Rep. Eastman stands by controversial abortion statements, attacks media

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

Last week, Representative David Eastman made national news by claiming that there are women in Alaska villages who are “glad” to become pregnant in order to travel to Seattle or Anchorage for an abortion – paid for by Medicaid. Eastman is now blaming the press for the furor over the comments.

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After Mat-Su Valley Republican David Eastman made comments alleging the abuse of Medicaid-funded travel for abortions last week, he received significant criticism, including from his own caucus. Many saw Eastman’s singling out of women “in villages” as targeting Alaska Native women. Legislators on both sides of the aisle are now calling for Eastman to apologize.

Over the weekend, it appeared Representative Eastman might do just that. On Saturday evening, Eastman appeared live on KTVA television.

Here’s how Representative Eastman began the interview with anchor Bonney Bowman:

“First, the media is a circus–literally a circus—and that’s about the nicest thing I could say about some people in the media right now.”

Eastman spent the majority of the twelve-minute interview reiterating his position and blaming the media for the anger many people are directing at his comments.

While the word “apologetic” did come up in the KTVA interview, Representative Eastman did not directly apologize for what he has said.

“I am very apologetic that anyone would think I was targeting them, or that I was thinking that somehow abortion is a good thing,” Eastman said. “I don’t think it’s a good thing. I think it hurts women, and certainly it hurts children.”

Legislators representing rural Alaskans have been sharply critical of Eastman’s comments. Last Friday, four Representatives, including Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, sent Eastman a letter demanding an apology, and Anchorage Democrat Geran Tarr called for Eastman to be censured.

Representative Eastman has not provided verifiable evidence to back up his controversial claims. In a statement by email on Monday, he said that he is protecting anonymity, including of one case in which he said the State of Alaska pressured a woman to go through with an abortion after she changed her mind. In the same statement, Eastman said Medicaid travel policies should be evaluated, and he has called on the state to look into their abuse.

Senator Donny Olson, a Democrat from Golovin, said he is pro-life, but told his fellow Senators on Monday that Representative Eastman’s comments went “beyond the pale.” Olson is a medical doctor with more than thirty years of experience in rural Alaska. He said Eastman’s claims, in his experience, are simply not true.

“They do not go out there and get pregnant so they can get a trip to Anchorage to terminate the pregnancym” Olson said. “Quite the contrary, people in my area, especially amongst the Alaska Native culture in rural areas, have an integrity and morality that enshrines throughout and adores babies.”

House Minority Leader Charisse Millett was unavailable for an interview on Monday. The minority caucus issued a press release on Friday distancing itself from Eastman’s comments, and calling on him to apologize.

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