- Alaska House representative implies some women get abortions for travel benefit
- He has been censured and has issued an apology after a week of controversy
Rep. David Eastman, a Republican from Wasilla, told Alaska Public Media
that some women take advantage of Medicaid-funded travel for medically necessary abortions.
"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 told the outlet, which published the comments on May 3. Eastman also made a similar statement to The Associated Press.
The comments were in reference to a sexual assault and child abuse awareness bill
that Eastman successfully amended to include a line about abortion, calling it "the ultimate form of child abuse."
Furor over the comments was immediate. Angry women's rights advocates excoriated Eastman on social media and published his contact information, including his cell phone number. A regional Planned Parenthood representative also criticized his comments, telling the Alaska Dispatch News
that living in a remote state sometimes necessitates travel for "all kinds of care."
In Alaska, "village" can sometimes be a coded reference to indigenous people who live in rural areas. This led some House Democrats
to interpret Eastman's comments as racially charged.
On Wednesday, the House decided to formally censure Eastman, by a vote of 25-14.
"Rep. Eastman's repeated comments impugning the motives of women seeking health care in Alaska are offensive and false," Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, D-Anchorage, said in a House statement
Eastman is the first Alaska House representative
to be censured, but the motion is essentially a public admonition requiring no additional punishment.
Eastman was initially unapologetic about his comments and defended them
during local television and radio interviews
. However, after his censure, he issued an apology.
"I hope that there will be no further times where something like this should happen," he said during a House floor session on Wednesday. "I do ask for forgiveness from any and every person who has been hurt by what I said."
CNN has reached out to Eastman for comment.