OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An Oklahoma House member came under fire Wednesday for making a comment some are calling racially insensitive, comparing abortion and slavery.
Rep. Jim Olsen was introducing his bill, SB 612, which would abolish abortion by making it a felony for doctors to perform the surgery, to the House Public Health Committee.
In his argument, he compared the fight to abolish abortion to a long push to abolish slavery by one man in Great Britain.
“If we believe that these are really living human beings in the womb of a woman, then this is absolutely worth doing, even if it takes a long time,” Olsen said.
But the message was a miss for some in the room, particularly Rep. Ajay Pittman.
“Just to clarify what you just said, you’re saying saving the lives of slaves or saving the lives of an unborn child is more important than saving the lives of slaves?” Pittman asked in Committee.
“The context that I was addressing that, none of us would like to be killed. None of us would like to be a slave. If I had my choice, I guess I’d be a slave. At least the slave has his life. Once your life is gone, it’s gone,” Olsen responded.
“That’s triggering. That’s traumatizing. That’s hurtful,” Pittman told KFOR afterward. “It is completely insensitive to what we had to do to get here and what we have to do each and everyday to fight for our constituents that look like us in the state of Oklahoma.”
Later, Olsen doubled down on his remarks, insisting they were in no way an endorsement of slavery.
“In the context of history in general, I did compare one evil to another and very frankly I make no apology for it,” Olsen said.
Meanwhile, Pittman said this is just another indication that Oklahomans, even those leading us, need better training when it comes to racial and cultural sensitivity.
“You have every right to present this bill and to articulate why you are in support of your policy, but when our colleagues are so culturally insensitive to members of their body, members of the committee, that they would not think twice to compare abortion to slavery or to compare a baby not being born, an unborn child to a slave, that is disheartening and that says that we are continuing to move backwards in the state of Oklahoma,” Pittman said.
The bill passed through committee by a vote of 8 to 1. There would have been one more vote against if Pittman had not walked out of the room after the exchange with Olsen.
Alicia Andrews, Chair of the Oklahoma Democratic Party, issued the following statement Wednesday in response to Olsen’s controversial remarks:
“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,” declared Alicia Andrews, Chair of the Oklahoma Democratic Party.
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.
Olsen’s language underscores just how desperate Republicans are. Abortion rates have declined by 19.6% in the last decade, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The GOP knows that they will not have this baseless yet divisive issue to scare their base for much longer. They have decided to revive the oldest, most despicable boogie man – race.
The Oklahoma Democratic Party demands not only an apology from Representative Olsen but also that Speaker of the Oklahoma House, Charles McCall, immediately censures Olsen. Moreover, we request that all Oklahoma House Representatives undergo Diversity and Inclusion training conducted by a nationally recognized facilitator before this session is over and at the beginning of every session in the future.”ALICIA ANDREWS, CHAIR OF THE OKLAHOMA DEMOCRATIC PARTY