• Mon, Jun 16 - 8:56 am ET

Alaska’s Newest Bar Pairing: Pregnancy Tests And Beer

Alaska Bar Restrooms to Get Pregnancy Test Dispensers Ever seen one of those threatening, “A pregnant woman never drinks alone,” signs in a bar bathroom stall to prevent Fetal Alcohol Syndrome? Alaska has just released the 2014 version of the advisories—by placing free pregnancy tests in 20 bar restrooms throughout the state, beginning in December.

Yep! Gone are the days you’ll have to trek to CVS and, tail-between-your-legs, embarrassingly buy a pregnancy test with a pack of gum (because you couldn’t bear to buy just the test).

Instead, just head to the bar with your girlfriends, order a gin and tonic and slip into the bathroom to pee on a stick. Pending the results, you can finish that drink when you get back to the table!

Okay, okay, it’s not that easy.

The University of Alaska is leading the state-funded, $400,000 program to combat Alaska’s rate of fetal alcohol syndrome, which according to the Anchorage Daily News, is the highest in the country. Women of childbearing age (which is apparently 18-44) living in Alaska are 20 percent more likely to binge drink in comparison to the national average.

(I, for one, don’t blame them. They live in ALASKA…where’s there’s not a lot of sunlight, and even less to do.)

The program is focused on helping women who don’t know if they are pregnant discover the truth, rather than a strategy for curing a chronic alcoholic who may be drinking during pregnancy, according to Jody Allen Crowe, the leader of a similar program in Minnesota.

The Minnesota initiative allows women to buy pregnancy tests for $3 from a dispenser that also warns about the dangers of drinking while pregnant. It reads: “A pregnant mother should not be drinking, and there are many cases where she may not even know she is pregnant.”

Alaska’s counterpart will be free, and Senator Pete Kelly hopes that one day, using pee-stick style tests dispensers before partying is one day as common as designated drivers.

Say whaaattt?!

I’m not sure I can fathom the idea of peeing on a stick before heading to happy hour—but that’s also because I’m not consistently wondering whether or not I’m pregnant (thank you, birth control!).

However, for those who may be uncertain about the state of their uterus, a neighborhood pub might just be informal enough to give a girl the guts to take a test. And while a bar bathroom probably isn’t the best place to find out you’re going to be a mommy, it’s better than, say, after the bar—once you’ve had a couple drinks.

The best scenario? Afterward, you can order your friends a round to celebrate…no matter what the outcome!

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  • Amber W

    I lived in Alaska for many years. THIS IS AWESOME. Alaska can be a rough place to be a woman… highest rates of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in the States, as well as domestic violence and certain STDs. It can also be the most wonderful, amazing place in the world to live, and I absolutely loved it. I support any additional help for women, even if the rest of us give it the side-eye. And MOST of Alaska is rural. Anchorage is the largest city and it’s something like 300,000 people. So if these tests are in bars in rural Alaska, where women may be shamed from buying pregnancy tests, or they fear their partner finding out because it’s such a small town (anyone who has ever lived in a small town can attest to the fact that you can’t go to a grocery store or gas station without running into at least 1 or 2 people you know personally).. then I give this an extra YAYYYYY! Anything to support those women. They need it.

    • Erin Kelly

      Thanks for your input, Amber! While the idea may seem a little weird to people outside of the state, I’m glad you think it’ll be a helpful initiative overall.

  • LC

    This is a fantastic idea. Born and raised and currently living in Alaska (and having been involved in several sex education programs) there is a serious problem with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and unfortunately it is really REALLY difficult to get birth control and pregnancy tests (there are literally 5 Planned Parenthoods in the ENTIRE state- only one in Anchorage which has over 200,000 people).
    There is also limited education and a lot of cultural and religious pressures- many, many doctors will not give birth control for religious beliefs (usually intensely christian or mormon) and that is in Anchorage, supposedly the most advanced and forgiving of Alaska’s cities. Personally I had to visit two different doctors and then wound up waiting over a month for a PP appointment to get birth control (and yes, because all of those doctors had a policy to not prescribe birth control without both parents consent and then PP was booked solid for a month). This was also in Anchorage in 2006, and yes I was over 18, so not old news.
    And this program wasn’t created for women who couldn’t “bear to buy the test.” Please don’t compare a woman with a CVS down the street to a woman in a rural area. In Alaska, if you’re a woman not in a large city you probably have almost zero access to pregnancy tests in your area- many smaller, family owned stores outside of Anchorage and Fairbanks flatly refuse to carry them, or condoms. My sex education group would bring condoms and pregnancy tests to smaller towns and try to distribute them and women refused to take them as it would label them sexually promiscuous and put them at danger for rape (that was the logic in some places). Having them in a bathroom is a strategy to keep it is private as possible, so a woman in a community of 100 doesn’t inform everyone there when she has bought a pregnancy test- and makes it affordable so she doesn’t spend over 40 dollars (mostly on shipping) to get one pregnancy test- which won’t get to her for 2-3 weeks and may not be needed by that time.

    I worked in a 2 bars (in Anchorage and in a smaller city, Valdez) for three years and had to educate many waitresses and patrons that while it is ok to have a drink (like wine) every once and a while when you are pregnant, you can not just not drink and add up points for yourself over a few weeks and then get trashed on whiskey once a month (a very common misconception, among many many others).
    But no, let’s make fun of this in an oddly lighthearted way, from a perspective of what seems to be zero knowledge of the issues in Alaska with women’s health, pregnancy and childcare- or knowledge about the state at all. And let’s make fun of the people who live there because it’s always dark? ( Who told you this? It’s dark maybe three months of the year for the majority of the time, but bright because of the snow and there is still a ton to do, and then in summer you can almost constant sunlight…)

    • LC

      Edit, birth control was for when I was 17, and HPV vaccine was for when I was over 18- and that was a doozy to get too! :)

  • Guest

    I wonder if this is just tactic to eventually charge and/or incarcerate women who give birth to infants with fetal alcohol syndrome…

  • Alaskan

    I, too, live in Alaska and while this kinda sounds like a good idea, I think spending that money on sex education and alcohol treatment programs would be a much better idea. Having a couple drinks one night before finding out one is pregnant will not cause FAS. Being a alcoholic while pregnant absolutely will, and not having access to good pre-natal care and treatment programs will. Allowing women easier access to reliable birth control to prevent unplanned pregnancy would also be more effective, IMO.