Pregnancy Tests In Bar Bathrooms To Roll Out In Alaska

Lauren Burgoon
Alaska's experiment has a noble goal of lowering fetal alcohol syndrome rates, but will it work?

It's a night out on the town, and you duck in the bar's bathroom to powder your nose, do a quick makeup check -- and take a pregnancy test? 

Alaska plans to roll out a new program stocking 20 bar bathrooms with pregnancy tests to combat the state's unacceptably high fetal alcohol syndrome rate, the highest in the U.S.

Fetal alcohol syndrome, or brain damage and growth problems caused by exposure to alcohol in utero, can strike as early as the first month of pregnancy. The tests are aimed at women who might not realize they're pregnant. 

It's a great PR stunt, for sure, and is certain to get Alaskans and Americans in general talking about fetal alcohol syndrome. But will the pregnancy tests actually protect any fetuses? It's a narrow range of women who could actually benefit.

A pregnant woman determined to drink likely already has an alcohol problem that a free test won't change. And women who suspect they're pregnant generally prefer to take a test in the privacy of their own bathroom, not hovering over a bar's toilet. 

Part of the problem is Republicans' continued muddled thinking on maternal and fetal health. Alaska State Sen. Pete Kelly, who sponsored the bill to put pregnancy tests in bathrooms, said he wants to prevented fetal damage when women don't realize they're pregnant. 

That's great, and noble. But Kelly also is against providing birth control to prevent these at-risk pregnancies in the first place. 

"Birth control is for people who don’t necessarily want to act responsibly," Kelly told the Anchorage Daily News.

"I’m not going to tell them what to do. Or help them do it. That’s their business. But if we have a pregnancy because someone just doesn’t know, that’s probably a way we can help."

He later went on to talk about the costs involved in treating children with fetal alcohol syndrome.

Got that, Alaskan women? If you want to be all irresponsible and have sex, that's on you. But if you give birth to child with any problems, Pete Kelly wants to make sure that baby isn't costing taxpayers.

Hypocrisy aside, Alaska has a very real problem on its hands. Besides having the highest fetal alcohol syndrome rates, women in Alaska are 20 percent more likely to binge drink than other American women. 

The state needs to act in some way, and if these tests in bars do help at-risk women think twice before downing alcohol, it'll be a win.