A bill to criminalize abortion in Oklahoma is now one step away from the governor's desk.
Debate boiled over Wednesday when a lawmaker said eliminating abortion is more important than the historical fight to eradicate slavery.
After talking about the 30-year struggle to end slavery in Great Britain, Rep. Jim Olsen, R-Roland, referred to abortion, “This is a cause of even greater import because it deals with innocent and unborn life.”
“Just to clarify what you just said you're saying the lives of unborn children is more important than saving the lives of slaves?” Rep. Ajay Pittman, D-OKC, responded.
“None of us would like to be killed none of us would like to be a slave, but if I had my choice, I guess I would be a slave,” Olsen said. “At least the slave has his life.”
When News 9 reached out for comment later in the day, Olsen said he stands by his analogy.
“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. “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.”
The exchange occurred in a packed House Public Health Committee meeting. Members were discussing SB 612 that would punish doctors who perform abortion with up to a $100,000 fine and 10 years in prison.
The bill carves out an exception to save the life of the mother in a medical emergency.
“It comes down to when does life begin,” Olsen said. “And I’m going to affirm to you that life begins at conception.”
“That is so far from the truth, it isn’t remotely scientifically correct,” Rep. Denise Brewer, D-Tulsa, later said.
Olsen acknowledged if the bill becomes law, it will face immediate legal challenges. He said that is the job of the state attorney general to take care of.
The bill now goes to the full House.