Oklahoma State Rep Says Controversial Slavery Comment Was 'Historically Appropriate'

Jim Olsen, a Republican representing Roland in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, compared lawmakers' attempts to end abortion to the fight against slavery.

The comments were made during a meeting of the House Public Health Committee on Wednesday while the committee was considering several anti-abortion bills.

"This is a cause of even greater import because it deals with innocent, unborn life," Olsen said, comparing the cause of abortion to Great Britain's fight to end slavery.

When asked to clarify the comments by Ajay Pittman, a Democrat representing Oklahoma City, Olsen continued the analogy.

"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," he said.

Olsen stood by his comments Thursday.

"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."

Oklahoma House Democrats responded quickly to Olsen's comments, and the state's Democratic party asked for Olsen to be formally censured. A spokesman for Oklahoma Speaker of the House Charles McCall did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Associated Press.

Oklahoma State Republican Rep. Jim Olsen
State Representative Jim Olsen (R) made comments Wednesday comparing anti-abortion laws to the fight against slavery. Oklahoma State Legislature Website

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

"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 state Representative Denise Brewer (D-Tulsa). "Those insensitive ideas are alive and well in our Capitol."

Last month, another state 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 Republican Governor Kevin Stitt's desk.