SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Lieutenant Governor and Utah gubernatorial candidate Spencer Cox responded Monday to a statement from six Democratic lawmakers who were concerned about a comment he made regarding abortion and the historical view of slavery.
When asked about his stance on abortion by ABC4’s Glen Mills back on the September 22nd episode of Inside Utah Politics, Cox said, “I just feel in my core that generations to come will look back on us, and I believe they’ll look at this issue much like we look at slavery and some of the other real dark marks on our society. They’ll wonder why we allowed abortion in second-term, third-term abortions to happen in a very modern society. It makes no sense to me.”
Lt. Gov. Cox made a similar remark on Saturday during the Utah Eagle Forum Convention, something he said he heard U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson say when he was running for president in 2016.
“I feel very passionately about my pro-life stance and trying to find ways to limit abortions in our country,” Cox told ABC4 News Monday. “I’ve been pro-life my entire life as far as I can remember. I had reiterated that. I’ve spent my entire career looking out for the most vulnerable amongst us who are suffering, whether it’s refugees, our city’s homeless population, or the LGBTQ community. That population also includes the unborn.”
The controversial statement led to a joint response from Rep. Sandra Hollins, Rep. Karen Kwan, Rep. Mark Wheatley, Rep. Angela Romero, Sen. Luz Escamilla, and Sen. Jani Iwamoto:
“To compare the brutal enslavement of Black Americans to a woman’s constitutionally protected right is offensive. Human bondage, forced labor, and destruction of families is the darkest possible mark on our nation’s soul, and its effects are still felt to this day. We hope that future political discourse in our state will not include such callus political language.”
Rep. Romero told ABC4 News Monday she thought it was wrong for Cox to compare historical trauma to a policy issue.
“Slavery wasn’t a choice. Families were ripped apart. Families were brought here not by choice. Women were raped, a lot of times separated from their children at the hands of their masters,” she said. “Abortion is a choice. It’s been supported by our judicial branch, so how can you compare a choice to forced labor?”
Lt. Gov. Cox said Monday his comments were not intended to compare abortion to slavery-like apples to apples.
“Not putting the two together or saying they’re the same thing. Just saying that I believe that we would look back with disdain on the way we’re treating the unborn children of today through abortion,” he said. “I also went on to say that instead of focusing on abortion that we needed to do more, especially as conservatives, to help prevent unwanted pregnancies, to work with single mothers, expecting mothers, and children who are facing trauma.”
When asked if he would reconsider the remarks he made, he said his intention was not to upset or offend others.
“I’m not a bomb-thrower. I’ve never been. I wasn’t looking to throw out rhetoric or attack people. That was not the purpose of the answer. In retrospect, I would have used another analogy, something different not knowing that people would be so upset,” said Cox.
He went to say, “There are other ways I can explain my passion for the unborn, for saving lives, and for protecting the sanctity of life I will do that. I don’t need to make people mad just for the sake of making people mad. There are better ways to describe things.”
Cox expressed he wished the outspoken lawmakers would have had a conversation with him first before issuing a press release about their concerns.
“That’s the problem in our country today. It’s just we’re all looking for a reason to be outraged and I think it’s very damaging. It’s become so toxic and there’s a reason people don’t want to run for office,” he said. “We have to be willing to, instead of throwing barbs and attacks at each other, to have the conversations.”
Rep. Romero said she and her colleagues wanted to publicly denounce these remarks that have been used multiple times by Republican lawmakers who are pro-life on a local and national level.
“I like the Lieutenant Governor. We came into the legislature together. It’s OK to admit you made a mistake when you’re comparing two different things in history,” she said. “But don’t compare things to slavery. That is something you just don’t do. Think before you talk. Although you might think it’s OK because it doesn’t directly impact you or the communities you were raised in doesn’t mean it doesn’t impact people that are next to you.”
Jeanetta Williams, President of the NAACP Salt Lake Branch issued this statement to ABC4 News regarding Lt. Gov. Cox’s comments:
“There is never a reason whatsoever to compare abortion to slavery. There simply is no comparison. We do not equate the human ownership as property and abortion as the same. A woman has a right to choose. Slaves had no rights. The effects of slavery linger today when we look at the wealth and prominence that exist between Whites and Blacks. If politicians or anyone would like to talk about abortion, let that be the subject and stop making comparisons. Talking about slavery should be done separately. If they want to talk about slavery, they should talk about reparations and stop comparing slavery to anything whatsoever. “
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