Oklahoma Lawmaker Apologizes After Referencing 'Colored Babies' During Abortion Bill Argument
Republican Brad Boles was forced to apologize after using the word "colored" while arguing in favor of an abortion bill.
March 11, 2021 at 10:41 pm
A Republican lawmaker in Oklahoma has issued an apology for calling Black and Hispanic children "colored" while arguing in favor of a restrictive abortion bill that eventually passed 80-19, according to The Oklahoman.
Oklahoma Rep. Brad Boles was listing off statistics related to the number of abortions that took place in the country and used the term "colored" to make his argument in support of a bill that would ban all abortions that took place after "cardiac activity" was found in a fetus.
"In 2017, 862,000 babies were aborted. Twenty-eight percent of those babies were colored babies. Two-hundred-forty-thousand Black kids, 215 Hispanic kids. These kids mattered and I'm here to advocate for them as well," Boles said.
The 862,000 figure comes from a 2019 Guttmacher Institute report, according to Newsweek, but it is unclear where he got the other numbers and if they are accurate.
Black lawmakers were immediately incensed by Boles' argument and his use of the word "colored."
Lawmakers in the state did not hold back in criticizing Boles' argument, with the chair of the Oklahoma Democratic Party, Alicia Andrews, bashing the Republican rep. for uttering the term in public.
“As a Black woman who is old enough to be his mother, I am shocked that someone is using the term colored in 2021. It’s offensive when you hear it in the grocery store. It’s offensive when you hear it just out in the world. The comment was made on the House floor. The comment was made where laws are made, that the comment was made by a current sitting legislator," Andrews said.
“Colored is not part of your normal lexicon. If it’s not part of your normal lexicon, it doesn’t just come out. So, it is part of who he is. If that’s who we have representing us in Lincoln, I’m a little bit nervous and scared,” Andrews added.
My colleague referencing "colored babies" is how I know they don't have the ability to make legislation that effects everyday Oklahomans in an unbiased way....— Mauree Turner (They/She) (@MaureeTurnerOK) March 9, 2021
"My colleague referencing 'colored babies' is how I know they don't have the ability to make legislation that effects everyday Oklahomans in an unbiased way," said Oklahoma Rep. Mauree Turner on Twitter.
In an apology, Boles said it was a "slip of the tongue" and that the word was "not what it was intended to be."
"I apologize for any of the members of the House or that listened online that I may have offended,” Boles said.
“I inadvertently used an offensive term during [the] debate for a pro-life bill when suggesting abortion affects people of all races. I apologized to several colleagues for this accidental slip of the tongue and made a public apology on the House floor,” Boles said in a statement to The Kansas City Star.
Lani Habrock, government affairs director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations told The Oklahoman that Boles' apology showed he did not understand how offensive his words were and was not appreciating how wrong he was for using the term.
"Stating this was a ‘slip of the tongue,’ such ‘slips’ are indicative of the racism and bias that continue to be a problem at the state legislature year after year," Habrock said.
“From the very beginning, the medical community actively excluded Black bodies, and as a result, the maternal death rate in Black communities is nearly four times that of white people. The ACLU of Oklahoma is committed to dismantling white supremacy within all systems where racist policies, practices, and attitudes harm Black and Indigenous people of color," Cox-Touré said.
"We are also dedicated to ensuring all Oklahomans have access to abortion care and the right to make their own health care decisions. It is disgraceful that in 2021 we still have elected officials like Rep. Boles [to] use racist rhetoric such as ‘colored’ on the floor of the People's house. Rep. Boles and his colleagues should not only commit to engaging in conversations about race equity work with the experts in our state, but also actively check their colleagues on problematic behavior,” Cox-Touré added.
Fetal heartbeat bills are popular with Republican lawmakers across the country because they are seen as a way around restrictions on abortion bans. Local news outlet KFOR reported that a heartbeat can be detected in a fetus as early as five weeks after conception.
In addition to the fetal heartbeat bill, lawmakers were also considering another bill that would penalize any doctor who performed an abortion outside of a few specific cases, according to WGNO.