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Who uses birth control? Irresponsible people, says state senator

Alaska state Sen. Pete Kelly says birth control is for women "who don't want to act responsibly."
Alaska State Sen. Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, speaks on the floor of the Alaska Senate on Feb. 7, 2014, in Juneau, Alaska.
Alaska State Sen. Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, speaks on the floor of the Alaska Senate on Feb. 7, 2014, in Juneau, Alaska.

While discussing women's reproductive health and the government's role in adminstering health care, a Republican state senator said he believes birth control is used by people "who don't necessarily want to act responsibly."

State Sen. Pete Kelly is pushing for a state-wide effort to combat and prevent fetal alcohol syndrome in Alaska by placing state-funded pregnancy tests in bars, restaurants and private businesses. But when asked if he would offer the same resources for birth control, Kelly said he does not believe in increasing access to contraception because "the thinking is a little opposite."

"Birth control is for people who don’t necessary want to act responsibly," the lawmaker said in an interview with Anchorage Daily News. "I’m not going to tell them what to do or help them do it. That’s their business."

When asked by the reporter if the act of using birth control itself was a responsible act, he disagreed with the notion.

"Maybe, maybe not," Kelly replied. "That’s a level of social engineering we don’t want to get into."

Kelly, who is also the co-chair of Alaska's Senate Finance Committee, says he plans on pushing an outreach campaign promoting awareness on fetal alcohol spectrum disorders and that by providing pregnancy tests in bars and restaurants, women can take the test before taking a sip of alcohol. 

"So if you're drinking, if you're out at the big birthday celebration and you're kind of like, 'Gee, I wonder if I…?' You can just go in the bathroom and there should be a plastic, plexi-glass bowl in there, and that's part of the public relations campaign, too. You're going to have some kind of card on there with a message," said the state senator.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a 2012 survey which showed that one in 13 pregnant women reported consuming alcohol, and nearly half of total pregnancies in the United States are unplanned.

"If we have a pregnancy test, because someone just doesn't know," the senator continued, "that's probably a way we can help them."

In 2012, a Minnesota bar became the first bar in the world to sell pregnancy tests. Pub 500 in Mankato, Minn., installed a vending machine that dispensed pregancy tests for $3.

"We thought it was a strange idea at first but very quickly came to the realization that this could be beneficial," pub owner Tom Frederick told The New York Times. "It’s all about protecting a child."

Alaska has not opted to accept money through the government's Medicaid expansion, which would pay for birth control. Earlier this month, Kelly's colleague, Republican Sen. Fred Dyson, said during a debate on the state senate floor regarding an abortion bill that the government should not pay for family planning services for low-income women since birth control is affordable.

"Even the most [sexually] active folks don't need to spend more than $2 or $3 a day for covering their activity," Dyson said.

"No one is prohibited from having birth control because of economic reasons," he said, arguing that women can buy condoms for the cost of a can of pop and get the pill for the price of four to five lattes each month."