A Republican state legislator tried to dismiss his racist remark about “colored babies” during a debate over an anti-abortion bill as just a “slip of tongue.”
Oklahoma state Rep. Brad Boles used the offensive term Tuesday as state House members argued about a bill that would ban abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, the Oklahoman reported. Without citing his source, 37-year-old Boles claimed that hundreds of thousands of non-white fetuses were aborted during 2017.
"In 2017, 862,000 babies were aborted. Twenty-eight percent of those babies were colored babies,” he said, according to the Oklahoman. (Anti-abortion activists have a long history of co-opting racial equality messaging.) “240,000 Black kids, 215,000 Hispanic kids. These kids mattered, and I'm here to advocate for them as well.”
Democratic Rep. Mauree Turner quickly criticized Boles for the comment.
“My colleague referencing ‘colored babies’ is how I know they don't have the ability to make legislation that affects everyday Oklahomans in an unbiased way,” tweeted Turner, a Democrat.
The ACLU of Oklahoma also released a statement calling Boles’ comment “disgraceful.”
“Anti-abortion efforts are rooted in white supremacy and the exploitation of Black people,” said ACLU of Oklahoma Executive Director Tamya Cox-Touré, pointing out that Black pregnant women are dying at a rate three to four times higher than their white counterparts. “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.”
Members of the Democratic Party immediately demanded an apology from Boles. Party Chair Alicia Andrews told the Associated Press, “The term colored doesn’t just fall out of your mouth by accident. It has to be a part of his local lexicon.”
Boles apologized to people “that I may have offended” on the House floor on Tuesday evening. He also released a statement apologizing for slipping his tongue into the Jim Crow era.
“It was a slip of tongue that was not at all what I intended to say, nor who I am in my heart,” he said, according to the Oklahoman. “I apologized immediately in a candid, productive conversation with several colleagues personally as well as made a public apology on the House floor.”
Boles’ remark wasn’t the only eyebrow-raising moment in the heated debate over the abortion bill, which ultimately passed on a vote of 80-19. According to local NBC station KFOR, the debate got “so rowdy at one point that two floor members mentioned taking things outside and settling them like men.”