Reproductive Freedom

Alaska Funding Free Pregnancy Tests for Bar Bathrooms


Merton Wilton/Flickr

This week in woefully misguided ideas: A state-funded initiative in Alaska will provide free pregnancy tests in bar and restaurant bathrooms. Researchers from the University of Alaska are running the program, in an attempt to determine if posters warning pregnant women against drinking are more effective when paired with free pregnancy tests than simply adorning bathroom walls on their own.

Advocates say the two year, $400,000 pilot program is part of a "war on fetal alcohol syndrome." According to the Anchorage Daily Tribune, Alaska has high rates of both fetal alcohol syndrome and female binge drinking.

The study underlines new and growing interest from state governments in using pregnancy tests as a prevention tool for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, said Jody Allen Crowe, founder of a Minnesota non-profit that has installed test dispensers in bars, convenience stores and a youth center in that state.

But why should state governments be in the business of preventing fetal alcohol syndrome in the first place? Or issuing anti-drinking propaganda to adults at all? Why do politicians believe they must act in loco parentis for grown women at bars? 

Alaska Republican Sen. Pete Kelly, who introduced the program, described his rationale thusly: 

Literally, you can go into the bathroom at the bar and test. So if you're drinking, you're out at the big birthday celebration and you're like, 'Gee, I wonder if I …?' You should be able to go in the bathroom and there's that plastic, Plexiglas bowl in there and that's part of the public relations campaign too. Is you're going to have some kind of card on there with a message.

Crowe, who is assisting with the Alaska project, told the Tribune that she hopes taking pregnancy tests before drinking will one day become as common as using designated drivers. Ostensibly, she thinks taxpayers should pool the cost of this pregnancy testing, too. 

But if a woman has no reason to suspect she's pregnant, why take a test? And if a woman does have reason to suspect she's pregnant, why do lawmakers think she won't do so until nudged by the gentle hand of the state?