The Alaska House of Representatives officially censured one lawmaker after he suggested that some women get abortions because it allows them to travel for free.
Republican State Rep. David Eastman made the controversial remarks during an interview with KAKM, in which he stated his belief that Medicaid funding for health care-related travel encourages women to get abortions.
"We've created an incentive structure where people are now incented to carry their pregnancy longer than they would otherwise and then take part in that when they wouldn't otherwise be doing it," he said.
"You have individuals who are in villages and are glad to be pregnant, so that they can have an abortion because there’s a free trip to Anchorage involved," he added.
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When asked for evidence to support his statements, the Republican legislator said he "certainly knows of specific instances."
"I can think of a case that was brought to our attention earlier this session where you had a family who was very glad to hear that their abortion had gone beyond a certain point, because they were going to be heading to Seattle," he told KAKM.
Eastman's comments came after he successfully attached an anti-abortion statement to a House resolution aimed at raising awareness of sexual assault and child abuse. His amendment describes abortion as "the ultimate form of child abuse."
Eastman faced immediate backlash for his remarks, with women's rights activists taking him to task on social media and even publishing his cell phone number, according to CNN.
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Katie Rogers, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands, said Eastman's comments were "ludicrous and despicable."
"The process for a woman to get to Seattle to access reproductive health care -- a full range of reproductive health care -- is incredibly challenging," she said. "To even suggest that women are benefiting off the very restrictions that the state has put in place as relates to second-trimester abortions is … a new low, even for Rep. Eastman."
Planned Parenthood has sued the state of Alaska in the past over such restrictions.
On May 10, the House voted on whether to formally censure Eastman for his comments, resulting in a 25-14 count in favor, making Eastman the first Alaska House representative to be censured.
"Rep. Eastman's repeated comments impugning the motives of women seeking health care in Alaska are offensive and false," Democratic State Rep. Ivy Spohnholz of Anchorage said in a statement, according to CNN.
While Eastman had on several occasions previously defended his comments, he issued an apology on May 10 during a House floor session.
"I hope that there will be no further times where something like this should happen," he said. "I do ask for forgiveness from any and every person who has been hurt by what I said."