State-Funded Pregnancy Test Dispensers Debut In Anchorage

By Tegan Hanlon
Alaska Dispatch News, Anchorage.

Inside the women’s bathroom at the Peanut Farm Bar and Grill, a dispenser hangs on the wall with a sign that reads: “Remember the last time you had sex?” The text below: “Take a pregnancy test before you drink tonight.”

At the touch of a green button, a free pregnancy test drops to the bottom of the dispenser. Nearby are free condoms.

The Peanut Farm, on the Old Seward Highway, received the dispensers Tuesday as part of a two-year, $400,000 state-funded study pushed by Sen. Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks. The study aims to determine if posters warning women against drinking while pregnant work better when stuck on pregnancy test dispensers or simply framed on the wall, said David Driscoll, director of the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Institute of Circumpolar Health Studies, which is leading the study.

“If we could just focus on a single message, that message would be, ‘If you’re pregnant don’t drink, and if you’re drinking use birth control,'” he said.

The study is part of a broader state initiative to decrease the number of children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders or FASD, a leading cause of mental disability and a preventable affliction. It is caused when a mother abuses alcohol during pregnancy.

The pregnancy test study gained notoriety last year after Kelly, a social conservative, said in an interview that it wouldn’t include free contraceptives because “birth control is for people who don’t necessarily want to act responsibly.”

Driscoll said Tuesday that every bar or restaurant with a pregnancy test dispenser would also offer free condoms, which the state does not fund.

While the Peanut Farm has the first test dispenser in Alaska, Driscoll said he expects his team to install up to 19 more across the state in the coming weeks. They will also hang stand-alone signs displaying the same message in other businesses.

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