Oklahoma Republican Compares Banning Abortion to Fight Against Slavery

A state representative in Oklahoma has been criticised by some of his colleagues for comparing an attempt to ban abortion in the state, to the historic fight against slavery.

Representative Jim Olsen, a Republican, was speaking in favor of his bill, SB 612, which would make it a felony for doctors to perform abortions. During a committee hearing, he compared outlawing the procedure to efforts to abolish slavery in the Great Britain.

"This is a cause of even greater import because it deals with innocent unborn life," Olsen said. "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."

State Representative Ajay Pittman, a Democrat, took issue with Olsen's comparison, according to KOCO 5.

"So, to clarify what you just said, are you saying saving lives is more important than slavery? And saving those lives?" she asked.

"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 a slave has his life. Once your life is gone, it's gone," Olsen replied.

"And I'm not minimalizing slavery. I'm illustrating the terrible injustice that was finally, finally erased from Great Britain and almost eventually the entire world," he said.

Olsen later defended his remarks, saying: "In the context of history in general, I did compare one evil to another and very frankly I make no apology for it."

"In times like these where we see our nation on the cusp of reckoning social and racial injustices, we still endure implicit bias from our colleagues who are insensitive to what is said about the hurtful and ugly past of this country's treatment of African Americans," Pittman said in a statement to KOCO 5.

"Slavery is not something we should compare to anything in the year 2021 unless we discuss the spirit of superiority over women and people of color."

State Representative Denise Brewer, a Democrat, also criticized Olsen's comments in a statement.

"We have been bombarded by anti-choice bills, which all have a common theme: written by men focusing on taking away the rights of pregnant people to control their bodies. SB 612 is particularly offensive," Brewer said.

"It is an attempt to destroy doctor-patient confidentiality, threatens physicians with huge fines and felony charges, and none of these bills say anything about the responsibility of the father.

"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. Those insensitive ideas are alive and well in our Capitol."

SB 612 advanced in committee by a vote of 8 to 1. Pittman, who would have provided a second vote against, had left the room following the exchange with Olsen, according to KFOR. The bill contains an exception allowing an abortion to save the life of the mother in an emergency.

A Pro-Life Activist Outside the Supreme Court
A pro-life activist holds a sign outside the U.S. Supreme Court during the 48th annual March for Life January 29, 2021 in Washington, DC. An Oklahoma law seeks to make performing abortions a felony. Alex Wong/Getty Images