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Bar Bathrooms will Carry Free Pregnancy Tests in Alaska

Update Date: Jun 16, 2014 09:54 AM EDT

The state of Alaska has the highest known rate of fetal alcohol syndrome, according to the Anchorage Daily News. Women living within this state who are of childbearing age are 20 percent more likely to binge drink in comparison to the national average rate. In order to increase awareness about the dangers of drinking during pregnancy, a new program will install free pregnancy dispensing machines in the bathrooms of 20 bars and restaurants.

"This is not a strategy for the chronic alcoholic who is drinking regardless of whatever message they see," said Jody Allen Crowe, who founded a Minnesota organization that leads a similar program and is helping with the project according to TIME. "This is really focused on the 50 percent of unexpected pregnancies, to find out they are pregnant as early as possible."

The state-funded program, which is headed by the University of Alaska, is a two-year program that will cost $400,000. The researchers from the University will examine whether or not posters warning women against drinking during pregnancy are more effective when they are plastered on top of a pregnancy test dispenser or on the wall. The dispensers are one foot wide and two feet tall. Each one will cost $800. The dispensers will carry pregnancy tests that have been labeled with a prevention message. Each test will cost the government around $1.50.

Senator Pete Kelly - R headed the proposal to give out free pregnancy tests as a part of a multi-million dollar plan to prevent birth defects. Kelly, however, has stated that he would not support giving away free birth control alongside the tests. Regardless of Kelly's stance, the researchers have stated that they will include free condoms next to these dispensers. The condoms will not be paid for by the state's grant, the director for the University of Alaska Anchorage Institute of Circumpolar Health Studies David Driscoll assured.

"What I'm going to try and do is place these dispensers in facilities in which there are condom dispensers or they're OK with us making condoms available," Driscoll, who proposed the study, said.

The program will start installing dispensers in December.

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