If you live in Alaska, there’s something new coming to a bar near you: free pregnancy tests in the restrooms. Why? Because Alaska has the highest rate of fetal alcohol syndrome in the country, and state officials are trying to figure out how to address it. The tests are part of a new two-year initiative led by the University of Alaska, which is spending $400,000 to urge bar patrons to avoid drinking alcohol while they’re expecting. The pilot project involves installing wall-mounted pregnancy test dispensers and posters warning against the risks of drinking during pregnancy.
“This is really focused on the 50 percent of unexpected pregnancies, to find out they are pregnant as early as possible.” Compared to the national average, Alaskan women of reproductive age are about 20 percent more likely to binge drink. Alaska Native and American Indian infants are disproportionately affected by prenatal alcohol consumption. GOP colleagues have also actively worked to block low-income women’s access to birth control services, claiming that it’s not the government’s responsibility to fund contraception because it’s easy for everyone to afford it. The state has blocked Obamacare’s optional Medicaid expansion, which would extend preventative health care to additional impoverished women, and recently defeated an amendment to an anti-abortion measure that would have expanded publicly funded family planning services to thousands of Alaskans.