Lawmaker Censured for 'Despicable' Child Abuse Remark

Alaska Rep. David Eastman suggested at hearing there may be a cost 'benefit' if child dies from abuse
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 23, 2023 2:46 PM CST
Lawmaker Censured for 'Despicable' Child Abuse Remark
Alaska state Rep. David Eastman speaks with reporters after the House voted to censure him on Wednesday in Juneau, Alaska.   (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

Very few people would try to find some sort of silver lining in cases where a child died from abuse. Rep. David Eastman is apparently one of those people, however, and he's now taking flak for his comments made earlier this week in that vein. Per the Anchorage Daily News, Alaska's House Judiciary Committee held a hearing Monday on the topic of how adverse experiences growing up—e.g., living in a home plagued by domestic violence, physical or sexual abuse, etc.—can affect children throughout their lives. One stat cited by Trevor Storrs, CEO of the Alaska Children's Trust: a cost of $1.5 million to a child's family and society overall when that child abuse is fatal.

In noting the economic repercussions of abuse, experts who spoke took into account lost future earnings and taxpayer-funded government assistance that victims and family members might tap into to help them deal with the resulting trauma, per the Washington Post. That latter fact is what Eastman latched onto as he questioned Storrs. "How would you 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 aren't needs for government services and whatnot over the whole course of that child's life?" the Republican state lawmaker said.

Stunned reaction to Eastman's comments was immediate. "Can you say that again? Did you say 'a benefit for society?'" an incredulous Storrs replied, per the ADN. Colleagues called Eastman's remarks "despicable" and "indefensible," among other descriptors, and on Wednesday, the Alaska House of Representatives voted 35-1 to censure him (Eastman was the lone "no" vote).

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The AP notes that Eastman, a far-right Republican who's a member of the Oath Keepers anti-government group, has "a history of incendiary remarks," including in 2017, when he received the House's first censure ever for comments he made suggesting women in Alaska got pregnant on purpose so they could get a "free trip to the city" for an abortion. Eastman defended himself against Monday's remarks in a text to the Post, claiming he'd just been playing devil's advocate at the hearing. "I asked them to respond to some of the arguments we hear regularly as pro-life legislators that there is an economic benefit to society when unwanted children are aborted," he wrote. (More censure stories.)

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