnancy Tests at Bars? Alaska Program Aims to Stop Expecting Moms from Drinking

Alaska has the highest rate of fetal alcohol syndrome in the nation. Now a controversial program by the University of Alaska is aimed at stopping expecting mothers before they take a drink.

Studies have shown that the impact of drinking excessive alcohol can impact a fetus as early as one month after conception. Unfortunately, many women do not know that they are pregnant that early, posing a risk to their child when they drink.

Under the new state-funded pilot program, women in 20 Alaska bars and restaurants will be able to take a free pregnancy test beginning in December, to be dispensed much like condoms in some facilities and made available at places where alcohol is served.

“This is not a strategy for the chronic alcoholic who is drinking regardless of whatever message they see,” Jody Allen Crowe, who is helping implement the Alaska pilot project. “This is really focused on the 50 percent of unexpected pregnancies, to find out they are pregnant as early as possible.”

Alaska state Senator Peter Kelly thinks the plan is a great idea and backed the state’s funding of the venture.”Literally, you can go into the bathroom at the bar and test,” said Kelly said. “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.”

Ironically, though, the same state legislator does not support birth control measures for woman and claims access to birth control and access to pregnancy tests are two very different things and certainly do not deserve the same priority.

“The thinking is a little opposite,” he stressed in an interview talking about the pregnancy test scheme. “If you know [you are pregnant], you’ll act responsibly. Birth control is for people who don’t necessarily want to act responsibly.”

As a result, the Alaska pilot will hand out pregnancy tests and information about fetal alcohol syndrome, but not birth control.

To get around this, David Driscoll, who proposed the study for the University of Alaska. said that he plans to piggy-back on current contraception programs already in place and use private funding to give women choices under the outreach measures aimed to stop birth defects due to drinking.

“What I’m going to try and do is place these dispensers in facilities in which there are condom dispensers or they’re OK with us making condoms available,” he said, pointing out that state funds would pay for the prevention posters and pregnancy tests, but not the condoms, in keeping with the restrictions placed on the program by Kelly and the state.

Photo Credit: Jason Coleman

About the author

Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.