An elected Alaska Republican — and member of the Oath Keepers — was censured after asking facetiously if dead children are 'actually a benefit to society'

white guy in suit in front of legislative hearing room
Alaska state Rep. David Eastman speaks with reporters after the House voted to censure him on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023, in Juneau, Alaska. The censure followed comments the Wasilla Republican made during a committee hearing Monday on child abuse and trauma.AP Photo/Becky Bohrer
  • An Alaska Republican has been censured by his colleagues for asking if fatal child abuse benefits society.

  • At a hearing this week, Rep. David Eastman asked a witness if dead children save taxpayer money.

  • Eastman has said he was mocking pro-choice advocates.

It was an argument, Alaska Republican state Rep. David Eastman said Monday, that he claimed to have heard "on occasion": that when a child is killed by an abuser, "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 left."

Eastman's comments, which appear to have been made in a hamfisted effort to criticize the legal right to abortion, left the room aghast, coming as they did during a hearing on child abuse.

Eastman did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment. But in a text message to The Washington Post, he said his comments this week were intended to mock pro-choice advocates, writing that "we hear regularly as pro-life legislators that there is an economic benefit to society when unwanted children are aborted."

The hearing was a presentation by the Alaska Children's Trust on preventing adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, (such as abuse, neglect, substance abuse, or domestic violence). It had a section that explained the cost of adverse childhood experiences and how to prevent them through trauma-informed practices.

"It had zero — zero to do about supporting and saying that abortion is a way of preventing ACEs, saving money, or anything of that nature," ACT director Trevor Storrs told Alaska Public Media. "Abortion wasn't even on the table." ACT doesn't have a stance on abortion, per Alaska Public Media.

On Wednesday, every one of his colleagues agreed to condemn him, voting 35-1 to censure him, according to Alaska Public Media. "He has brought great shame on this House. It is incumbent on all of us to do something. We cannot allow such atrocious, indefensible language to go undenounced," Alaska Democratic state Rep. Andrew Gray said, the outlet reported.

The only dissenter was Eastman himself.

It is far from the first time that the lawmaker has courted controversy. It is not even the first time he has been formally reprimanded by his colleagues.

A staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump, Eastman was also censured soon after he was first elected, in 2017, for claiming — without evidence — that the largely indigenous inhabitants of Alaska's remote village are "glad to be pregnant, so that they can have an abortion because there's a free trip to Anchorage involved," he said.

Indeed, as Alaska journalist Nathaniel Herz reported this week for Politico, Eastman has a well-deserved reputation as a far-right firebrand, one who is unapologetic about taking part in protests on January 6, 2021, aimed at overturning the 2020 election. He has said he left before the storming of the US Capitol.

Eastman has made enemies within his own party — all of whom voted to censure him for his comments on child abuse — and recently overcame a legal effort that tried to stop him from serving in the state legislature over his membership in the Oath Keepers, an extremist paramilitary group whose leader was convicted of seditious conspiracy for his role in the pro-Trump insurrection.

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