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Oklahoma Legislator Faces Outrage After Comparing Fights Against Abortion And Slavery

Oklahoma House of Representatives

The Oklahoma Democratic Party is demanding an apology from and censure of Republican state representative Jim Olsen over comments he made during a committee meeting on Wednesday.

The representative from the far eastern Oklahoma town of Roland compared the push to ban abortion to the work of abolishing slavery, and said, "If I had my choice, I guess I’d be a slave. At least the slave has his life."

During debate in the House Public Health committee over Senate Bill 612 to criminalize all abortions in Oklahoma, Olsen also compared legal abortion to the Holocaust.

Oklahoma Democratic Party Chair Alicia Andrews said in a statement that the organization demands an apology from Olsen, immediate censure by the House Speaker and the implementation of Diversity and Inclusion training.

"The constant barrage of cavalier racism is a distinct sign that Oklahoma is not doing fine. This is not the first time in this session alone that in debating the abortion issue, a Republican legislator evoked a racist trope to defend their indefensible position," Andrews, said. "Oklahoma's Republican legislators championed a bill to prohibit racial and gender diversity education in our schools. Perhaps if these lawmakers were exposed to a broader history, they would have developed a better understanding of the dangers this type of language presents."

This is not the first time a racist trope was used by a Republican legislator in this legislative session. In March, Rep. Brad Boles (R-Marlow) referred to Black infants as "colored babies" on the House floor. He apologized later that day.

Olsen, however, stood by his comments.

"It was a perfectly valid analogy, and that's what the left does when they're backed into a corner. 'Ah, you're a racist,'" Olsen told KTUL in Tulsa.

Representative Ajay Pittman (D-Oklahoma City) responded to Olsen's comments in a written statement, saying slavery should not be compared "to abortions or to anything else in the year 2021."

Despite Olsen's comments, the bill passed 8-1 and now heads to the full House for consideration.


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Ryan LaCroix is the Director of Content and Audience Development for KOSU.
Michael Cross is the host of KOSU's Morning Edition.
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