Wasilla Republican asks Alaska Legislature to criminalize abortion

Rep. David Eastman would define abortion as murder

State Rep. David Eastman, a Republican freshman from Wasilla, is seen during the introduction of the newly-elected house speaker at the Alaska Legislature in Juneau on Jan. 17, 2017. (Mark Thiessen | The Associated Press File)

Wasilla Republican David Eastman has proposed a measure making abortion illegal in the state of Alaska.

 

On Monday, Eastman introduced House Bill 250, which ─ if signed into law ─ would define abortion as murder.

HB 250 redefines an unborn child as a “preborn” child and states that “a person commits the crime of murder of a preborn child if the person … knowingly removes, or causes or permits the removal of, a preborn child from the state for the purpose of killing the preborn child.”

“Taking the life of a child waiting to be born incurs the same penalties as taking the life of any other person,” Eastman wrote in a sponsor statement emailed to the Empire.

HB 250, in addition to criminalizing abortion, legally forbids a woman from traveling outside the state to obtain an abortion, removes the right to privacy for women seeking an abortion, and limits legal challenges to the measure, should it become law.

“The State of Alaska has a duty to protect the life of every Alaskan, and the Alaska Life at Conception Act of 2017 provides the means for the state to fulfill this duty,” Eastman wrote the sponsor statement.

Barring extraordinary unforseen circumstances, Eastman’s bill will not become law. In addition to its legal obstacles ─ the U.S. Supreme Court has long upheld a woman’s right to abortion ─ HB 250 appears to lack any significant support within the Alaska House.

Ordinary House bills are typically referred to two House committees for vetting and analysis. Proposed constitutional amendments are typically referred to three committees, because of their greater impact.

Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, referred HB 250 to four committees.

The first of those committees, the House Health and Social Services Committee, is headed by Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, D-Anchorage. Spohnholz is the lawmaker who introduced a resolution of censure against Eastman last week.

“I can safely say that we will not be rolling back a woman’s right to make her own choices, during my tenure as HSS chair,” Spohnholz said in a text message to the Empire.

Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, the bill’s third committee of referral.

Speaking on Tuesday, he said clauses in HB 250 that limit court review of abortion are “just plain wrong.”

He quoted a portion of the 1803 U.S. Supreme Court decision Marbury v. Madison, written by chief justice John Marshall, who said, “It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.”

Katie Rogers, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and Hawaiian Islands, said by email, “We do not have a comment at this time and would not dignify this proposed legislation with a comment.”

Eastman, elected in fall 2016, became the first Representative censured in Alaska state history after he told reporters that he believes some rural Alaska women become pregnant and deliberately delay their abortions because performing an abortion later requires a trip to Anchorage or Seattle.

“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 told Alaska Public Media and KTOO-FM reporter Andrew Kitchenman.

Eastman previously supported an amendment calling abortion “the ultimate form of child abuse.”


Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 419-7732.


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