Rep. Eastman: Some women ‘glad’ to be pregnant for Medicaid-funded travel for abortions

Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, during a House floor session, March 1, 2017. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, spoke during a House floor session in March. He said this week that some women are “glad” to receive Medicaid-funded travel for abortions. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

State Rep. David Eastman said some Alaskans are glad to become pregnant, so that they can have a Medicaid-funded trip to Anchorage or Seattle to have an abortion. Eastman didn’t provide evidence for this, but said he had been told this by friends and acquaintances.

Eastman said Medicaid funding for travel for health care provides an incentive to become pregnant and have an abortion.

“We’ve created an incentive structure where people are now incented to carry their pregnancy longer than they would otherwise and then take part in that when they wouldn’t otherwise be doing it,” he said.

When asked for evidence, Eastman said he “certainly knows of specific instances,” and declined to provide details.

“I can think of a case that was brought to our attention earlier this session where you had a family who was very glad to hear that their abortion had gone beyond a certain point, because they were going to be heading to Seattle,” he said.

The first-term Republican from Wasilla made similar comments to the Associated Press. He said many of his constituents want to eliminate Medicaid funding for abortion.

“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 said.

Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands spokeswoman Katie Rogers said Eastman’s comments were “ludicrous and despicable.”

Planned Parenthood has sued the state over restrictions that prevent second-trimester abortions from being performed in Alaska.

“The process for a woman to get to Seattle to access reproductive health care – a full range of reproductive health care – is incredibly challenging,” she said.

Rogers said Eastman would never know the difficulty of traveling for an abortion.

“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,” she said.

Eastman also said some women who fly to Anchorage for abortions, but who change their minds, are unable to fly home because Medicaid won’t pay for it.

“Since they’re not going to complete the abortion at that point — they’ve decided not to — there really is no way for them to get home,” he said.

State Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Valerie Davidson was traveling and couldn’t comment Wednesday on the issue.

Eastman made his remarks after working to amend a resolution to proclaim next April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month. Eastman’s amendment inserted a statement that abortion is the “ultimate form of child abuse.”

It’s not clear whether the resolution, SCR2, will receive a vote in the House.

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