Take Pregnancy Test Before You Drink at a Bar

Alaskan Senator Pete Kelly is on a war to eradicate on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD) in Alaska by providing free state funded pregnancy tests in bars and restaurants. Despite the disagreement among doctors of the amount of alcohol consumption that is associated with FASD, Senator Kelly proposes that women should take pregnancy tests before drinking at a bar or restaurant. In addition to spending millions on a media campaign using communications such as Youtube, social networks, television and radio, and free pregnancy tests should be distributed in Alaskan bars and restaurants to fight the war against FASM. When questioned by a Anchorage Daily News report about the pregnancy tests aspect of his proposed strategy, this is what the senator had to say:

They can test to see if they’re pregnant. Under the assumption that if you know you’re pregnant, you won’t drink. That is true for much of the population.

According to this logic, all sexually active women of reproductive age should take pregnancy test before any consumption of alcohol. Is that practical and necessary? If the concern is to protect a possible zygote or embryo, wouldn’t that mean that women should take pregnancy tests before any dangerous activity, such as horseback riding, boxing, bicycling, roller-coasters, surfing, hiking, high altitude mountain climbing? Senator Kelly’s assumption women who learn that they are pregnant will abstain from drinking alcohol. However, most women do not suspect or learned that they are pregnant until 4-6 weeks into their pregnancy. Even if a woman decides to abstain from alcohol after learning of her pregnancy, she may have consumed alcohol during the first 4-6 weeks.

It also appears that the Senator believes he is creating a convenience for women by affording them the opportunity to take a free pregnancy test when surrounded by the temptation of alcohol at bars or restaurants. Again, once she learns that she is pregnant then she will make the “responsible decision” to not drink alcohol:

You grab one. 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. You’re going to have some kind of card on there with a message.

When asked about putting the same effort in birth control (i.e. free birth control in bars and restaurants) he answers:

No. Because the thinking is a little opposite. 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. 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

Apparently using birth control to prevent unwanted pregnancies irresponsible. Yet, no method of intervention, aside from awareness, has been established to prevent drinking. When the reporter attempts to reason that birth control is a responsible act, Kelly responds accordingly:

Maybe, maybe not. That’s about a level of social engineering that we don’t want to get into. All we want to do is make sure people are informed. They’ll make the right decision.

It is clear from that statement that the Republican senator is uncomfortable with the topic of contraception. Yet he is comfortable with distributing pregnancy tests in bars and restaurants. In the end we have to ask Senator Kelly how pregnancy tests will eradicate FASD? What about women who binge drink or suffer from alcoholism?

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. If you think you could take birth control and then binge drink and hope not to produce a fetal affect baby or a fetal alcohol syndrome baby, that 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. That would be irresponsible of us until we get better information on that to say, ‘Well, maybe that is a good idea.’

Not surprisingly, the senator has received major backlash.


2 thoughts on “Take Pregnancy Test Before You Drink at a Bar

  1. I saw this story the other week as well and it definitely left me scratching my head. I don’t think women not knowing they’re pregnant is the issue at all. In fact, for a woman to even TAKE a pregnancy test at a bar, she would probably have to already suspect she was already pregnant. If she didn’t think she was pregnant, she probably wouldn’t bother taking the test, right? It seems to me that the two big underlying problems that are causing high rates of FASD are (1) inadequate access to contraceptives or inconsistent use of contraceptives, and (2) high rates of alcoholism and binge drinking among Alaskan women. It would probably be a far better use of state resources to invest in expanding free or low-cost family planning services and/or substance abuse programs.

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