The Alaska House voted 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.
During a floor speech before the vote, Rep. David Eastman of Wasilla asked for forgiveness from anyone he had hurt.
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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 with The Associated Press on May 2, 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.
Eastman made similar comments later to a public radio reporter.
House members in both parties demanded he apologize, and his comments were widely condemned.
On Tuesday, leaders of the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska called for 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 Wednesday, legislators expressed disgust with Eastman’s comments. Some said they had hoped to hear a sincere apology from Eastman but did not feel they had.
But there were concerns that the House might be setting precedent in formally rebuking someone for something they said.