Bars are putting pregnancy tests in bathrooms

I think we can all agree that drinking while pregnant is not a good thing. You probably know this, but if someone drinks while pregnant with the intention of giving birth, the baby-to-be is at risk of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), which can cause developmental and physical disabilities. Now, as a woman, how would you like to be reminded of that every time you hit the bar? Thanks to a new state-funded project from the University of Alaska, you might be.

In the women’s bathroom at Anchorage’s Peanut Farm bar, there’s a poster on the wall asking the kind of questions I’d imagine a preachy pharmacist withholding Plan B asking:

“Remember the last time you had sex? Were you drinking? Alcohol use during pregnancy can cause lifelong problems for the child.”

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There’s also an accompanying drawing of a pregnant woman (fetus depicted) swigging booze. Underneath the poster? Free pregnancy tests. Basically, it’s exactly what I want to think about when I’m dipping into the bathroom between pints.

Bars are putting pregnancy tests in bathrooms
Courtesy of NPR

I’ll preface this by saying that according to NPR, Alaska “has a high rate of women who binge drink” and that more than 120 children in Alaska are born with FAS annually. That’s tragic, and I can’t pretend that I have a solution to it. Alcohol is not juice, and I’m all for us being aware of that, but this poster is going about the problem in the wrong way.

While I have no problem with a bar giving out free pregnancy tests – though people should feel free to take those tests in the privacy of their own home, not the bar bathroom – it’s the poster that really bothers me. Besides the tone of the poster being massively condescending and intrusive (I read it like, “when did YOU last have SEX, you irresponsible ladyperson?!”), it’s also a major buzzkill. Maybe it belongs in a doctor’s office, but certainly not at a bar, the place I’m going to in order have a good time.

Moreover, one of the reasons for the poster is to make women who don’t realize they’re pregnant halt before drinking. That’s a fair point and a just cause. But instead of guilting women into pregnancy tests, why don’t we concentrate on educating people about various birth control methods and, you know, make them affordable and attainable?

And also, I want to know if this tactic – basically, a scare tactic – works. Let’s say the poster does actually prompt women to take the pregnancy tests. Pointing out the potentially harmful effects of drinking while pregnant through measured, thoughtful conversation is a good thing. Birth control education is a good thing. But you know what’s probably not a good thing? Finding out you’re pregnant in a bar bathroom. That sounds like an intensely stressful situation. Do you think the aftermath would often result in women saying, “gee, better get home and take some prenatal vitamins!”

Probably not.

Anyway, godspeed to the ladies wishing to patronize this patronizing bar.