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.


More in News

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Aurora forecast for the week of April 8

These forecasts are courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Friday, April 12, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Thursday, April 11, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

The sky and mountains are reflected in the water on April 5, 2012, at the Kootznoowoo Wilderness in the Tongass National Forest’s Admiralty Island National Monument. Conservation organizations bought some private land and transferred it to the U.S. Forest Service, resulting in an incremental expansion of the Kootznoowoo Wilderness and protection of habitat important to salmon and wildlife. (Photo by Don MacDougall/U.S. Forest Service)
Conservation groups’ purchase preserves additional land in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest

A designated wilderness area in Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, the largest… Continue reading

A welcome sign is shown Sept. 22, 2021, in Tok. President Joe Biden won Alaska’s nominating contest on Saturday. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Biden wins more delegates in Alaska and Wyoming as he heads toward Democratic nomination

President Joe Biden nudged further ahead in the Democratic nomination for reelection… Continue reading

Juneau Assembly members and other visitors examine a meeting room formerly used by the nine-member Alaska State Board of Education and Early Development on Monday, April 8, which is about 25% larger than the Assembly Chambers at City Hall. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Of three possible new City Hall buildings, one stands out — but plenty of proposed uses for other two

Michael J. Burns Building eyed as city HQ; childcare, animal shelter among options at school sites.

Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, speaks to members of the Senate majority caucus’ leadership group on Friday. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Schools, university and projects across Alaska are set to receive money from new budget bill

Alaska Senate sends draft capital budget to House as work continues on a state spending plan

The Boney Courthouse in downtown Anchorage, across the street from the larger Nesbett Courthouse, holds the Alaska Supreme Court chambers. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska judge strikes down state’s cash payments to families using correspondence school programs

Decision will become a ‘hot-button legislative item’ in final weeks of session, lawmakers say.

A statue of William Henry Seward stands outside the Dimond Courthouse in downtown Juneau. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Juneau man convicted of sexual abuse of 15-year-old girl more than four years after incidents occur

JPD: Randy James Willard, 39, sent explicit videos to and engaged in sexual contact with victim.

Most Read