Bangkok Post

Alaska lawmaker censured over abortion comments


JUNEAU: The Alaska House voted on Wednesday to censure a Republican member over comments he made suggesting there are women in Alaska who try to get pregnant to get a “free trip to the city” for abortions.

The House voted 25-14 to take the highly unusual step of censure after hours of debate, during which Rep David Eastman of Wasilla — who referred to himself as the “least politicall­y correct legislator in our state” — said he was sorry he made the comments.

“And certainly if I could go back and not say them, I would do so,” he said. He later asked for forgivenes­s from anyone he had hurt.

Mr Eastman, a first-term conservati­ve lawmaker who has developed a reputation for being outspoken in his beliefs, set off the firestorm last week in discussing his concerns about the use of state funds and Medicaid for abortions.

In an interview on May 2, Mr Eastman said there are not many places “where you have the kinds of incentives for abortion that we have in this state”.

“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,” he said.

Mr Eastman made similar comments later to a public radio reporter.

House members i n both parties demanded he apologise, and his comments were widely condemned.

On Tuesday, leaders of the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska called for Mr Eastman’s censure in a release that referred to his comments as “racially charged and misogynist­ic”.

Many Alaska Natives live in rural communitie­s, where health services are limited and travel often is needed to access care in larger communitie­s.

During floor debate on Wednesday, legislator­s expressed disgust with Mr Eastman’s comments. Some said they had hoped to hear a sincere apology from Mr Eastman but did not feel they had.

“I was looking for that sincere, unqualifie­d apology and it didn’t happen,” said Republican Rep Chuck Kopp of Anchorage. “It drifted into political messaging.”

During his comments, Mr Eastman said he believes we will not make progress as a state or be able to solve some of the state’s biggest problems “if we do not protect the right to talk about them, even imperfectl­y.”

The last time a lawmaker was censured by a branch of the Legislatur­e was in 1994. That case involved a senator. The research did not indicate any prior legislativ­e censures of a House member.

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