- The Washington Times - Monday, May 11, 2015

An Alaska state-funded project is putting free pregnancy tests in bar bathrooms in an effort to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome.

“Remember the last time you had sex? Were you drinking? Alcohol use during pregnancy can cause lifelong problems for the child,” reads a poster affixed to a pregnancy test dispenser in the women’s bathroom at the Peanut Farm bar in Anchorage, NPR reported.

The Peanut Farm is one of several Alaska bars that have begun offering the free pregnancy tests as part of a two-year, state-funded pilot project conducted by the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Advocates say the $400,000 project could have huge benefits, given the millions of dollars the state spends on health care and social services for a person with fetal alcohol syndrome, NPR reported. State health officials estimate that more than 120 children born in Alaska each year suffer from fetal alcohol symptoms.

“A lot of women now understand that they shouldn’t drink [while pregnant],” said Deb Evensen, an Alaska-based educator who has worked in fetal alcohol syndrome prevention for more than 30 years, NPR reported. “But a lot of people are still drinking in early pregnancy and before they know they’re pregnant — and that can cause a lot of damage.”

David Driscoll, the study’s director who heads the University of Alaska Anchorage Institute for Circumpolar Health Studies, said the study will assess whether providing pregnancy test dispensers along with the warning posters in bar bathrooms is more effective than simply displaying the posters by themselves, NPR reported.

“We’re always looking for ways to try and improve our ability to provide information,” Mr. Driscoll said.

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