Lawmaker’s lack of compassion a cause for concern

  • By Peninsula Clarion Editorial
  • Thursday, May 18, 2017 9:46pm
  • Opinion

Rep. David Eastman, a Republican from Wasilla, this week introduced a measure that would legally define abortion as murder.

In addition to criminalizing abortion, the measure, titled the Alaska Life at Conception Act, would forbid a woman from traveling outside of Alaska to obtain an abortion, remove the right to privacy for a woman seeking an abortion, and limit challenges to the measure should it become law, according to reporting from the Juneau Empire. The bill faces significant legal obstacles and, with little support in House, appears to be more a political statement than an attempt to pass meaningful legislation.

Rep. Eastman’s bill comes less than two weeks after his censure by the House of Representatives for remarks he made suggesting that women in rural communities would deliberately become pregnant for the “free trip” to Anchorage or Seattle to receive an abortion.

Rep. Eastman certainly isn’t the only lawmaker in Juneau to be staunchly opposed to abortion. Indeed, many people across Alaska would prefer to see the practice further restricted.

But our concern with Rep. Eastman’s words and actions has more to do with his apparent lack of compassion, understanding or empathy for the people he was elected to govern. Following his censure, Rep. Eastman apologized for his remarks, and said he would like to meet with people who were hurt by them.

Quite frankly, those are the conversations he should have had before drafting any legislation or proposing amendments on the topic — and certainly before making assumptions about the reasons for which a woman would seek an abortion.

Had Rep. Eastman had those conversations, perhaps he would have suggested any number of proactive steps the Legislature could take to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies, such as allocating resources for more comprehensive education and more extensive public health services, including women’s health services. In some ways, Rep. Eastman misses his own point that women must travel to Anchorage or Seattle for medical procedures due to a lack of access in many places around the state.

What’s more, should abortion access be further restricted, state agencies need to be prepared for the additional demand for services — legislation for which never seems to accompany bills calling for more restrictions.

Rep. Eastman seems more interested in sparking outrage than in providing leadership. With the start of the special session — and its more focused agenda — controversial social issues are off the table for now. We hope that in the future, Rep. Eastman will do more to understand the challenges faced by people around Alaska — and to consider whether the legislation he proposes provides a solution or simply adds another burden to overcome.

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