Republican state Rep. David Eastman of Alaska recently asserted that women choose to have abortions in order to get free trips to Seattle.
Eastman made his assertion during an interview with The Associated Press:
Abortion is a very serious issue, and it needs to be talked about. We have folks who try to get pregnant in this state so that they can get a free trip to the city, and we have folks who want to carry their baby past the point of being able to have an abortion in this state so that they can have a free trip to Seattle.
Eastman did not provide evidence of his extraordinary assertion, noted Alaska Public Media.
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Eastman told KTNA via email that he is protecting anonymity, including that of one woman whom Eastman said was pressured by the state to have an abortion after she changed her mind. If true, that would be unethical and illegal. Eastman also stated that he wanted Medicaid travel policies to be evaluated for abuse.
During an interview with KTVA, Eastman reportedly blamed the media for people being offended by his assertion that women have abortions for free travel:
First, the media is a circus -- literally a circus -- and that’s about the nicest thing I could say about some people in the media right now... I am very apologetic that anyone would think I was targeting them, or that I was thinking that somehow abortion is a good thing. I don’t think it’s a good thing. I think it hurts women, and certainly it hurts children.
Democratic state Rep. Geran Tarr said Eastman's comments were "deeply offensive, racist in nature and misogynistic," reports the AP.
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The news wire reports that many Alaskans live in rural communities with scarce health care services, so they often have to travel to larger communities.
According to Planned Parenthood, Alaskan laws that govern the legal medical procedure effectively make women travel out of state for a second-trimester abortion.
Liz Medicine Crow, president and CEO of the First Alaskans Institute, said that leadership of the House majority and minority caucuses "understand the incredible trauma that this type of commentary and hate speech can create. That's why they've taken the serious action that they've already taken and I'd just love to see what that follow-through will look like. I think many of us are watching."
Pamela Samash, president of Right to Life Interior Alaska, supported Eastman's anti-abortion advocacy, and wrote that she is offended by women "who use abortion as birth control."
Samash said: "The big question is the whole picture: What happened to mother-child bond?"
Tarr added that the Alaska House should consider censuring Eastman, but Tuckerman Babcock, chairman of the state Republican Party, said that a censure "smacks of thought police."
Babcock added that he hopes Eastman apologizes for his inexcusable comment: "I would hate to see him fail to do that because he's smart and very energetic and taking on a lot of good fights. It's his first term. Everybody makes mistakes but you need to own up to your mistakes."