Candidate for Utah governor criticized for abortion comment

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Members of the Utah House and Senate criticized a comment by the lieutenant governor drawing a comparison between abortion and slavery.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox was one of three candidates asked during a Republican gubernatorial candidates forum Saturday if he would sign a bill defining life as beginning at conception.

Cox believes future generations will come to view abortion as negatively as people today view slavery, he told the Utah Eagle Forum Convention in Sandy.

A group of Democrats in the state Legislature took issue with the comment.

“To compare the brutal enslavement of black Americans to a woman’s constitutionally protected right is offensive,” said a statement by Democratic Rep. Sandra Hollins of Salt Lake City, the first African American woman in the Legislature.

“Human bondage, forced labor and the 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 callous political language,” Hollins said.

Hollins' criticism received support from fellow House members Angela Romero, Mark Wheatley and Karen Kwan, along with state Sens. Luz Escamilla and Jani Iwamoto.

Cox released a statement Sunday saying he has “always tried to be a voice for the most vulnerable in our society, those facing intergenerational poverty, refugees, the LGBTQ community, our multicultural communities — and yes the unborn.”

“I also included in my response that our party should do more to support single mothers, pregnant women and children facing poverty and trauma. I continue to be unapologetically pro-life," Cox said in the statement.

Other Republicans seeking the governor's office include former House Speaker Greg Hughes, former state Republican Party Leader Thomas Wright, Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton, former Gov. Jon Huntsman and businessman Jeff Burningham.

Zach Moses is the only Democrat running.