Alaskan state Representative David Eastman turned a resolution on sexual assault and child abuse into an abortion debate, saying that abortion is “the ultimate form of child abuse.”
According to KTVA in Alaska, Senate Concurrent Resolution 2 (SCR2) was introduced in February of this year and aimed to declare April 2017 as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The resolution is typically brought up each year and passes unanimously. Legislators present the resolution annually, rather than voting to make it a permanent law, to keep the issue fresh on everyone’s minds.
The Senate did their part by passing the resolution on March 6. But Eastman and his fellow Republicans on the rules committee have complicated the process by adding an amendment that links abortion to child abuse.
Politicizing a typically unobjectionable resolution drew a sharp rebuke from Democratic lawmakers. Rep. Les Gara said,
“I thought the amendment was an insult to women and an insult to children. If you cannot stand up and respect women and respect our need to battle child abuse without playing abortion politics, then really you don’t know how to work together.”
The chair of the Rules Committee, Rep. Barielle LeDoux, along with other Republicans approved the amendment. Though LeDoux said in a statement that the debate over the amendment interrupted the serious business of rectifying Alaska’s budget woes:
“As you know, we tried to move the resolution last week, but encountered some political games, which have added significant controversy to the measure.”
Understandably, the controversy surrounding SCR2 has drawn the ire of those who advocate on behalf of sexual assault victims. Carmen Lowry of the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault told KTVA:
“You know, we wish it hadn’t have happened that way,” said Lowry in an interview Tuesday. “But, we also want to say that we will continue to use platforms such as this now to say, ‘this is not the message we want to give to victims. We want to recognize that there’s a lot of need out there, that rights are being violated.’”
The sponsor of the resolution, Republican Senator Kevin Meyer also expressed his frustration over the way the House has handled the measure:
“I am surprised a simple resolution like this has become so complicated, and it’s such an important issue that I wish it hadn’t been politicized as it has.”
However, the controversy didn’t end with Eastman’s amendment. According to the AP, Eastman defended his amendment by trashing those who use Alaska’s Medicaid program, which covers abortions:
“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.”
Second trimester abortions are not provided in Alaska, but the state’s Medicaid program will pay for a woman to travel to Seattle for one.
In light of those comments, House Speaker Bryce Edgmon and other lawmakers are calling for Eastman to publicly apologize. Democratic Rep. Geran Tarr even went as far as to suggest a motion to censure Eastman, saying that his comments were, “deeply offensive, racist in nature and misogynistic.”
Eastman had indicated to media outlets that he would apologize. Instead, he released a statement calling the media a circus and saying, “I am unabashedly Pro-Life. Some believe that makes you anti-something. It doesn’t. It doesn’t matter whether babies are black, white, brown or any other skin color. Every single one of them has the right to live and breathe the same air that you and I do.”
Aside from abortion, Eastman has taken other controversial positions, according to the AP:
His was the lone no vote in the House on bills honoring Hmong and Lao veterans of the Vietnam War and the contribution of 4,000 black U.S. soldiers who endured harsh conditions while building the Alaska Highway during World War II. Eastman has said that one group should not be singled out because of race or heritage.