Alaska lawmakers mull measure calling abortion ‘child abuse’
A measure to raise awareness about sexual assault in Alaska has turned into an anti-abortion statement by House Republicans in Juneau.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 2 (SCR2) designates April 2017 as sexual assault awareness month. Now, in May, lawmakers are still debating the issue. With the addition of a controversial, pro-life provision, its chances of passing this year are even slimmer.
The House Rules Committee took up the measure for the first time last week after the legislative session was supposed to be over. Representative Gabrielle LeDoux (R-Anchorage), chair of the committee, modified the resolution to include child abuse prevention.
On Monday, Representative David Eastman (R-Wasilla) introduced a provision that calls abortion “the ultimate form of child abuse.” Eastman said the amendment speaks to the “direct connection between sexual assault and child abuse.”
“It’s important to talk about the fact that we are dealing with child abuse, and certainly without mentioning abortion, we would not be doing justice to child abuse,” Eastman said.
LeDoux joined Republican minority members in approving the amendment, which adds significant controversy to the measure.
“I thought the amendment was an insult to women and an insult to children,” Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage), a member of LeDoux’s majority caucus, told reporters Tuesday. “If you cannot stand up and respect women and respect our need to battle child abuse without playing abortion politics, then really you don’t know how to work together.”
The message behind SCR2 has now become politicized to the disappointment of advocacy groups. Carmen Lowry, executive director for the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, said sexual abuse and abortion are two separate conversations.
“You know, we wish it hadn’t have happened that way,” said Lowry in an interview Tuesday. “But, we also want to say that we will continue to use platforms such as this now to say, ‘this is not the message we want to give to victims. We want to recognize that there’s a lot of need out there, that rights are being violated.'”
Senator Kevin Meyer (R-Anchorage), who sponsored the resolution, still hopes the measure can pass the House.
“I am surprised a simple resolution like this has become so complicated, and it’s such an important issue that I wish it hadn’t been politicized as it has,” Meyer said.
Meyer has been introducing the resolution annually since 2001.
“Every year, it passes unanimously,” Meyer said.
Lowry says advocacy groups prefer the legislature pass a resolution each year, rather than make sexual assault awareness month a law, to keep a spotlight on the issue.
“It is oftentime[s] a way for there to be a moment in the legislature for people to stop, to reflect on what the needs are, to think about some of the more vulnerable people, to think about sexual violence and to really renew their commitment to ending sexual violence,” Lowry explained.
SCR 2 passed the Senate on March 6.
In a statement Tuesday, LeDoux said that when the resolution came to the Rules Committee, the House was debating and passing major components of a fiscal plan.
“As you know, we tried to move the resolution last week, but encountered some political games, which have added significant controversy to the measure,” LeDoux wrote.
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