Alaskan State Representative David Eastman is facing extreme backlash after he questioned whether his state would benefit from victims of child abuse dying during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on adverse childhood experiences.
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), according to the CDC, can include experiencing or witnessing violence, abuse, neglect and other traumatic experiences.
Documents distributed to lawmakers during the hearing contained an estimate that, when a child dies because of abuse, it can cost their family and society at large $1.5 million because they aren't given the chance to grow up and join the workforce.
Eastman apparently took issue with this estimate.
He responded by commenting he had heard it argued children dying because of abuse actually economically benefit a society.
"It can be 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."
You can see an excerpt from the hearing here:
His colleagues reacted immediately with extreme disapproval.
Some like Democratic Representative Cliff Groh said they were "disturbed" by Eastman's comment.
Democratic Representative Andrew Gray later told his colleagues he and his husband adopted their child through the foster care system and their child had multiple ACEs before coming to live with the couple.
While Gray recognized it might not have been intended that way, but said Eastman's comment came across as though he was implying their child would have been better off dead.
"I would just say for me personally, my child is the greatest joy I’ve ever had—that there is no price tag on that."
House Judiciary Chair Republican Representative Sarah Vance thanked Gray for sharing his story, but neither she nor her GOP colleague Eastman apologized for the statement which led Gray to feel the need to share in the first place.
Eastman has since claimed he was trying to point out the ridiculousness of the argument and compare it to arguments for abortion rights, but his fellow lawmakers apparently didn't follow his thought process.
He further excused himself by blaming the organization presenting during the hearing—Alaska Children’s Trust.
"You have a group that’s come to the Legislature and argued that it’s in the best interest of society and the public and the state to prevent unwanted pregnancies … And now they come on Monday, and the same organization is arguing that, again, they want funding to prevent the very child abuse that they are empowered and focused on preventing."
"If we are to honor that request, then why is it that they are also asking for us to spend money to end the lives of the very children that they’re seeking to protect?"
Vance, who is opposed to abortion herself, later said she believed Eastman was trying to make an anti-abortion argument—claiming many people think of abortion as child abuse.
The Alaska State House later voted 35-1 to censure Eastman for his comments, with the only opposing vote coming from Eastman, marking the 3rd time he has been reprimanded for his behavior in the house.
Those reprimands even included a House subcommittee finding Eastman violated the state's Legislative Ethics Act.
Censure doesn't really carry any concrete consequences, though, and some Alaskans have spoken out saying the measure isn't enough.
Former Representative Colleen Sullivan-Leonard, also a Republican, reacted to the news the House had moved to censure Eastman by tweeting:
"Censuring does nothing to discipline Eastman, or any other elected official."
Given Eastman has been censured twice before and people continue to vote for him, it seems unlikely this latest incident will have much effect on his ability to hold office.