Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, speaks on the House floor on Tuesday, Feb. 12. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire File)

Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, speaks on the House floor on Tuesday, Feb. 12. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire File)

‘Dangerous and outrageous’: Bill introduced in Alaska House would treat abortion the same as murder

Lawmaker says committee won’t hear bill next year

The heated debate about abortion bans going on in states throughout the country might be coming to the Alaska Legislature next year.

Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, filed legislation this week to make abortion illegal. The bill, House Bill 178, defines abortion as “murder of an unborn child.”

HB 178 will not be on the Legislature’s agenda until it reconvenes in January 2020. Though lawmakers are still meeting, they are in a special session called by the governor, and according to state statute, the Legislature can only address topics outlined by the governor during special session.

In his proclamation of a special session, Gov. Mike Dunleavy tasked the Legislature with dealing with finishing the state budget, finishing a crime bill and developing a plan for future education funding.

HB 178 was referred to the House Health and Social Services, Judicial and Finance committees. The Health and Social Services Committee could take it up when the Legislature resumes its regular session in January 2020.

Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, D-Anchorage, is the co-chair of the House Health and Social Services Committee, and told the Associated Press on Friday that she will not hear the bill. She told AP that she has “no interest in making it illegal for women to get an important health care procedure.”

Jessica Cler, the Alaska state director for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, said in a statement to the Empire that HB 178 is almost certainly unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade ruled that state regulation on abortion is unconstitutional.

This year, Legislatures in Alabama and Missouri have passed legislation banning abortions. Opponents believe these laws won’t stand up to constitutional challenges, but Cler still said this wave of anti-abortion moves in government is still deeply concerning.

“HB 178 is in line with a trend we are seeing across the country to criminalize abortion,” Cler said. “These bills are dangerous and outrageous. Alaskans have made clear their support for reproductive health care, including abortion. It took generations of struggle to secure the right to control our own bodies. We aren’t about to let a handful of lawmakers erase that progress and strip us of our most fundamental rights.”

This is not new territory for Eastman. He has been critical of coverage of abortion through Medicaid, and was censured by the House in 2017 when he said some Alaska women try to get pregnant to get a “free trip to the city” for abortions.

Eastman, who was in his first term at the time, later apologized for the comments. In her statement to the Empire on Friday, Cler called Eastman’s previous comments “inaccurate and reprehensible.”

He introduced House Bill 250 in 2017 that was known as the Life at Conception Act, which was very similar to the new legislation. That bill did not make it out of House committees.


• The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


Scenes from the Women’s March on Juneau in front of the Alaska State Capitol on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Scenes from the Women’s March on Juneau in front of the Alaska State Capitol on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

More in News

A parking sign awaits the new executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund at its Juneau headquarters, Three finalists will be interviewed for the job during a public meeting Monday by the fund’s board of trustees, who are expected to deliberate and announce the new director immediately afterward. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Interviews, selection of new Permanent Fund CEO set for Monday

Three finalists seeking to manage $73.7B fund to appear before trustees at public meeting in Juneau

Principal Sarge Truesdell looks at cracked siding outside of Soldotna High School on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. The siding is one of several projects in a bond package Kenai Peninsula voters will consider during the Oct. 4 municipal election. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Critical needs’: Split siding at SoHi

The damage has been given patchwork treatment over the years

Members of Kenai Central High School Esports gather around coach Shane Lopez before their League of Legends match Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Video gaming enters the arena

Kenai Central debuts esports team

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Soldotna man found dead in lake, troopers report

State Troopers were notified of a deceased person floating in Browns Lake

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID hospitalizations, cases down from last week

The state reported no new resident deaths from COVID-19 this week

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire
The Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. building in Juneau is scheduled to be the site where the board of trustees will select a new executive director on Monday, following the investigation into the firing of former CEO Angela Rodell last December being presented to state lawmakers on Wednesday.
Investigators: Permanent Fund CEO’s firing legal but departed from policy

Trustees acted legally, despite not following official policy, and governor didn’t influence decision

A fishing boat passes the Silversea cruise ship Silver Wind as the boat enters the Homer Harbor on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Finding refuge

Silver Wind is one of two cruise ships to visit since pandemic.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly candidates Dil Uhlin, left, and Jesse Bjorkman participate in a candidate forum at the Soldotna Public Library on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. Both candidates are running for the assembly’s Nikiski seat. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Nikiski assembly candidates talk borough issues at final municipal election forum

There are three candidates running for the assembly’s District 3 - Nikiski seat

Kenai Middle School Principal Vaughn Dosko gestures toward a cart used to provide school lunch services on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Critical needs’: Security concerns and lunch lines

Safety upgrades, more space sought at Kenai Middle

Most Read