Alaskan senator pushes for pregnancy tests in bars

Foetal alcohol syndrome affected 0.015 percent of births in Alaska last year

A US senator has announced controversial plans to put pregnancy test kiosks in bars across his home state. Pete Kelly claims the move is an effort to declare war on foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), but his opponents have decried it as a 'war against women'.

The Republican lawmaker says that all establishments selling alcohol will offer the free pregnancy tests, so that women can check to see if they are pregnant before they begin drinking.

He plans to spend millions on the FASD awareness blitz, but draws the line at contraception, which, he has said, is a form of "social engineering" used by “people who don’t necessarily want to act responsibly”.

“If you’re drinking, you’re out at the big birthday celebration and you’re kinda like ‘Gee, I wonder if I...”, well you just go into the bathroom and there should be a plastic, plexiglass bowl in there,” the Tea Party Republican said in a video interview this week.

Despite coming under national and international scrutiny, he stood by his proposals at an Alaska Senate session. “If you think you could take birth control and then binge drink and hope not to produce a foetal alcohol syndrome baby, you may be very wrong," he said.

“Sometimes these things don’t work. Sometimes people forget. Sometimes they administer birth control improperly, and you might produce a foetal alcohol syndrome baby.”

Alaska currently does not accept federal money from the government’s Medicaid expansion, which would fund contraception. Another Republican Senator, Fred Dyson, recently caused controversy when he said that "if people can afford lattes, they can afford birth control".

“Even the most [sexually] active folks don’t need to spend more than $2 or $3 a day for covering their activity,” Mr Dyson said earlier this month, during an abortion bill debate. “No one is prohibited from having birth control because of economic reasons."

Mr Kelly - co-chair of Alaska’s Senate Finance Committee - refers to himself as “unapologetically pro-life” and is in this same camp, opposing abortion as well as far-reaching access to contraception.

His pregnancy test plans have drawn several critics, including Kay Brown, executive director of the Alaska Democratic Party, who said: “Pete Kelly’s going all out with the War on Women, but from his defensive comments it looks like Alaska women may be winning.”

Shannyn Moore, radio host at 1480 Washington DC, also hit back at the Tea Party Republican’s comments about birth control irresponsibility, calling his logic “astounding”.

“Controlling your fertility is the most fiscally and morally responsible thing you can do as a woman,” Ms. Moore said in response to Senator Kelly’s claims.

She added: “I swear if men could get pregnant, you could buy a Plan B latte in Starbucks.”

A report by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that at least one per cent of children in the US have FASD or other alcohol-related birth defects. 

In 2012, a Minnesota bar, Pub 500, became the first in the world to sell pregnancy tests.

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