GOP lawmaker: Women aren't responsible enough to take birth control because they "binge drink"

"If you have people who are binge drinking or chronic drinkers, we're hesitant to say 'use birth control'"

Published March 25, 2014 3:23PM (EDT)

Alaska state Sen. Pete Kelly     (YouTube)
Alaska state Sen. Pete Kelly (YouTube)

Last week, a Republican lawmaker from Alaska suggested putting free pregnancy tests in bar bathrooms so that people could make sure they weren't pregnant before consuming alcohol. He also said that making birth control widely available and financially accessible in a similar manner was "social engineering" and not a good idea because people -- who, again, he expects to urinate on sticks in advance of throwing back tequila shots -- just aren't responsible enough to take birth control.

On Monday, Alaska state Sen. Pete Kelly  doubled down, saying that birth control doesn't work because of "binge drinking." He still wants to put "kiosks and dispensers" with pregnancy tests in public restrooms at places that sell alcohol, and still doesn't think greater access to birth control is a good idea.

"If you have people who are binge drinking or chronic drinkers, we're hesitant to say 'use birth control as your protection against fetal alcohol syndrome,' because again, as I say, binge drinking is a problem," Kelly said. "If you think you can take birth control and then binge drink and hope not to produce a [child with fetal alcohol syndrome], you may be very wrong. Sometimes these things don't work. Sometimes people forget. Sometimes they administer birth control improperly, and you might produce a fetal alcohol syndrome baby.

"That would be irresponsible of us until we get better information on that to say maybe that would be a good idea," Kelly continued.

Birth control is very safe and incredibly effective, even if you take it when you are super drunk. If taking birth control reliably is a concern, there are IUDs that can last up to 12 years. (There are lots of reasons to moderate the amount of alcohol you consume, but the effectiveness of birth control is not one of them.)

And as I've said before, I think providing people with free pregnancy tests (even if they don't use them in disgusting, piss-covered bar bathrooms) is a fine idea. Those kits can be expensive, and buying them can be awkward. So let's go ahead and make them free and leave them around and let people determine their status as pregnant or not pregnant on their own time and without judgment about what to do next.

If Kelly genuinely wants to make sure that pregnant people in his home state have access to the care they need for healthy pregnancies that they want, then he should probably 1) get behind birth control so that people can determine if and when they get pregnant, 2) get behind expanded access to reproductive healthcare, including abortion care, 3) lobby for his state to accept the Medicaid expansion, which it rejected last year, though it would have made healthcare -- including alcohol treatment -- accessible for 40,000 additional Alaskans.

But do you know what Kelly will probably do instead? He will probably just keep talking about binge drinking and birth control.

By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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