A congressman who has referred to himself as the “least politically correct legislator” in Alaska has been rebuked by the state’s Democratic-controlled House after he claimed that some women in Alaska intentionally try to get pregnant “so that they can get a free trip to the city” for an abortion.
Alaska Rep. David Eastman was censured over his comments in a 25-14 vote on Wednesday, The Washington Post reported. The rare step came after hours of debate, with the majority of House Republicans voting against the rebuke.
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Eastman’s troubles started last week when he labeled abortion “the ultimate form of child abuse” while discussing an amendment intended to raise awareness about child abuse and sexual assault.
Later, in an interview with the Associated Press, Eastman said: “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 doubled down on his comments in a subsequent interview with Alaska Public Media, saying: “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.”
Eastman faced backlash not only from some House lawmakers, but also from local groups including Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands, and the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska.
Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Katie Rogers described Eastman’s remarks as “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,” Rogers said, according to Alaska Public Media. “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 — it is a new low, even for Rep. Eastman.”
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Some critics, including Alaska Democratic Rep. Geran Tarr, viewed Eastman’s remarks as racist because they seemed to single out rural, Alaska Native women.
She called Eastman’s comments “deeply offensive, racist in nature and misogynistic.”
After initially blaming the media for the firestorm, Eastman ultimately apologized for his comments in a 20-minute speech on the House floor on Wednesday. “Certainly if I could go back and not say them, I would do so,” he said.
But he also argued that “we will not solve the true, real problems of our state by finding people to silence.”