JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — An Alaska lawmaker with a history of incendiary remarks was censured by the state House Wednesday after he said it has been argued that cases of fatal child abuse can be a “cost savings” because the child won’t need related government services.
The House voted 35-1 to censure Republican Rep. David Eastman of Wasilla, with Eastman the lone dissent. Eastman was previously censured, in 2017, over comments he made suggesting there are women in Alaska who try to get pregnant to get a “free trip to the city” for abortions.
During a committee hearing Monday on adverse childhood experiences, Eastman asked the testifier how he would respond “to the argument that I have heard on occasion where in the case where child abuse is fatal, obviously it’s not good for the child, but it’s actually a benefit to society” because there is not a need for government services that child would otherwise be entitled to if they had lived.
The testifier, Trevor Storrs, president and CEO of the Alaska Children’s Trust, asked Eastman to repeat what he’d said. “Did you say, ‘a benefit for society?’”
“Talking dollars,” Eastman said, referencing a figure in a document provided to the committee that was related to costs associated with neglect and abuse. Eastman said it “gets argued periodically that it’s actually a cost savings because that child is not going to need any of those government services that they might otherwise be entitled to receive and need based on growing up in this type of environment.”
Storrs called the loss of a child unmeasurable.
Rep. Andrew Gray, an Anchorage Democrat who brought the censure motion Wednesday, said Eastman should be censured for “offensive, insulting and unsubstantiated statements that undermine the dignity of the House.” Gray said he also was speaking as a parent.
Eastman said Gray impugned his motives and character and labeled as outrageous and unacceptable any suggestion that he or members of his district “support child abuse when I’ve staked my entire political career arguing for the opposite.”
The House is controlled by a Republican-led majority. The predominantly Democratic minority also includes independents and a Republican. Eastman is not part of either caucus.
He has at times butted heads with Republicans, even being removed late last session from the then-Republican minority caucus and from two committees.
He last year easily won reelection in his district and withstood a challenge to his eligibility to serve in the Legislature over his ties to the far-right group Oath Keepers.