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Comparing abortion to slavery ignites fiery reaction from Utah Dems

Jan 14, 2020, 8:49 AM | Updated: 4:16 pm
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Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox has faced some backlash from State Democratic lawmakers for comments he made about abortion over the weekend.

Cox, along with three other gubernatorial candidates vying for the 2020 spot, attended a panel discussion hosted by the Utah Eagle Forum on Saturday. That’s when the question was asked whether the candidates would support a bill defining human life as beginning at conception.

“I said this a few months ago at our convention,” Cox began. “I truly believe that at some point in the future, future generations will look back on us today and they will look at abortion the way we look at slavery.

“It will go down in history as one of the greatest travesties in the history of humankind. The easy answer is yes.”

You can see Cox’s full comments in the video below. The question is asked around the 29-minute mark.

Cox continued saying he believes Utah needs to lead the nation in “letting people know the impact and importance of life” and how Utah’s Republican Party needs to focus more on showing people they care about the individual and focus on families.

“We need to do more than just talk about this,” he said, “We need to let people know that we care about the individual, that when they do come we still care about life, not just when they’re born, we care about life after that.

On Sunday, a group of Democratic ethnic minority members of both the House and Senate joined to share their anger at Cox’s comments saying:

“To compare the brutal enslavement of black Americans to a woman’s constitutionally protected right is offensive,” said Rep. Sandra Hollins (D-District 23), the first African-American woman to serve in the Utah Legislature.

“Human bondage, forced labor, and destruction of families is the darkest possible mark on our nation’s soul,” she said, adding “Its effects are still felt to this day. We hope that future political discourse in our state will not include such callous political language.”

Dem calls out Cox

Democratic Salt Lake City Rep. Angela Romero joined KSL’s Lee Lonsberry on “Live Mic” to object to Cox’s remarks.

“It’s inappropriate because if you look at the history of slavery, it wasn’t a choice,” she said. “People were slaves because of the color of their skin.

“Currently right now in the United States of America, a woman has the choice to get an abortion. So those are totally two different policy issues.

“To compare people who were taken away from their communities, forced to serve a master. . . women were raped, women were torn away from their families. To compare it to somebody who made a choice — constitutionally protected, currently — just doesn’t add up for me,” Romero said.

Joining KSL NewsRadio’s Dave and Dujanovic Monday, Cox said he was surprised that his comments received this much attention, saying he has said them before and drew on similar remarks made by Ben Carson in 2015.

“I never intended in any way to minimize the terrible things that happened during the era of slavery and the repercussions of that. But I am unapologetically pro-life,” he said. “I think I’m being attacked because, again, this is something I believe in and obviously those on the left don’t.”

On the show, Cox told hosts Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic he felt the full context of his remarks is needed in order to understand the point he was trying to make. He said he was not trying to minimize the horror of slavery.

Candidates for governor react

Other candidates for governor also responded to Cox’s comparison.

Greg Hartley, speaking for former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, said, “While Greg doesn’t think the comparison in circumstances or practice is a mirror image of each other, he understood what the lieutenant governor was saying.”

Republican candidate Jeff Burningham’s response:

“I’m solidly pro-life. I’ll be a pro-life governor. Let’s focus our efforts on protecting the right to life and not compare one person’s pain with another’s. From day one, I’ve made my stances known, so Utahns know I’m a pro-life, pro-second Amendment, free-market conservative.”

Democratic candidate Zachary Moses said:

“What Cox said was grossly inappropriate. He compared the state government ‘not over-reaching’ into the daily lives of Utahns’ reproductive health care to an instance where unimaginable amounts of black people were stolen from their homes, and families to be forced to work under terrible conditions. Cox shows his true colors as yet another out-of-touch Republican that simply wants our state government to muddle into our personal affairs even further than they already have.”

When asked whether he would continue to draw those same comparisons Cox said he was never looking to upset anyone but that he wouldn’t stop talking about abortion.

“I’m not the type of person that looks for rhetorical devices to anger people. I don’t believe in that. I believe we should be bringing people together,” he said, adding that’s what his campaign was founded on.

Candidates Jon Huntsman, former Utah governor, Salt Lake County Council member Aimee Winder Newton and Utah Republican Party Chairman Thomas Wright were not available for comment.

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Comparing abortion to slavery ignites fiery reaction from Utah Dems