$3 Pregnancy Tests Now Available (but Only in Bars)

The pregnancy test dispenser (courtesy of Healthy Brains for Children)
The pregnancy test dispenser (courtesy of Healthy Brains for Children)

The average pregnancy test costs about 10 dollars. If you're trying for a child and checking regularly, you need a bigger budget and a thick skin when it comes to your local drug store clerk knowing the intimacies of your life.

So the idea of a $3 pregnancy test available in a public bathroom dispenser sounds like a breakthrough.

Last week the world's first pregnancy test dispenser was installed, not in a drug store, but in a Minnesota bar. Pub 500 in the town of Mankato, appropriated the device as part of campaign launched by non-profit organization Healthy Brains for Children.

The organization next plans hopes to add 100 more vending machines in restaurants and bars throughout the state, all stamped with the warning "think before you drink."

The goal is to reduce the number of cases of fetal alcohol syndrome, according to founder Jody Crowe, a former school principal. He hopes these machines will help women "test before drinking alcohol rather than waiting until a month or two into the pregnancy."

Researchers have sent mixed messages about the safety of drinking during pregnancy. Nobody disputes the fact that binge drinking can cause serious developmental defects, and some research suggests women should avoid even a single glass of wine throughout the nine months, while others suggest a glass once a week isn't harmful. But in the early stages of pregnancy, specifically in the first trimester, the fetus is at the greatest risk of developing fetal alcohol syndrome and other critical conditions.

Crowe hopes increased access to pregnancy tests, will "target those at high risk for unexpected pregnancies.'' It's a sympathetic that concept that would be especially useful to teenagers, too shy, broke or naïve to buy a test at a drug store. As of now they'd only be available in bars which isn't much help to those under 21, who are also at a higher risk for unplanned pregnancy and binge drinking.

But with time, Crowe hopes his organization will provide dispensers in gas stations, gyms and restaurants as well as bars.

Crowe's project is innovative, though there are unsettling aspects to his message. On the same website for the non-profit organization, Crowe's book linking fetal alcohal syndrome to school shootings is also promoted. It's a dramatic theory that rings lightly of a scare tactic, not unlike advertisement on the pregnancy dispenser.

"The advertisement on the dispenser reminds women to test each time they decide to have a drink of alcohol to ensure their child will be born with an alcohol-free fetal development," according to the Healthy Brains for Children site.

It's a good cause with problematic undertones. Could low-cost, credit-card swipe-able dispenser prey on our female insecurities and cost us more financially as a result? Will we end up taking pregnancy tests at bars just for the sake of it every out of mere anxiety? And what about men, shouldn't they have something in their bar bathroom that encourages responsible drinking as well, like $3 breathalyzer test?

Still it's hard to argue against cheap, alternate approaches to pregnancy tests. The big question is would you take one in bar?

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