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

Data from the state of Alaska show a steep increase in COVID-19 cases in January 2022. (Department of Health and Social Services)
Omicron drives COVID spike in Alaska as officials point to decreasing cases in eastern US

On Friday, the seven-day average number of daily cases skyrocketed to 2,234.6 per 100,000 people

Dana Zigmund/Juneau Empire
Dan Blanchard, CEO of UnCruise Adventures, stands in front of a ship on May 14, 2021.
Smooth sailing for the 2022 season?

Cautious optimism reigns, but operators say it’s too early to tell.

Former Alaska Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Bakalar speaks a news conference on Jan. 10, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska, after she sued the state. A federal judge on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022, ruled that Bakalar was wrongfully terminated by the then-new administration of Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy for violating her freedom of speech rights. (AP File Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)
Judge sides with attorney who alleged wrongful firing

Alaska judge says the firing violated free speech and associational rights under the U.S. and state constitutions.

Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel (left) swears in student representative Silas Thibodeau at the Kenai City Council meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai junior sworn in as council student rep

Thibodeau says he wants to focus on inclusivity and kindness during his term

Branden Bornemann, executive director of the Kenai Watershed Forum, celebrates the 25th anniversary of the forum on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
‘A voice for this river’

Forum reflects on 25 years protecting peninsula watershed

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska Earthquake Center provides information on a 5.1 magnitude earthquake that struck at approximately 8:18 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. The quake struck approximately 17 miles southeast of Redoubt volcano or 41 miles southwest of Kenai, Alaska, at a depth of 72.8 miles. (Screenshot)
Quake near Redoubt shakes peninsula

The quake was centered 41 miles southwest of Kenai.

Most Read