Oklahoma Lawmaker Slavery Comment

FILE - In this Feb. 10, 2021 file photo, Oklahoma state Rep. Jim Olsen, R-Roland, listens during a committee meeting at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City. The Republican Oklahoma lawmaker is coming under fire for comparing efforts to end abortion to the fight to end slavery.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A white Republican lawmaker from southeast Oklahoma is facing criticism for comparing lawmakers' efforts to end abortion to the fight against slavery.

Rep. Jim Olsen, of Roland, made the comments Wednesday during a meeting of the House Public Health Committee that was considering several anti-abortion bills.

“None of us would like to be a slave," Olsen said when asked to clarify his comments, according to KOCO-TV. “If I had my choice, I guess I’d be a slave. At least a slave has his life. Once your life is gone, it’s gone.”

House Democrats immediately denounced Olsen’s comments, and the state party asked for Olsen to be formally censured. A spokesman for House Speaker Charles McCall didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on whether Olsen would face disciplinary action.

“Today, we heard a claim that the abortion fight is bigger than the hundreds of years when African Americans were kidnapped and enslaved, with no control of their bodies, families, or even recognized as humans," said Rep. Denise Brewer, D-Tulsa. “Those insensitive ideas are alive and well in our Capitol.”

Olsen said Thursday he stands by his comments.

“I made a very historically appropriate analogy. I never spoke positively of slavery," Olsen said. “One evil at one time was acceptable in our society, and now it's not. I look forward to the time when we stop killing babies."

Last month, another Republican House member apologized after using a racist term to describe Black babies during debate on a separate abortion bill on the House floor.

Olsen's bill would make it a felony to perform an abortion in Oklahoma, except to save the life of a pregnant woman, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The committee approved the measure, which now heads to the House for final consideration. It is one of several anti-abortion bills making its way to the governor's desk.

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