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What others say: Focus should be on reducing FASD, not on political points

Posted: March 31, 2014 - 1:49pm

Enough with the “War on Women” talk already.

Recent remarks by Republican Sen. Pete Kelly of Fairbanks during an interview about his effort to combat Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders have been carried way out of proportion.

The focus should be on what Sen. Kelly is trying to accomplish — bringing to an end the damage caused to fetuses when their mothers drink alcohol during pregnancy. The effects of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders can’t be reversed. It’s devastating and carries a lifetime cost of more than $2 million per patient.

Much of what Sen. Kelly has proposed in his multi-layered effort is consistent with recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But that’s not what some people have been focusing on recently.

What’s gotten some knickers in a knot is something that Sen. Kelly said in an interview with an Anchorage reporter about his FASD program. One part of his program is to make free pregnancy tests, paid for with public funds, available at bars and restaurants. University researchers will study the effectiveness of the effort.

The reporter asked Sen. Kelly if he would support providing free birth control at bars. He said he would not.

“Birth control is for people who don’t necessarily want to act responsibly.”

That has a bunch of people behaving like these are the end times.

If the senator is talking about drinking alcohol while on birth control and relying on the effectiveness of that birth control to prevent a pregnancy, he may have a point — to some degree. That’s because birth control doesn’t always work. Among the items the CDC lists as putting a woman at risk of having what’s termed an “alcohol-exposed pregnancy” is this: Not using contraception in a way that effectively prevents pregnancy.

So he has a preference of hoping a woman would take a pregnancy test and, armed with the knowledge that she is pregnant, cease drinking.

What his political opponents saw was an opportunity to attack.

Kay Brown, the head of the Alaska Democratic Party, proclaimed that Sen. Kelly is “going all out with the War on Women .” She expressed serious displeasure that Alaska Republicans “have not apologized for or condemned” Sen. Kelly for his comments.

If only there were as much outrage in Alaska and nationally about the harm caused by drinking during a pregnancy.

It likely didn’t get the attention this time because it doesn’t whip supporters into a tizzy — and pull money from their wallets — like a good old-fashioned fear-fest. And that’s what Sen. Kelly’s Alaska opponents and national bloggers turned his comment into.

While the uproar is underserved, the senator should know that birth control is something to be used in preventing FASD. He did say, in an interview later with a Daily News-Miner reporter, that it could become a part of a campaign if research supports it. But why not now? Along with the free pregnancy tests?

Republican men have gained some deserved criticism nationally and in Alaska for some comments about women, sex and reproduction.

What we have in Sen. Kelly’s case is nothing of the sort. Instead, we have people making a lot of noise about something that really isn’t much of anything.

People should instead be focusing on reducing and, ideally, eliminating, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.

— Fairbanks Daily News-Miner,

March 30

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