Coming to a Bar Near You: Pregnancy Test Vending MachinesS

A bar in Mankato, Minn. called Pub 500 has installed a pregnancy test dispenser in the women's bathroom, and, a little surprisingly, only a few feathers have been ruffled so far. Most patrons that the New York Times' Motherlode blog spoke to think that, in the words of one local, installing pregnancy test vending machines in bars puts "awareness at the point of consumption," which is exactly the reason why Jody Allen Crowe, founder of the nonprofit Healthy Brains for Children, went through all the trouble in the first place.

Though some recent studies have questioned how dangerous it is for pregnant women to consume alcohol, a CDC report released in July shows that about one in 13 women take to their cups while pregnant. Since Healthy Brains for Children aims to reduce the occurrence of fetal alcohol syndrome, Crowe figured that there's no better place to start spreading awareness than in a bar restroom, where patrons can take brief, soul-searching glances into the smudged mirror and wrestle with all of their life choices.

Crowe also hopes that having such pregnancy test dispensers — which look a lot like a condom dispensers — will help reduce the stigma of discussing prenatal alcohol consumption. Says Crowe,

It's an epidemic. The amount of prenatal exposure to alcohol is really not something people talk about because it's such a guilt-ridden type of discussion.

Tests from the dispenser cost a mere $3 (plastic only, please!), significantly less than the amount your average drug store charges. With a dispenser, too, there's no silently sanctimonious cashier to scrutinize nervous women with a "should you be buying that Barefoot Merlot with that pregnancy test?" look. (Partly thanks to actually judgy or supposedly judgy cashiers, pregnancy tests are among the most shoplifted retail products.)

Though Pub 500 isn't exactly a throbbing hotspot of booze, sweat and body glitter, it serves as a pretty good testing ground for the dispensers. Just around the corner from Minnesota State University, the bar, according to Crowe, caters mostly to professional women with disposable incomes, the same group, coincidentally, with the highest risk of drinking during pregnancy. So far, the dispenser has unloaded just a few tests, but Crowe hopes to eventually install dispensers in all sorts of public places, from gas stations to fitness centers, because finding out you're pregnant isn't any fun unless you're peeing on a strip of plastic while the techno throb of a decibel-greedy spin class shakes the bathroom stall around you.

Would You Take a Pregnancy Test in a Bar? [NY Times]

Image via Olga Drabovich/Shutterstock.