Alaska bars to begin having free pregnancy tests

Beginning in December, free pregnancy tests will be available at 20 bars and restaurants in Alaska. The goal, to lower the rate of birth defects.

According to the CDC Alaskan women of child bearing age are 20 percent more likely to binge drink than the national average.

Alaska also has the highest rate of fetal alcohol syndrome in the country a condition that causes brain damage and growth problems in children exposed to alcohol during pregnancy.

State Senator Pete Kelly first proposed the program.

The two year $400,000 program is being led by the University of Alaska, Anchorage.

“What we’re trying to do is evaluate the evidence and say is this an effective way of reaching people,” Dr. Janet Johnston from the University, said.

Alaska isn’t the first place to test the method.

In 2012, the Minnesota nonprofit, Healthy Brains for Children, started offering pregnancy tests for women in upscale bars. Since then it’s expanded to 20 locations in the US and Canada.

“A lot of anecdotal evidence that people are very thankful that the pregnancy tests are in the bars,” Johnston said.

So far no concrete results from that experiment, but the group is helping with the Alaska trial.