Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox Responds to Controversial Comments on Abortion

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Lieutenant Gov. Spencer Cox sits with LGBTQ youth protesting conversion therapy outside of the governor's offices at the Utah Capitol | Chronicle archives.

By Ivana Martinez

 

On Jan. 11, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox appeared on a panel with three other Republican candidates at the Eagle Forum Convention in Sandy, Utah where he made a comment that compared slavery to abortion, sparking controversy among his colleagues.

Salt Lake Tribune government reporter Benjamin Wood live-tweeted the event. At the event, candidates were asked about signing a bill that would define life at the beginning of conception. Cox answered the question by saying that future generations would come to see abortion as generations now viewed slavery. 

Democrat Rep. Sandra Hollins, among other minority representatives in the House and Senate, released a statement following the lieutenant governor’s comment. 

“To compare the brutal enslavement of Black Americans to a woman’s constitutionally protected right is offensive,” said Rep. Hollins. “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.” 

Three representatives and two senators officially supported Hollins’ statement.

The Daily Utah Chronicle reached out to the lieutenant governor to provide more context on his comment. Cox’s team released his statement: 

“On Saturday I was asked a question regarding my position on abortion. I oppose abortion, allowing only rare exceptions for rape, incest or life of the mother. There are hundreds of thousands of abortions performed in our country every year,” Cox’s email read. “I have 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,” the Lt. Gov said. “I continue to be unapologetically pro-life.”

Cox announced his campaign for Utah state governor earlier this year. The Republican candidates running for the position are Jeff Burningham, Jason Christensen, Greg Hughes, Jon Huntsman, Jr., Aimee Winder Newton and Thomas Wright. The Democratic candidate is Zachary Moses. The primary election is scheduled for June 30. The general election will be held on Nov. 3. 

“I think that men who are in power, that can say things like that about women and policy, it really doesn’t have to do with women,” said Kalei Stroud, a health promotion and education major at the University of Utah.   

Stroud felt that restrictions on abortion have “more to do with what agenda men are trying to create for women, and that shouldn’t be accepted in government at all, because the body is not policy.” 

“I think that abortion is one of the issues that I definitely put on the top of my priority list when I’m looking into voting,” said Victoria Hills, a political science major at the U.

Shannon McGregor, a U professor who specializes in social media presence, political communication and public opinion, emphasized the differences of perception between in-person speeches and social media. 

“He was thinking about it from that audience [Utah Eagle Forum], but I think that’s the mistake,” she said. “In today’s news climate, something that a politician or a public figure says in one place doesn’t stay there. We see leaks, even if it’s a private event.” 

The political implications of Cox’s comments may not be fully understood until after the primaries. A recent poll from the Salt Lake Tribune and Suffolk University found that Cox is in second place with likely primary voters, behind Hunstman.

 

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