A lawmaker in Alaska recently hijacked a House resolution on sexual assault and child abuse, turning a pretty necessary piece of legislation into a platform for his anti-abortion views.
The goal of the resolution was to raise awareness about sexual violence within the state, much of which goes ignored and unpunished. State Rep. David Eastman's attached to it an amendment that classifies abortion as "the ultimate form of child abuse," the Associated Press reported.
The amended resolution passed the House Rules Committee on Monday, but whether or not it will travel to the House floor is currently unclear.
Nonetheless, Eastman felt that the conversation would have been incomplete without his opinion, telling the AP that "abortion is a very serious issue, and it needs to be talked about." Eastman explained that Medicaid patients exploit their abortion rights to "get a free trip" — the few abortion providers in the huge state of Alaska are located in cities, and about 90% of the state's counties were without clinics in 2014.
Under the Hyde Amendment, Medicaid funds only go toward abortion in the case of rape or incest, or when the mother's life is endangered — not situations women choose for themselves. Alaska is supposed to offer Medicaid support for medically necessary abortions, but government aid programs never cover elective abortions.
In addition to shrinking access to reproductive health care, Alaska's staggering geographic size and the prevalence of small, isolated communities and the lack of cohesive, targeted law enforcement contributes to another problem: It has the highest rape rate in the United States. A report released in November suggests that sexual assault victims tended to be young — about 35% were between the ages of 11 and 17, and about 15% were younger than 10 — and that, often, perpetrators were family members. In October 2016, the state received $1 million in federal funding to start processing its formidable rape kit backlog, but that's just one step toward addressing an enormous failing.
That's why some lawmakers took issue with Eastman's amendment. "He's made this an abortion fight now," state Rep. Les Gara, a Democrat, told the AP, explaining that he didn't appreciate the effort to turn a necessary conversation about combatting sexual violence into a discussion of "abortion politics."