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Pregnancy test dispensers pop up in Alaska bars

As part of a state-funded study, free pregnancy tests will be available in select Alaska bars, so before you drink, you can find out if you’re pregnant.

The $400,000 study will evaluate if posters attached to pregnancy test dispensers in bars work better than posters that are merely placed on a wall. The posters read, “Remember the last time you had sex?” and “Take a pregnancy test before you drink tonight.” It’s also part of a larger campaign to reduce the occurrence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD).

The first Alaskan pregnancy test dispenser was installed in an Anchorage watering hole called the Peanut Farm Bar and Grill, and while it’s reported that the owner was initially hesitant, he eventually realized that there was no loser here — if even one woman finds out she’s pregnant and chooses to not drink, that alone can save $1.5 million to $2 million — the estimated cost of caring for an individual suffering from FASD over the span of a lifetime.

There are plans to install another 19 or so test dispensers across the state, and in addition to providing the tests free of charge, they are accompanied by a container of free condoms.

While Alaska is not the first state to install pregnancy test dispensers in bathrooms, it’s the first to look at the effects of campaign advertising. The researchers behind the study are also hoping to determine which poster position has the most impact. Women are going to be asked to visit a website or to call a toll-free number to take a survey about the posters, for which they will be gifted a $15 iTunes card. Researchers will also follow up with the same women six months later to see what knowledge of the program they retained.

Is this a good use of state funds? Sure. Even if they don’t determine any solid evidence that a poster on a test dispenser is better than a wall poster, distributing pregnancy tests, for free, in bar bathrooms may make a difference in one life, if not more. I don’t see this as government overstepping its bounds — nobody is forcing women to take pregnancy tests before they slam back a few. I see it more as offering a service that can have a major impact on a mother and her child.

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