Beginning in December, free pregnancy tests will be available in 20 Alaska bars and restaurants, thanks to a bill by a state lawmaker who wants women to think twice before drinking.
The proposal first came about in March, when Alaska state Sen. Pete Kelly (R) came up with the idea as part of an effort to combat fetal alcohol syndrome. He wanted state-funded pregnancy tests in bars and restaurants so that women could find out if they're pregnant before consuming alcohol.
"Literally, you can go into the bathroom at the bar and test," said Kelly at the time. "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."
His plan was controversial in part because he said he opposed increased access to contraception, claiming that birth control is for women "who don't want to act responsibly."
But according to the Anchorage Daily News, the head of the agency overseeing the new pregnancy tests project will make sure that condoms are also available all the same restrooms.
"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," Driscoll said.
The project will be conducted by the University of Alaska, under a two-year $400,000 grant. (The condoms are not part of the state grant.) According to the Anchorage Daily News, the researchers will examine if posters that warn women against drinking while pregnant work better when pasted on pregnancy test dispensers rather than simply hung on a wall. Alaska has the highest known rate of fetal alcohol syndrome in the U.S., with women of child-bearing age 20 percent more likely to binge drink here than the national average."
There will be as many as 5,000 pregnancy tests distributed during the 12-month project period.
In March, Kelly doubled down amidst the criticism over his birth control remarks, saying that contraception wouldn't be a solution for women who binge drink.
"If you have people who are binge drinking or chronic drinkers, we're hesitant to say 'use birth control as your protection against fetal alcohol syndrome,' because again, as I say, binge drinking is a problem," Kelly said. "If you think you can take birth control and then binge drink and hope not to produce a [child with fetal alcohol syndrome], you may be very wrong. Sometimes these things don't work. Sometimes people forget. Sometimes they administer birth control improperly, and you might produce a fetal alcohol syndrome baby."