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Some Republicans Believe Abortion Is Just a Ticket to a Vacation

A GOP lawmaker thinks people are using unwanted pregnancies to get a free trip from Medicaid. Because traveling with morning sickness to one of the few remaining clinics in Alaska is dreamy?
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I was less than two weeks pregnant when I went on a business trip to Des Moines, Iowa. The flight was miserable—a cramped, tiny commuter craft so small it sat no more than a dozen passengers inside. I could feel every bump and wind pocket. It was a mere 40-minute flight during which I still managed to throw up twice. I snagged naps in between interviews, groaning with misery as I was forced to dine with my co-workers at what to them was a normal dinner hour but to me was an hour I desperately needed to be down for the night. The smell of their wine made me gag. I could only eat bacon and grapefruit.

The miseries of early pregnancy are an established fact: morning sickness, utter exhaustion, aches, constant peeing, surging hormones, blinding headaches and, if you are really lucky even some blood pressure changes and fainting spells, too. And the end of pregnancy—whether through miscarriage, abortion, c-section or vaginal delivery—is no picnic either, with pain, plunging hormones, fatigue and often depression.

What a great way to spend a vacation, am I right?

Alaska state Rep. David Eastman, a Republican, is arguing that "some Alaskans are glad to become pregnant, so that they can have a Medicaid-funded trip to Anchorage or Seattle to have an abortion,” reports Alaska Public Media. “Eastman didn’t provide evidence for this, but said he had been told this by friends and acquaintances.”

In other words, Eastman believes people would purposely get pregnant just to request an abortion and get the state to pay for their vacations. 

Eastman, who also has proposed that a bill about sexual assault and child abuse have an amendment tacked on to call abortion “the ultimate form of child abuse,” doesn’t have any specific examples of anyone jaunting back from such an excursion to back up his ridiculous claim. But he’s not the first abortion opponent to argue that pregnant people were benefiting from “abortion vacations” while trying to terminate.

When the state of Texas passed HB 2 and dozens of clinics closed, the non-profit Fund Texas Women established in order to help pregnant people get the bus or airfare, hotels and other resources necessary to travel either in or out of state to terminate a pregnancy. The Daily Caller latched on to the news, calling the efforts “abortion vacations,” as if patents were excitedly booking hotels at a four-star spa rather than hitting the Ramada while they sit through their mandatory waiting period.

In Alaska, that situation is just as dire. There are just four clinics serving the state, and no terminations offered after the first trimester. The clinics also don’t have services every day and just getting to a clinic could mean hours of travel, even airline flights to cover the distance. One woman from Western Alaska, writing about her ordeal trying to get an abortion in the state, explained, “I called Planned Parenthood next. The man who took my call asked what I needed. How far along was I? No more than three weeks. Where did I live? Western Alaska. Could I travel to their Anchorage, Juneau, or Fairbanks center? (In Lower 48 terms, that's like living in Phoenix and being asked if you would prefer flying to Dallas, Denver, or Orlando.)”

Meanwhile, 12 percent of Alaskan women live in poverty, as do 26 percent of all single-parent families—with that sole parent most often being the mother. Unlike many states in the country, Alaska covers abortion services in their Medicaid program—a fact that politicians like Eastman have butted heads with for years as they tried to get the coverage yanked.  While the state allows Medicaid to cover any abortion a doctor deems necessary, Republicans have tried to redefine “medically necessary” to only refer to a series of physical ailments where continuing the pregnancy would cause irreparable harm. The state Supreme Court rejected the tactic, leaving Medicaid abortion coverage intact—a fact that has irked Alaskan anti-abortion lawmakers to no end.

In attacking abortion, politicians like Eastman rely on some of the most harmful of tropes about those who seek out the procedure—that they don’t take the decision seriously, that they are frivolous, that they are irresponsible and selfish and, like all good Republicans, he adds a dash of mooching off the public to the mix, too. The reality is that people don’t get pregnant just to get an abortion in order to “get a free trip to the city” any more than people get pregnant in order to get more money in government subsidies—another GOP myth that politicians trot out whenever they want to propose capping welfare benefits.

In fact, Eastman’s argument that Alaskans are getting pregnant for abortion vacations actually serves to show that despite the anti-abortion movement’s handwringing platitudes that abortion is a dangerous medical procedure that must be highly regulated and only performed in surgical centers is completely disingenuous. After all, if abortion opponents believe a person is jet-setting across the West Coast, hitting the big cities after their abortions, they must not think the procedure has any of the uterine-rupturing, hemorrhaging, emergency room inducing compilations that they have used as an excuse for their endless restrictions.

If a person really wants a vacation, there are far easier ways to get one than to purposefully impregnate yourself and then get an abortion—especially staying pregnant for months so you can “win” the big prize of a trip to Seattle once the pregnancy is too advanced for an Alaskan clinic. Abortion isn’t a timeshare presentation you sit through in order to earn a trip for four to Disneyland, and if Eastman and others like him truly believe this is a thing that happens, well, perhaps they are the ones who need to take terminating a pregnancy a little more seriously. Being pregnant is never a vacation, and I’m sure those who have terminated a pregnancy would say the same about that, too.

Robin Marty is a freelance writer and speaker and the author of CROW AFTER ROE, a book outlining the blueprint to end abortion one red state at a time. Marty’s articles have appeared at Cosmopolitan.com, Politico, The Guardian, and other publications, and she is a Women’s Media Center SheSource Expert on Reproductive Rights and Politics. Follow her: @robinmarty
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Robin Marty